It’s the Economy Stupid! The Five Myths of Capitalism – Part 5 of 5

518QHRLJzuL._SX356_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)

I stated in parts 1-4, that unless we change our attitudes and policies regarding Corporate Capitalism, it will destroy our country, our way of life, our freedoms, and our environment.  Furthermore, we will undoubtedly take some of the rest of the world along with us.  This is a serious accusation and one I do not take lightly.

I have already described four of the five myths that are largely responsible for the mistaken policies and laws that have allowed Corporate Capitalism to become a dangerous disease.  A disease that is infecting our government and policies in myriad ways and causing untold damage to our country and the world.

In this blog, I will describe Myth #5 and how it contributes to the problems we are now facing.  Myth #5 is:

What’s Good for Corporate America is Good for the USA:

shanghai-gm-monoply-guy-720x340 (1)A version of this myth is the “Too big too fail idea” widely heard during the “Great Recession” and now during the Coronavirus epidemic.  General Motors was one of the first giant corporations in America and even as late as 2019, it was ranked 13th on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.  In 1952 during his nomination hearing for Secretary of Defense, Charles Wilson (former CEO of General Motors) was asked if he could make a decision as Secretary of Defense that ran contrary to the interests of his former company.  He replied with the now infamous remark YES but that he could not conceive of such a situation: “because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.” — Wikipedia

220px-23_Things_They_Don't_Tell_You_About_Capitalism_cover_artThe foregoing belief in the common interests that corporations shared with America came to epitomize the ideology of Corporate America.  American corporations then used the media and astute public relations to convince the majority of US citizens that they are indispensable, and that the welfare of the average person depended on the welfare of the corporation.  To put it another way, the interests of a giant corporation are claimed to be synonymous with the interests of the average person. “What is good for America’s Corporations is good for You.”  “What is good for Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Exxon, Facebook and Pfizer is good for you.

This belief system, that corporate welfare is synonymous with our country’s welfare, is inevitably betrayed by at least two major factors.  These include: Externalities and Short-Term Thinking.

  1. Externalities (Lack of responsibility)

imagesWhen a company makes and sells a product, it is no longer responsible for the effects of that product on either the buyer or the environment.  Unless evidence can be shown that somehow the corporation either lied or had some kind of criminal intent in the sales process, the consumer and society are responsible for the negative effects that a product or service might have.  For instance, oil companies sell gasoline but are not responsible for the effects of polluting the atmosphere by burning gasoline.  Another example is the packaging that many companies use for their products.  Amazon is notorious for over boxing even the smallest products.  The boxes must then be thrown away or recycled in a landfill.  However, the cost of this recycling is not born by Amazon but ultimately by the taxpayer who must pay for the recycling through taxes or direct payments.  Meanwhile, Amazon makes a great profit by being able to take advantage of tax loopholes and escaping any costs.  These costs are called in economic terms: “Externalities.”

“In economics, an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a third party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.”  Wikipedia

short-termism

  1. Short-term thinking

Corporations will tell you that consumers benefit from the aforementioned transfers of costs.  The consumer pays a cheaper price for the product than he/she would if the total costs to the environment were factored in.  However, this is only considering short-term costs.  In the long term, the consumer/taxpayer pays a much greater cost.  For instance, the pollution in the atmosphere has caused the overall temperature of the earth to rise resulting in global warming.  This warming has destabilized weather patterns all over the earth resulting in extremes of weather:  more frequent tornadoes, stronger hurricanes, longer droughts, greater rain in many areas resulting in flooding.

The impacts of these weather changes have already cost the world billions of dollars.  One study found that: “Climate change could directly cost the world economy $7.9 trillion by mid-century as increased drought, flooding and crop failures hamper growth and threaten infrastructure.”Climate impacts ‘to cost world $7.9 trillion’ by 2050.  This study does not measure the misery to human beings all over the earth in terms of famine, pestilence and the impact of more and more “natural” disasters.

So, what we have here is the typical example of “Short-Term” thinking on the part of our Corporate Capitalistic economic system.  From worrying about the daily price of their stocks, the quarterly dividend, the monthly financial statements and the quarterly financial reports, corporations are guided by short-term thinking.  They will compete for short-term profits at the cost of destroying our environment, our way of living and ultimately our world.  This is the nature of the beast as it is bred and chartered.

41UONaHcgwL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_

When I was a store manager at the now defunct W.T. Grant Company, we used to get a report each month which showed us our store ranking in relation to the 200 or so other stores in our division.  Our regional management would send these out every month to motivate us to raise our ranking.  Thus, if we were ranked 76th out of 200 in sales and profits, it would behoove us to try to improve.  However, these rankings were more or less random since some stores would always be in the top rank because of their size or other demographics.  Even without changing a single factor in our operation, the next month might see our ranking go up to 50th.  This could simply mean that our seasonal sales had kicked in before some other store areas.  The following month we might drop to 125th out of 200.

Each month brought a great deal of shifting between stores.  One soon learned that these reports were worthless.  We regarded them as a big joke.  They told us nothing except that management was focused on the short-term and that it could not look longer ahead than a month.  I worked for W.T. Grant for two years and left 4 years before they went bankrupt.  At the time of their bankruptcy, they were the largest American corporation to ever declare bankruptcy.

maltaway_boardmember_corporate_bureacrcy

A number of years ago, the average lifespan of an American corporation was 60 years.  The first list of Fortune 100 companies published in 1954 showed that less than fifty years later more than ½ of these companies no longer existed.  A corporation which is regarded as a person by such ridiculous decisions as “Citizens United” lives considerably less than the lifespan of an average person.  Even that limited a lifespan for a corporation has dropped.  The average age of an S&P 500 company is now under 20 years, down from 60 years in the 1950s, according to Credit Suisse.

Why? You may well ask.  The answer is simple.  For two reasons:  Greed and Stupidity.  Hardly a corporation in America does not create a “strategic plan.”  I have helped formulate and facilitate many a strategic planning session.  The most difficult part of planning is to get companies to think long-term.  Partially, this is due to the extremely volatile nature of business and the competition that companies face.  An even bigger part of the problem is the nature of management thinking.  There are some notable exceptions to this prevalent thinking:

“In Warren Buffett’s 2010 annual letter to shareholders he mentions the advantage Berkshire Hathaway has because it doesn’t focus on short term results”:

d45b06a5924544ad1c3a9002a0896782

“At GEICO, for example, we enthusiastically spent $900 million last year on advertising to obtain policyholders who deliver us no immediate profits.  If we could spend twice that amount productively, we would happily do so though short-term results would be further penalized. Many large investments at our railroad and utility operations are also made with an eye to payoffs well down the road.  At Berkshire, managers can focus on running their businesses: They are not subjected to meetings at headquarters nor financing worries nor Wall Street harassment. They simply get a letter from me every two years and call me when they wish.”  — Dr. Deming’s 7 deadly diseases by John Hunter

downloadDr. Deming wrote reams about the failure of management to balance what he called the “Problems of Today” with the “Problems of Tomorrow.”  I would typically hear when beginning a consulting engagement numerous reasons why “it could not be done.”  One of the most common excuses was expressed colloquially as “We are up to our ass in alligators.”  Another excuse was “We have too many fires to put out.”  I was fond of reciting Dr. Deming’s comment that, “Putting out fires is not improvement.  Finding a point out of control, finding the special cause and removing it, is only putting the process back to where it was in the first place. It is not improvement of the process.” — Out of the Crisis,  W. E. Deming

I have already mentioned in Part 2 on the Efficiency Myth that most corporations never really understood the idea of continuous improvement.  The focus of management is for the most part, a focus on quick fixes and short-term thinking that can bring quick profits regardless of the hidden costs and externalities.  Thus, the belief that what is good for a corporation is good for its citizens is not just false but dangerous.  To hold this belief is like trusting a rattlesnake not to bite you.  You might think that the rattlesnake is your friend until the day it bites you.  You are no more a friend to an American corporation than you are a friend to a rattlesnake.

41bf5SeawKL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I have sat in many boardrooms for many planning meetings, and seldom did I ever hear an executive worrying about the environment or the hidden costs of externalities.  The oft assumed legal mandate of a corporation is to make a profit.  However, corporate law states that a company does not have to pursue profit maximization at all costs.  This is idealistic though since the tendency in the marketplace and short-term thinking push corporations to ignore other considerations and pursue profits at all costs.  It is also much easier to measure profits than it is to measure a “good” to the environment or a “good” to the social system.  Thus, generally profits will trump other considerations in running an effective business.

Conclusion:

What is to be done?  How do we restore the proper balance of power to ensure that Corporations serve the country and not that the country serve the corporations?

hqdefault

I think it will require the following major actions:

  1. We must overturn the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United
  2. We must change corporate law to do the following:
    1. Place size limits on corporations
    2. Place limits on the number of companies a corporation may acquire
    3. Regain citizen control by changing the corporate charter
  3. We must place limits on the exercise of lobbying
  4. We must stop corporate donations to political candidates
  5. We must place limits on the hiring of corporate executives to manage and oversee the government agencies that regulate their industry

There are many other things that can be done if we as citizens recognize that we have the power to take control of corporations.  We have the power to insure that they are acting in the public interest and not the other way around.  Madison Avenue has convinced Americans that what is good for Corporate America is good for the USA.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is time we take back our power.

“Corporate social responsibility is measured in terms of businesses improving conditions for their employees, shareholders, communities, and environment. But moral responsibility goes further, reflecting the need for corporations to address fundamental ethical issues such as inclusion, dignity, and equality.”Klaus Schwab

518G9m0DwcL._SR600,315_PIWhiteStrip,BottomLeft,0,35_PIAmznPrime,BottomLeft,0,-5_PIStarRatingFOUR,BottomLeft,360,-6_SR600,315_ZA(26 Reviews),445,291,400,400,arial,12,4,0,0,5_SCLZZZZZZZ_

 

 

It’s the Economy Stupid! The Five Myths of Capitalism – Part 4 of 5

it_efficiency_buzzwords-500x250

I stated in my three previous blogs that unless we change our attitudes and policies regarding Corporate Capitalism, it will destroy our country, our way of life, our freedoms, and our environment.  Furthermore, we will undoubtedly take some of the rest of the world along with us.  This is a serious accusation and one I do not take lightly.  I have been a business educator in higher education and a management consultant to some of the top corporations in the world.  My opinion is not based just on theory or observations.  It is based on the in-depth work that I did with over 32 companies during the time I was actively consulting.  There are many good people working in corporate America but as Dr. Deming once said “You put a good person in a bad system and the system will win every time.  There are Five Myths of Capitalism that are largely responsible for the mistaken policies and laws that have allowed Corporate Capitalism to become a dangerous disease infecting our way of life and causing untold damage to our country.

In my previous blogs, I described the first three myths.  In this blog, I will describe Myth #4 and how it contributes to the destruction of our country.  Myth #4 is:

4.  Corporations are Efficient and Always More Efficient than the Government

In 1986, I was hired by Process Management Institute (PMI) to help merge organization development with statistics.  I had just finished my Ph.D. degree in Training and Organization Development from the University of Minnesota.  Lou Schultz, the CEO of PMI had started the company about three years before I joined.  The company was founded on and sold the methodology and philosophy of Dr. W. Edwards Deming.  Lou had met Dr. W. E. Deming when Lou worked at Control Data (CD).

CUV0Uu9UwAAR6e6

Lou was a manager at CD when sometime in the early 80’s Control Data hired Dr. Deming to help them implement his famous quality improvement process.  Lou realized that Dr. Deming had something that America needed, and he decided to leave Control Data and start a consulting firm.  The focus of this firm would be to help bring the Deming Philosophy to businesses in the USA.  Dr. Deming helped Lou in many ways by encouragement and referral of potential clients.  Lou assisted at more than 60 of the 4-day seminars that Dr. Deming had started after he was featured prominently in a TV documentary on quality.  Dr. Deming’s popularity soared after the NBC White Paper TV documentary called “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We” was broadcast.

“If Japan can … Why can’t we? was an American television episode broadcast by NBC News as part of the television show “NBC White Paper” on June 24, 1980, credited with beginning the Quality Revolution and introducing the methods of W. Edwards Deming to American managers that was produced by Clare Crawford-Mason[ and reported on by Lloyd Dobyns.

The report details how the Japanese captured the world automotive and electronics markets by following Deming’s advice to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as bits or pieces. Crawford-Mason went on to produce; in collaboration with Deming, a 14-hour documentary series detailing his methods through lecture excerpts, interviews, practical demonstrations, and case studies of companies that adopted his methods.”  — Wikipedia

Dr. Deming started a series of four-day seminars to teach his philosophy and methods.  These seminars were a mixture of experiential activities, teaching, discussion, lectures and always Dr. Deming talking about what management did not do right and what they should be doing.  At the time, he had created his famous “14 Points for Management” which together with his statistical philosophy formed the basis for the four days of activities.

IMG_8176-540x405Dr. Deming would do two or three of these a month all over the USA.  He continued these four-day seminars until about six months before he died at the age of 93 in 1993.   Dr. Deming always required help at these seminars since as many as 500 people would usually attend.  I was fortunate enough to help out at four of these seminars.  After getting to know Dr. Deming fairly well, I brought several consulting clients to his home in D.C. to discuss with him personally his ideas on what we were doing right and wrong.  Dr. Deming was always very candid and blunt.  This endeared him to some people, while it turned other people off.

But it is time to get back to the point on corporate efficiency.  I worked with over 32 different clients in my years at PMI and my later independent consulting work.  I worked with clients in government, in military, in non-profit and in for-profit sectors of the economy.  I worked with industries in mining, trucking, healthcare, manufacturing and education.  I published two books on quality and over fifty papers for seminars, journals and presentations.  I did a monthly column for a noted quality journal and did some pro-bono work for various organizations.

51akdYiowtL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_

The crux of my client work was to facilitate what we called a quality transformation.  From a system that emphasized production quantity and inspection to a system that emphasized process improvement and quality.  Quality was never a final end state but always a quest for continuous improvement.  Improvement not to meet client expectations but to exceed them.  Deming often pointed out that clients and customers often did not know what they wanted.  “No customer” he would say “was clamoring for a handheld calculator in the seventies.  You must always innovate and delight the customer with new products and new features as well as meeting existing expectations for quality products.”  Dr. Noriaki Kano summarized some of these quality ideas in his famous “Kano Model.”  I had the good fortune to attend one of his seminars in Tokyo while I was on a two-week study mission to Japan in 1993 to visit Japanese companies and study their methods firsthand.  My trip was a joint venture between PM and Komatsu Corporation.  I brought along several clients and we had about 15 participants in all.

“Customer expectations?  Nonsense.  No customer ever asked for the electric light, the pneumatic tire, the VCR, or the CD.  All customer expectations are only what you and your competitor have led him to expect.  He knows nothing else.” — W. Edwards Deming at his Seminars

Later on when I left full-time consulting and went into college teaching, I started using a variety of models to educate my MBA students.  One I was fond of using was a metaphor of a coin to emphasize what a business must do to be successful.  “On one side of the coin is efficiency and on the other side is effectiveness.  An organization must deliver both of these elements to prosper and be successful,” I would preach.   I would then go on to say that traditionally, we think of businesses as being efficient but not necessarily effective.  Efficiency is doing things right while effectiveness is doing the right things.  In other words, business strives to use inputs as efficiently as possible to create a product or service where the value added is greater than the combination of inputs used.  If it does this and has a product or service that is wanted or needed by customers, it will make a profit and stay in business.

download

When it comes to “effectiveness” or doing the “right” things, we have a concept here with highly subjective connotations.  “Right” for a business might be doing what they think is best for their customers or their bottom line.  However, doing what is best for a customer, might not meet the needs of other stakeholders.  For instance, customers may desire cigarettes but the negative impact to society as reflected in externalities can be very “un-right” to the rest of the population.  An externality is any difference between the private cost of an action or decision to a business or agency and the social cost.  In simple terms, a negative externality is anything that causes an indirect cost to society.  In the case of cigarettes, this cost is reflected in a number of ways including lost wages, medical costs and insurance costs.

maxresdefaultBy the way, when we think of government organizations it is usually as being much less capable in the efficiency area and much more focused on effectiveness or doing the right things for society.  I suppose that is one of the reasons why it is so easy to ridicule government.  Senator Proxmire was famous for his “Golden Fleece Awards “in which he belittled government agencies for their waste and lack of efficiency.  I have worked or consulted in many government agencies and I have to admit that “efficiency” was often sorely lacking.

Some critics point out that there are negative repercussions from too much emphasis on efficiency.  (HBR, January-February 2019 Issue: Rethinking Efficiency) They argue that organizations need to balance efficiency with resiliency.  One critic noted the problems with Deming’s emphasis on efficiency could lead to sub-optimization of the organization.  It is clear that this critic never read much of Dr. Deming who always emphasized that an organization needed to be looked at as a whole and not piecemeal.  Over emphasis on any one part of an organization could result in a decline in another part.

“Management of a system requires knowledge of the interrelationships between all of the components within the system and of everybody that works in it.” — Dr. W. E. Deming, “The New Economics”

Now you might be agreeing with me that business is not always effective.  However, you may still want to know why (or prove my claim) I say that business efficiency is a myth?  What do I base this assertion on?  I am going to provide three reasons for my claim and explain each of them.

  1. Most corporations do not understand or pursue continuous improvement

For a business to be truly efficient it must focus on the continuous improvement of all operations including people, materials, methods, equipment and information.  The cost of all inputs continually rises and when costs go up and other factors of production stay the same then efficiency declines.  The core of the Deming Philosophy was “Continuous Improvement.”

“Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.”  — W. Edwards Deming, “Out of the Crisis”

Many of my clients understood this basic message of the need for continuous improvement, but as I was told by one Japanese management consultant, “You Americans are short-term thinkers.  You worry about the quarterly dividend, the daily stock price and your quarterly financial reports.  In Japan, we do not think quarterly, we think centuries.”  Thus, it was easy for US companies to embrace this message in the late eighties and early nineties when it seemed that everywhere you looked, they were losing market share to the Japanese.  The “Japanese Miracle” was eroding the economic competitive of US business and companies in the US flocked to Dr. Deming to tell them how to emulate the Japanese.

“The pay and privilege of the captains of industry are now so closely linked to the quarterly dividend that they may find it personally unrewarding to do what is right for the company.”  ― W. Edwards Deming, “Out of the Crisis”

The Japanese had assimilated the continuous improvement message of Dr. Deming since it was not really that foreign to their basic worldview.  So what if it took a few years or even decades, the Japanese could be patient.  Unfortunately, American management did not have the same patience.  Quality went gung-ho throughout the US in the nineties.  American corporations bragged about reaching or nearly reaching parity with the Japanese on many measures of the exalted Six Sigma standard of quality.  But Americans have always adored technology and the quick fix over labor inputs and long-term improvements.  The steam engine, the assembly line, the computer and robotically automated processes were all technological advances that have helped the United States become the major economic power in the world.  There is no doubting the positive advances that technology has made in terms of productivity and efficiency in the US.

download (1)

The trouble with only relying on technological advances for the next leap forward is similar to a ball team that only relies on home runs rather than base hits.  The base hits may not be as grand as hitting a home run, but they are the key to winning the game.  When computers, automated processes, robots and the Internet started to really proliferate in the US business world, you could start to see the fascination with continuous improvement wane in the eyes of many managers.

In its 2018 Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte found that 47% of business and HR leaders were concerned that modern collaboration tools weren’t actually helping businesses achieve their goals. Between chat windows, project management tools, meeting alerts, and emails, workers find themselves in a constant state of reactive busyness—rather than proactively focusing on meaningful work.” — The Productivity Myth by Ben Taylor, March 19, 2019

O, they still have their quality departments and their six-sigma training but too many companies have gone back to the old standard of “Its good enough” or “Well, we are meeting expectations.”  The drive for continuous improvement has slowly but inexorably dissipated since the early nineties.   US Corporations have once again gone back to the idea of looking for the home run.  Too many hope to find this home run in mergers and acquisitions with new companies that display the dynamism lacking in their older established corporations.

“Since 2000, more than 790,000 transactions have been announced worldwide with a known value of over 57 trillion USD.  In 2018, the number of deals decreased by 8% to about 49’000 transactions, while their value has increased by 4% to 3.8 trillion USD.”  — Institute of Mergers and Acquisitions.

You may well ask then, “How successful are these mergers and acquisitions in terms of adding value for the corporation or even more so for the customers?”  One study done by the Harvard Business School in 2015 found that between seventy to ninety percent of all M&A’s failed.  In my opinion, too many companies want to grow quickly hoping either for an increased economy of scale or to obtain the creativity that has been weaned out of their now bloated bureaucracy.  Too many US companies have abandoned the idea of continuous improvement as too time consuming or too slow.  Hoping to hit more home runs, they would rather focus on a spectacular breakthrough rather than on a slow incremental improvement strategy.  It is strange and sad, that US companies feel it is an either-or trade off.  Either we work on continuous improvement or we work on hitting home runs.  The best strategy is to focus on both.  Few games are ever won by simply using a single strategy.

fin-101-profit-maximization-vs-wealth-maximization-7-638

2. Goals of short-term profits often lead to long-term losses

For the sake of so-called efficiency, employees are laid-off, training budgets are cut, salaries are frozen, pensions are renegotiated, employee perks are downsized, key processes are outsourced, and supplies are purchased on the basis of low bidder.  My sister always says, “Buy cheap and weep.”  Too much of American industry assumes that cutting costs in the short-term will lead to long-term profits.  Nothing could be further from the truth or more short-sighted in thinking.

Minimizing costs in one place can often lead to maximizing costs in another. Only management is responsible, and I mean top management, for looking at the company as a whole, to minimize total cost and not the cost here or there or there… must get departments to work together. That is difficult in the face of the annual rating… because they get rated on their own performance. — Dr. W. E. Deming

One of Dr. Deming’s 14 Points called for eliminating performance measures for employees and MBOs for management.  I have seen little evidence since Dr. Deming died that companies have made much effort in either area.  Admittedly, you can go on line and find dozens of companies that claim to have streamlined or improved their performance management/appraisal systems but they are still useless since they measure the wrong thing.  Dr. Deming taught that 90 percent or more of the problems in a system or variation in any process are caused by the system and not by the individuals.  Managers work on the system and are thus responsible for making changes and taking out barriers to efficiency that prohibit work from being more productive.  Unless these changes to the system are made, any attempt at measuring or encouraging worker performance or goal setting are ludicrous.  Goals should be set for the system based on realistic measures of its capability but not on individual employees.

 “People with targets and jobs dependent upon meeting them will probably meet the targets – even if they have to destroy the enterprise to do it.”  — W. Edwards Deming

3. Inefficient business practices are epidemic in most organizations

When I started consulting in 1986, it was not unusual to find corporations with 10 or more levels of management.  The chain of command was epidemic in most US companies.  The old idea of “span of control” was imbued in the management practices that guided most businesses.  This large bureaucracy of span of control and chain of command rivaled the inefficiency found in most government organizations.  I could go into dozens of other examples of inefficient business practices, but one will suffice.

1_rHSuitewY6k2QKbphLvEgQ

In 1998, I was hired by the Metropolitan Council in Minnesota as a Principal Strategic Planner.  The Metropolitan Council was a regional government agency and planning organization in Minnesota serving the Twin Cities seven-county metropolitan area.  This area accounted for over 55 percent of the state’s population.  My job was to help streamline processes at the Metropolitan Council Division of Environmental Services (MCES) and to help the division improve its delivery of key services.  The MCES was responsible for the management of eight wastewater treatment plants in the seven-county metropolitan area.

Over the years, various teams that I established undertook many processes and successfully improved them.  Always looking for new ideas and areas to improve, I struck upon the idea of doing more on-line meetings and also allowing more employees to work from home.  Both of these ideas were fully supported by existing technology in 2000, but I made little headway in establishing these ideas.  These two ideas ran counter to traditional management philosophies of command and control.  We had entered the 21st Century, but our work processes were still dictated by 20th Century ideas and beliefs.

maltaway_boardmember_corporate_bureacrcy

When I left the Met Council in 2001, I joined the American Express Technology Division (AET) of American Express Corporation.  I literally jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.  I had wrongly assumed that they would be more progressive than the Met Council and much to my dismay they were even less progressive.  It was difficult to get my manager to allow either myself or co-workers to work from home since “How would I know what you are doing” was a prevalent theme.  I gave notice only six months after joining American Express.

So now we are in the middle of a world-wide crisis caused by a virus.  The internet has allowed millions of workers to “work from home.”  Many of these Gig workers had been allowed some latitude in working from home but for many of the new Internet workers it was a new and pleasant experience.  However, it took a Pandemic catastrophe to free up the thinking of too many managers in terms of “How will I know what they are doing.”  Such a thought seems ludicrous in the extreme to anyone with a half grain of common sense.

Leadership-Vs.-Management-minus-HR-and-CEO-1024x649

Unfortunately, many work processes in organizations are still mired in 20th and even 19th century beliefs of how work should be done.  These inefficient and archaic ideas stop many corporations from being nearly as efficient and productive as they could be.  The bottom line is that the vaunted supremacy of private for-profit corporations over government entities is vastly exaggerated and overrated.

I want to end this long blog with a stern reminder.  Few companies have demonstrated any ability to take on the “effectiveness” dimension of government agencies with better results than the government has shown.  Private for-profit charter schools and colleges have been disasters.  Private run prisons are not fairing much better.  They have continued to show a propensity for a lack of cost-effectiveness, security and safety concerns, poor health conditions, and the potential for corruption (see “The Problem with Private Prisons”).  In terms of the privatization of wastewater and water treatment plants, one study of household water expenditures in cities under private and public management in the U.S., came to the following conclusion, “Whether water systems are owned by private firms or governments may, on average, simply not matter much.” — Wikipedia

It hardly seems likely that many people in the US would like to see fire departments, police departments, the military and many regulatory agencies turned into for-profit entities regardless of how efficient they may claim to be.

 

It’s the Economy Stupid! The Five Myths of Capitalism – Part 3 of 5

profits-before-people-1-638

I have stated in my two previous blogs that unless we change our attitudes and policies regarding Corporate Capitalism, it will destroy our country, our way of life, our freedoms, and our environment.  Furthermore, we will undoubtedly take some of the rest of the world along with us.  This is a serious accusation and one I do not take lightly.  I have been a business educator in higher education and a management consultant to some of the top corporations in the world.  My opinion is not based just on theory or observations.  It is based on the in-depth work that I did with over 32 companies during the time I was actively consulting.  There are many good people working in corporate America but as Dr. Deming once said “You put a good person in a bad system and the system will win every time.  There are Five Myths of Capitalism that are largely responsible for the mistaken policies and laws that have allowed Corporate Capitalism to become a dangerous disease infecting our way of life and causing untold damage to our country.

In my previous blogs, I described the first two myths.  In this blog, I will describe Myth #3 and how it contributes to the destruction of our country.  Myth #3 is:

  1. People Run Corporations

It is natural to believe that because people, managers and employees run corporations that they will act as humans might act.  It is supposed that corporations will be or at least should be humane, compassionate, and guided by responsibilities to its employees.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Nothing could be a bigger lie or myth.  People DO NOT run corporations.  I think I can illustrate the point I am trying to make with a few short stories from my own experiences with large corporations.  I am sure that as you read my stories, you will think of many similar experiences you have had.  That is what I want you to remember.

"Before we discuss destroying the competition, screwing our customers, and laughing all the way to the bank, let's begin this meeting with a prayer."

Best Buy Story:

Several years ago I bought a new desk top computer from Best Buy Corporation.  I also purchased a two-year extended warranty.  No sooner had I got the computer set up in my home office when problems started.  The computer would shut down without warning, most of the time right smack in the middle of a paper or presentation that I was preparing.  I was always very diligent at backing up my work, but I would still lose up to 15 minutes’ worth of work which was very annoying.  This happened a number of times and I called their customer service and got to talk to the Geek Squad.  This was originally a group of computer nerds who had their own company and Best Buy bought them up.

profits-before-people-10-638

I got a service rep on the line after the usual wait and switching of phone lines. He had me run a series of diagnostics and wanted to know if I had a virus protector.  I told him no, I had not yet installed one.  He informed me that this was my problem.  I had a virus and would need to install a virus protector.  I jotted down the incident number for this report and the date I called Best Buy.  I purchased a McAfee Virus software and installed it.  I was hopeful.  However, even after installing the new software, the same thing happened again and again.  The computer screen would go blank and the computer would shut off.  I called Best Buy tech support again.  I gave them my former incident number, but they opened a new number and gave it to me.  I talked to a tech rep.  He took me through the SAME series of diagnostics as before but could not find any problems.  Then he asked me if I had a virus protector.  I told him “Yes, I had purchased and installed McAfee Anti-Virus software.  He suggested I should switch to Norton Anti-Virus as he was sure that I had an undetected virus.  I said thanks and hung up.  I then went out and purchased a copy of Norton’s software.  I installed the software and you probably have already guessed it.  The computer had the same problem and kept logging off.  I was fed up.

I disconnected the computer.  Took my purchase receipt and took my incident numbers and notes and told Karen that I was taking the damn thing back to Best Buy.  She cautioned me to “Be nice”.  “You catch more flies with sugar than vinegar.”  I promised I would.  When I arrived at the store, with box and computer in tow, I was referred to the Customer Service manager.  He wanted to know the problem and I gave him my history.  He then asked me if I had called the tech group for support.  I said I had.  He requested proof.  I showed him my notes and both incident numbers.  He then said “Well, since you did not purchase this at our store, there is nothing I can do.”  Bingo! I had him, I thought.  I showed him my receipt of purchase at this very same store.  “Well,” he said “We would need an extended warranty for a refund since it has been over six months since you purchased this computer.  I pulled out my 2-year extended warranty and showed it to him.

At this point, he said he would have to go talk to the store manager.

Mr. Customer Service manager came back about fifteen minutes later.  He looked me straight in the eye and said “how sorry he was” but it was “against policy” to take back merchandise.  I had had enough with “being nice.”  I told him I would never shop at Best Buy again and since I was a business education teacher at a local college, I would warn my students about shopping at Best Buy.  He looked blank and said not a word as I left his store.  It has now been over ten years.  I have never entered Best Buy again.  I would not buy a battery there if it were the last place on earth.

The Moral of This Story: 

We are not human beings to the people that work in large corporations.  We are dollar signs.  They have no empathy for us.  They switch off empathy when they join the corporation and aspire to climb the corporate ladder.  They become automatons who obey policy, follow procedures, and screw the customer if it means saving a dime for the corporation.  They will look you right in the face while screwing you and have no pity or compassion.  Remember, “we are only following procedures.”  By the way, this is about as true in large Government bureaucracies as in private for-profit corporations.  Caveat:  There are always decent people out there who are “exceptions”, I repeat “exceptions” to the rule.  However, they are not the norm.

Delta Airlines Story:

A few years ago, my wife and I bought tickets to go to Rhode Island to visit my sister.  We bought the tickets well in advance and looked forward to the visit.  A week or so before our scheduled departure, my brother in law called me up.  “John, I know Jeanine would never ask you to cancel your trip, but she has really not been feeling good.  We had to take her to the clinic, and I think it would be best if you came some other time.”  I told him “no problem”, we would cancel the trip and reschedule at a later date when she felt better.

Bad-Customer-Service

I called the airlines up to see about a refund.  I was told that “they were deeply sorry, but sickness was not a reason for a refund.  I said “seriously, you mean if I get sick and cannot make a trip, I cannot get a refund.”  The clerk replied, “If you were sick, it would not be a problem, but you were not sick, it was your sister.”  I could have bit a steel spike in half, but I replied civilly.  “Okay, but what about another booking at a later date?”  “We can manage that he said.  We will put a voucher in for you, but you will have to pay a restocking fee.”  “How the fuck do you restock an e-ticket I asked?”  “Its standard policy”, he replied.  The restocking fees cost about a third of the ticket prices and I remember being out of pocket about $300 dollars.  Three hundred dollars to restock an e-ticket?

The Moral of This Story:

Same as the moral for the Best Buy Story.  You customer.  Me corporate man.  We make billions by screwing people like you.  Sorry, its nothing personal, just business.

Travel Insurance Company Story:

Here we are in the middle of a Global Pandemic.  Karen and I had planned a trip to Paris and Moscow.  We purchased trip insurance to cover a number of costs over nine months ago.  Our two flights there and two flights back have all been cancelled due to the pandemic.  I am confident (Perhaps an unwarranted assumption on my part) that the airlines will either give me a voucher or refund.  Thus, the trip insurance company has not had to shell out one penny yet.  I decided to call the insurance company to see if I could get reimbursed for our Visas to Russia and Belarus that cost us a total of $1000 dollars.  I had already called both embassies and was informed that I would have to reapply for new visas.  The trip insurance agent informed me that Visas are not covered under “Miscellaneous Trip Cancellations” because as the agent said, “Does it say Visas?”  A short time later they sent the following notice by email to all insurance recipients:

If your travel insurance contains Trip Cancellation or Trip Interruption coverage:

Unless you purchased Trip Cancellation for Any Reason coverage, our insurance does not cover fear of travel.

Many of our plans exclude losses due to “any issue or event that could have been reasonably foreseen or expected when you purchased the coverage.” The COVID-19 outbreak is considered a foreseeable event under any plans containing this exclusion purchased on or after January 29, 2020.

I want to make three quick points. 

  1. Do you know anyone in their right mind who would not be afraid of traveling at this time?
  2. How in the name of anything you believe can the Covid-19 outbreak be considered a “foreseeable event” as early as January 29th?
  3. Have you ever seen the fine print and the number of pages on any insurance policy?

The Moral of This Story:

By now, you should know what the moral of this story is.  But just in case.  It is simply this.  If a large corporation can find any way to screw you, give you the shaft or take your money and give you nothing in return, rest assured many if not most of them will.

download

Now, I want to return to my main point.  Corporations have no heart.  They have no feelings.  They have no emotions.  They are not sympathy machines or compassionate entities.  The people who are hired by these large corporations soon learn that if push comes to shove, they had better side with the corporation rather than the customer.

Unless, we change the character of corporate law, what it takes for articles of incorporation to be issued and the entire governance structure designed to provide oversight for companies, the stories that I have told above and your own sad tales will continue to reflect the reality of how corporations deal with people.

Profits-Before-People-I.012-520x730

Should it be this wayAre profits more important than people?  I fear that we have developed a system where too many people would say yes to both questions.

“How people themselves perceive what they are doing is not a question that interests me. I mean, there are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, ‘That person I see is a savage monster’; instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. If you ask the CEO of some major corporation what he does he will say, in all honesty, that he is slaving 20 hours a day to provide his customers with the best goods or services he can and creating the best possible working conditions for his employees. But then you take a look at what the corporation does, the effect of its legal structure, the vast inequalities in pay and conditions, and you see the reality is something far different.”  ― Noam Chomsky

Carnival Knew It Had a Problem, but Kept the Party Going

More than 1,500 people on the company’s cruise ships have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and dozens have died.  What were the executives thinking?  BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

 

It’s the Economy Stupid! The Five Myths of Capitalism – Part 1 of 5

money

There are many theories about what drives progress and change in the world.  Some say Ideology changes the world.  Some say Technology is the main driver of change.  Karl Marx, one of the most famous or infamous men in history, (depending on your beliefs) argued that Economics is the main driver of change in the world.  Much of Marx’s theory is summed up by the term Historical Materialism which can be defined as:

“A theory of history which states that a society’s economic organization fundamentally determines its social institutions and the way that people live and benefit from the means of production in that society.”

marxism-capitalism-1-638Most of what people learn about Marx is far removed from his actual ideas.  Given that Capitalism has been diametrically opposed to the very name of Karl Marx, it is not surprising that he is routinely disparaged.  Even at the University level, it is rare to find anyone studying Marx very deeply.   Many educators and instructors describe Marx’s economic theories as “Totally Discredited.”  Few people in America have any good words for Karl Marx.  Any politician in the USA who might suggest that Marx ever said one good thing or had one good idea would court instant political death.  Marx is the devil in our Capitalistic system.

the economyMarx did of course hate capitalism.  He saw Capitalism as a system that exploited workers and allowed the greedy to benefit at the expense of those less fortunate or less aggressive.

“Capitalism: Teach a man to fish, but the fish he catches aren’t his. They belong to the person paying him to fish, and if he’s lucky, he might get paid enough to buy a few fish for himself.”  — Karl Marx

10665231_470379489743928_2447670465163187643_nThe antipathy directed towards Marx and his critique of Capitalism has discouraged any real in-depth understanding of the limits and myths of Capitalism by most Americans.  Capitalism resides in America on the same level as Mom, God, and Apple Pie.  Woe to anyone who would dare to attack Capitalism.  In the United States, Capitalism is as hallowed an institution as Christianity.  In fact, most Christians think that Capitalism and religion go hand in hand, which to a large extent they sadly do.  Unfortunately, not all Capitalism is the same.  In America, we have a home-grown version that is more appropriately called Corporate Capitalism.  What is the difference you might ask?  Well it gets even more complicated since economists define four types of Capitalism.  These are:  oligarchic capitalism, state-guided capitalism, big-firm capitalism, entrepreneurial capitalism.  The type of Capitalism that I am going to talk about is known as Big Firm Capitalism or Corporate Capitalism.  It has been defined as:

“Corporate capitalism is characterized by the dominance of hierarchical and bureaucratic corporations… A large proportion of the economy of the United States and its labor market falls within corporate control.  In the developed world, corporations dominate the marketplace, comprising 50% or more of all businesses.  Those businesses which are not corporations contain the same bureaucratic structure of corporations, but there is usually a sole owner or group of owners who are liable to bankruptcy and criminal charges relating to their business. Corporations have limited liability and remain less regulated and accountable than sole proprietorships.” — Wikipedia

Before we proceed further, you need to understand one thing.  I am not against corporations per se.  We gain many benefits from corporations.  Corporations are a large part of the foundation of our economy which from strictly a monetary perspective has been phenomenally successful.  The USA has perhaps the most successful economy in history.  I have no problems with the monetary contributions of corporations.

globalization

The problems arise however, in that there are Myths of Corporate Capitalism which serve to hide the negative impacts that corporations have on our country and the rest of the world.  Today, corporations are global entities and their excesses are felt not just in this country but all over the globe.  I believe that unless these excesses are reined in by intelligent oversight and a rewriting of corporate law, they will destroy this country.  Each of these excesses is a Deadly Disease that by itself could do the destruction.  Together these five excesses are leading America away from the vision of our founding fathers.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were based on the belief in a democratic system of government that was of the people, by the people and for the people.  We are increasingly standing by while our country becomes a government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

The Five Myths of Corporate Capitalism that are destroying America:

  1. Corporations are people

supreme court decisionOver the past 40 years, the Supreme Court has radically expanded constitutional rights for corporations.  The original charters for corporations written in the late 19th century, allowed corporations powers never before seen in companies.  The abuse of these powers soon led to a considerable amount of legislation designed to reign in some of the most egregious of these abuses.  Laws such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act passed in 1890 to stop monopoly practices and the Clayton Antitrust Act passed in 1914 to stop unethical business practices were somewhat successful at ameliorating corporate abuses.  Unfortunately, corporations were still left with considerable power to thwart the goals of democracy and good government.

From the early 20th Century onwards, corporations continued to use their power to bribe, cajole, and persuade policy makers to give them privileges that once again extended their power. They have since more than made up for the power that they lost in the early part of the 20th century.

“Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time.  For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34.  Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business.”  — “How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy” — The Atlantic, Lee Drutman, April 20, 2015.  

corporate powerCorporate interests easily dominate the interests of the common person.  The common person has nowhere near the financial clout of corporations.  In 2010, the Supreme Court passed the Citizens United Decision which gave corporations unlimited power to finance and support political candidates running for office as well as to lobby on behalf of any laws that they wanted.  This decision basically upheld the idea that corporations had a right to free speech much like any citizen of the USA and that campaign spending was simply a manifestation of free speech.  Corporations are now being treated as living breathing people despite the fact that corporations can live forever, and corporations are not organic entities.  They are not born, and they do not die like any other creature on the face of the earth.

lobbyists

Corporations already had almost unlimited power to influence and coerce politicians to do their will.  The Citizens United Decision took all the brakes out of the system.  You have often heard the parody of the Golden Rule “He who has the gold makes the rules.”  This trope is now a fact of life in America.  Many people no longer bother voting because they believe that voting is a waste of time.  Everyone knows that politicians need an exorbitant amount of money to support their campaign and that once elected they immediately start building their money up for their reelection.   They get the lion’s share of this money from big business interests and associations that support big business interests such as the National Rifle Association (NRA).

AP_ArentPeople_Meme-300x300

According to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that cover activity from January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019, congressional candidates collected $389 million and disbursed $172.2 million, political parties received $353.7 million and spent $279.9 million, and political action committees (PACs) raised $958.2 million and spent $818.7 million in the six-month period.  If you total these figures up for money raised in just the first six months of 2019, it equals $1.701 billion dollars.  If there were 100 people in the US Senate and 435 people in the US House of Representatives, this equals approximately $3,179,400 dollars for every one of those politicians in office.  Of course, some will get more, and some will get less, but the majority of this money will be spent helping to support the reelection of each and every one of these honorable men and women.

corporations-rule-ic-5-26-2017

Here is a little experiment to show you what this campaign funding could buy.  Consider that the Federal Minimum Wage in the United States as of 2020 is $10 dollars per hour.  A person on minimum wage working full time earns approximately $21,000 dollars a year.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1. 8 million Americans work full-time at or below the minimum wage.  If you double the average election campaign fund to equal a full year of collecting money you will get approximately $6.2 million dollars.  Now divide this campaign fund by the average yearly minimum wage of $21 thousand dollars and you get 295.  In other words, one year of campaign funding (an average) would fund a person now working on minimum wage for 295 years.   If you earn the national average of $86,000 dollars a year, it could support you for 72 years.

To say that something is wrong here is an understatement.  We have a sort of self-perpetuating money machine here.  Every year corporations get greedier and seek more profits.  According to Corporate Law that is their primary reason for existence.  Numerous pundits and corporate sympathizers extol the virtue of greed.

Workers Should Be Very Thankful That Corporations Are So Greedy” by Jeffrey Dorfman

greed is goodOne of the most popular movies in the eighties was Wall Street.  In the movie, Michael Douglas gave a “Greed is Good” speech which was actually applauded by audiences all over the United States.  Some corporations have been sued by stockholders for not being greedy enough.

Every year budding politicians need more and more money to get elected.  Corporations are money banks for anyone desiring to run for office.  Corporations provide the funds that politicians need to wage a successful election campaign.  Once elected, elected officials are then beholden to the major corporations and lobbyists whose help they will need to raise the money to get reelected.

Corporations are more than happy to support candidates who will pass bills that help them to make more profits.  Other bills they like are designed to ensure that they can pay less taxes, have fewer environmental regulations, fewer safety and health regulations, pay lower wages, decrease employee pensions and benefits, defeat unions and avoid onerous consumer liability claims.  Any politician who is willing to support the former goals can find numerous corporate lobbyists willing to donate money to help them get elected.  The Citizens United Decision guarantees that corporations can give as much money as they want without breaking any laws.  After all, it is free speech.

0_x4jON4VvbNOVEOEy

“Warren Buffett worth nearly $80 billion dollars points to the Forbes 400, which lists the wealthiest Americans.  ‘Between the first computation in 1982 and today, the wealth of the 400 increased 29-fold — from $93 billion to $2.7 trillion — while many millions of hardworking citizens remained stuck on an economic treadmill.  During this period, the tsunami of wealth didn’t trickle down.  It surged upward’.”  — Entrepreneurs, January 24th, 2018

In Part 2, I am going to cover the second myth of Corporate Capitalism.  The Myth that laissez faire will somehow result in corporations being self-regulating entities for the common good.

“According to a survey from the Pew Research Center last year, 60 percent of American adults think that three decades from now, the U.S. will be less powerful than it is today. Almost two-thirds say it will be even more divided politically. Fifty-nine percent think the environment will be degraded. Nearly three-quarters say that the gap between the haves and have-nots will be wider. A plurality expects the average family’s standard of living to have declined. Most of us, presumably, have recently become acutely aware of the danger of global plagues.”  — The Atlantic, Kate Julian, April 17, 2020

The 3rd of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Knowledge without Character.

Several years ago I became very interested in the question of “Character.”  What is character?  How do we develop character?  Are we losing character in our population and if so, why?  I found a number of books on the subject but the one that most impressed me was called “The Death of Character.”  It was published in 2001 and was written by James Davison Hunter.   The book description is as follows:

The Death of Character is a broad historical, sociological, and cultural inquiry into the moral life and moral education of young Americans based upon a huge empirical study of the children themselves. The children’s thoughts and concerns-expressed here in their own words-shed a whole new light on what we can expect from moral education. Targeting new theories of education and the prominence of psychology over moral instruction, Hunter analyzes the making of a new cultural narcissism.

One of the observations that I drew from reading this book is that as a nation, Americans have moved from a perspective of absolute values to a strong belief in relative values or flexible standards.  Wherein once people could be labeled as moral or immoral based on their behavior, today we have the concept of amorality which does not seem to have existed before the 20th century.   Some definitions might help here:

Moral:  Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.

Immoral:  Violating moral principles; not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics.

Amoral:  Being neither moral nor immoral; specifically: lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply.

Character:  The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person.

According to Hunter’s research, the American population has moved from a bipartite arrangement in which people fell between the poles of moral or immoral to a tripartite arrangement in which most people would be classified as amoral, immoral or moral.  The percentage of people in the amoral area has steadily increased while the percentage in the moral area has steadily declined since the early 1900s.

I was teaching in higher education from 1999 to 2015 and one question I  routinely asked my MBA and BA students is “What would you do if you were driving down a lonely dirt road and saw a Wells Fargo money bag lying on the side of the road?  Would you return it?”  I suspect that you would be surprised if I told you that less than 3 students in 30 say they would return it.

However, if I ask them the following question, the numbers change dramatically.  “What would you do if you noticed that upon leaving the classroom, Mary had dropped a twenty dollar bill?  You are the only one who has noticed it. Would you return it?”  The replies are unanimous in that all students say they would return it.  Students regard hurting another person that they know as wrong or immoral, but stealing from Wells Fargo is not considered immoral but is rather considered as amoral.  My own teaching experiences over the years confirm much of what Hunter says in his book.  Amorality is rampant among business students.

So we come to an important question.  Can we have an educated and intelligent population (more people getting degrees and going to school) and less morality?  What if more people are becoming amoral and we have less moral people?  What are the implications?  Well, I think the answer is clear here.  Look at corporate behavior.  You have only to read the story of Enron “The Smartest Men in the Room” to see concrete examples of intelligent behavior without a sense of morality or character.   When we look at amoral behavior in people and organizations, a primary question is how long before the amoral behavior becomes immoral and crosses the line to illegal – as it did with Enron, Worldcom, and Global Crossing.

Gandhi says this about his 3rd Social sin: 

“Our obsession with materialism tends to make us more concerned about acquiring knowledge so that we can get a better job and make more money. A lucrative career is preferred to an illustrious character. Our educational centers emphasize career-building and not character-building. Gandhi believed if one is not able to understand one’s self, how can one understand the philosophy of life. He used to tell me the story of a young man who was an outstanding student throughout his scholastic career. He scored “A’s” in every subject and strove harder and harder to maintain his grades. He became a bookworm. However, when he passed with distinction and got a lucrative job, he could not deal with people nor could he build relationships. He had no time to learn these important aspects of life. Consequently, he could not live with his wife and children nor work with his colleagues. His life ended up being a misery. All those years of study and excellent grades did not bring him happiness. Therefore, it is not true that a person who is successful in amassing wealth is necessarily happy. An education that ignores character- building is an incomplete education.”

In my book, “The New Business Values” one of my chapters was on Information.  I outlined a hierarchy of information as follows: Data>Information>Knowledge>Wisdom.   I described knowledge as a set of beliefs, facts or ideas that contained relevance to some goal, need or desire.  In my model, knowledge cannot become wisdom until it is linked to emotions and feelings for others.  I think Gandhi’s ideas of linking knowledge to character probably hits the mark more accurately.  It was my understanding that knowledge without empathy and compassion for others could never be wisdom.

The world is full of knowledge today since scientific belief has replaced religious belief.   However, science can never develop the sense of empathy and compassion as a central part of character development.  Furthermore, character development even more than knowledge, stands alone as a primary developmental need for any civilized society.  Gandhi wisely noted that we have let our passion for commerce and money outrun our passion for purpose and character.

The famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in his book Economics and the Public Purpose (1973, Houghton Mifflin) that:

“The contribution of economics to the exercise of power may be called its instrumental function… Part of this function consists in instructing several hundred thousand students each year… They are led to accept what they might otherwise criticize; critical inclinations which might be brought to bear on economic life are diverted to other and more benign fields.” 

Galbreath observed over 35 years ago that we are educating MBA students who have become mindless automatons in a corporate system without a conscience.  Having no conscience is one aspect of amoral behavior.  In today’s society and schools such behavior has become the accepted norm.  It’s the “go along” to “get along” mentality that accepts corporate decisions regardless of their impact on people, the environment or even our nation.  The “diversion” that Galbraith speaks of is easily recognized as sports and media entertainment.  Sports and news create 24/7 hours if mostly inane and benign diversions that keep the public’s mind off of character or moral development.  Indeed watching sports figures and media figures today is evidence of a “vast wasteland” in terms of character development.

So where do we go from here?  The picture appears bleak.  We now accept amorality as a legitimate position on the map of character development.  We ignore the development of true character in our schools and churches; in fact, we supplant the development of character with the requisite amorality needed to get ahead in the business world.  The values of the corporation have supplanted the values needed for a kind and compassionate civilization.  Our schools have become prisons and our prisons overflow.  The USA has some of the highest amounts of incarceration in the world.  Our courts have become three ring media circuses designed to show an endless succession of trials whose main points seem to be to titillate and entertain the masses.  Can we escape from this cycle of destruction that we have built for ourselves?

Time for Questions:

Am I too bleak?  Do you think there is more morality in society than I describe? What do you do to develop your own character?  Do you feel that there is enough emphasis on character development in our churches and schools?  What do you think can be done about it?  How do we start?

Life is just beginning.

“Compassion is the basis of morality.”  ― Arthur Schopenhauer

The Road to Trumps Success Began 4,500 Years Ago

egypt-cairo-pyramids-of-giza-and-camels-2

The journey of Donald Trump from businessman to the head of the largest corporate state in the world did not as many assume start 12 months ago.  In fact, the roots of Trumps ascendancy can be traced back to at least 2,500 BCE.  Never before in history, has anyone with a business background and so little experience in either politics or military become the leader of a major state.  However, we did not see the buildup to this happening because most of the time we are focused on short-view trends and we miss entirely the long term trends that entail even more potent forces at play.

In numerous attempts to explain the election of Trump, most pundits have looked to the micro forces, such as international trade, disillusion among blue collar White males, the Affordable Care Act, distrust of Hillary Clinton, Russian interference in the election, White backlash and rising income inequality.  While these forces might explain Trump’s election they do not explain why America has now seen fit to elect a businessperson with no political experience as its 45th President.

In fact, the election of a person with a business background to run the country represents a major shift in power that has been taking place for nearly fifty years and can be linked to other power shifts since the beginning of recorded history.  In this blog, I will explain how and why we now find America being run by the elite of corporate America.  To do this, we must go back to the ancient Egyptians.

In approximately 2,500 BCE, the Pharaoh Khufu built the largest of the Pyramids known as the Great Pyramid of Giza as a burial chamber.  The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years.   It was one of three large pyramids built in the Giza complex.  Then as now, humans marked their sovereignty by creating tall structures to show their power and prestige.  This phenomenon has been so consistent that it provides an insight into the sovereign powers that rule that planet and the various power shifts that have occurred throughout history.

sovereign-buildings

I mean to use the term sovereign to express the possessing of supreme or ultimate power.  For nearly 3,000 years, Kings, Pharaohs, Dictators, Emperors and those born of royal blood who were “related to Gods” were the ultimate sovereigns over most of humankind.  The early Romans and Greeks made some attempts to commute the power of their rulers by selecting some representatives of the population but these were generally of royal blood themselves and seldom of plebeian birth.  Julius Caesar who tried to be a “man of the people” was himself born into a patrician family.

Around the fall of the Roman Empire in 400 CE, sovereign power shifted from the nobility to the Catholic Church (at least in Europe).  Bear in mind that the shifts I refer to did not take place overnight.  These transitions in power took place gradually over decades and with many tug of wars between the transitioning sovereigns.  It was Pope Leo (440 CE) who first asserted Papal primacy and he was supported by the Romans because of the political chaos in the West.  Pope Gelasius I (492 CE) declared that priestly power was abpower-of-the-popesove kingly power.  The Pope was supreme and no appeals could be made for his decision.  Sovereign power had now shifted to the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church.
Throughout most of Europe, the clergy and other minions of the Catholic Church assumed roles of leadership and sovereignty.  As the power of the church grew, so did the churches, cathedrals and basilicas which they built.  Each one was larger than the last one and all were designed to be larger than any buildings of the nobility or royalty.  The Church catheldralmanifested its power in the grandeur and elegance of its buildings.

The Catholic Church remained the dominant sovereign power in Europe until the reign of Pope Boniface VIII.  The clash of the Church to remain dominant over the newly emerging nation/state rulers took place in an epic battle between Pope Boniface VIII (1294 734-conflict-church-monarchs-12-638CE) and King Phillip IV of France.  Several other skirmishes had already taken place between Popes and rulers in the decades preceding with the battles seesawing back and forth.  However, the decisive battle for sovereignty was between Pope Boniface VIII and King Phillip IV.  It was vicious and at times bloody.  It saw the end of Church sovereignty and the beginning of the
sovereignty of nation/state rulers.   Boniface was captured by forces loyal to Philip and was beaten and nearly executed.  He was released from captivity after three days and died a short time later.  His defeat marked the end of the power of the Church to rule and the rise of the power of rulers of nation/states.

There are four characteristics of a nation/state.  These are:

  • Defined territory
  • Self-Rule (Sovereignty)
  • Some form of organized government
  • A population of people sharing a national identity

versailles-and-giverny-day-trip-in-paris-115463During the period of nation/state rulers, they built some magnificent buildings such as Versailles in France, Castello Del Valentino in Italy, the Palace of Placentia in London and the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.  If not the largest buildings in each country, they dwarfed in overall grandeur and size the churches that had been built by the clergy.  The period of nation/state rulers lasted from about 1400 CE to the middle of the 19th century.

The power of most of these nation/state rulers (usually with some pedigree of nobility) began to wane as the people in each country demanded more and more input into economic and political decisions.  Eventually, the nobility in most European countries were forced to make concessions to the idea of democratic or at least some form of republican rule.  The transition from rulers to republics was insured by the rise of a new class which we today call politicians or bureaucrats.  In time, these professional politicians became sovereign and replaced the old style rulers by virtue of a concept called elections or voting.  No one voted for Henry the VIII of England or Czar Nicholas II of Germany or King Ferdinand of Spain, but with the emergence of State governments, politicians and bureaucrats would become the new sovereigns.

how-bureaucrats-captured-government

The rise of most modern states started about the mid seventieth century.  Increasingly, although rulers in many nations could still be very powerful and even dictators, there was now some agency in every country that attempted to provide a balance to the ruler’s power.  In England, they established a parliament in 1706 that was later characterized by a House of Lords and a House of Commons.  In France, they created a National Assembly in 1791.  In Germany, they established a parliament in the 1870’s.  By the beginning of the 20th Century, although many nations had still kept their nobility as a form of tradition, most of the reins of government were in the hands of bureaucrats or elected officials.  Prime Ministers and Presidents had replaced Kings and Queens in the political decision making process.

national-capitolThe new sovereigns started building.  No more castles or palaces were built to house the new rulers.  Instead, capitals, state houses and mansions would be the new domiciles for politicians and bureaucrats.  Government leaders were no different though than Kings and Clergy when it came to siting their residences.  They also sought the high ground to place their buildings on.  The tallest buildings in the land now belonged to the Government.  This situation would not last very long.  Even more changes were taking place.  In a few short years, nations would no longer have an exclusive on sovereignty.  A new challenger was rapidly emerging.

capitalists

The new challenger started to emerge with the first corporations which began over a thousand years ago.  However, until the power of mercantilism started to become critical to state and military power in the late 16th century, the early corporations were rather toothless.  An excellent book titled Power Inc. covers the rise of the modern corporation in much more detail than I shall go into here.  The book by David Rothkopf is fittingly subtitled:  “The Epic Rivalry between Big Business and Government–and the Reckoning That Lies Ahead.”   

“In his new book, Power, Inc., David Rothkopf sounds an alarm.  He argues that thousands of private actors who he calls “super citizens” now hold greater power than most countries in the world.  He notes, for instance, that corporations have grown to the point where roughly the richest two thousand are more influential than 70-80 percent of the world’s nations. Walmart, for example, has revenues higher than the GDP of all but 25 nations.” — Roy Ulrich, the Huffington Post

The capitalistic industries wasted no time in starting to construct new buildings that would soon dwarf all of the previous tombs, castles, cathedrals and capitals throughout the world.  These buildings are so tall that they have been labeled as “skyscrapers.”  The world’s first skyscraper was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, erected in 1884-1885.  Its 138 foot peak would be dwarfed by skyscrapers today.  The Flatiron Building in NYC was built in 1902 and is twenty floors high and 307 feet to its peak.  The Empire State Building was built in 1931 in NYC and for many years it was the tallest building in the world standing over 100 stories and 1400 feet in height.

With the rapid economic development of many former third world countries there has been a proliferation of corporate skyscrapers with many countries vying for the honor of having the tallest building in the world.  Searching on Google for the “tallest buildings in the world” one finds the following information for buildings over 300 meters tall:

“As of 2016, this list includes all 135 buildings (completed and architecturally topped out) which reach a height of 300 meters (984 ft.) or more as assessed by their highest architectural feature.”Wikipedia

skyscrapersThe list includes skyscrapers built in China, United Arab Emirates, Dubai, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Russia and several other nations.   Perhaps presaging the emergence of China and Asia as the dominant world economies, Asia is already assuming the role of having many of the largest buildings in the world.  What we are witnessing is a contest of global economies vying for supremacy in terms of world economic sovereignty.  An interesting aside is that the world currency is considered a reflection of the nation that is the most powerful in this arena.  To date, the United States still holds that distinction but many are predicting the demise of the US dollar as the standard for world currency.

tpp-free-trade

But what does this have to do with Trump you may be starting to ask?  What does commercial sovereignty have to do with political sovereignty?  The answer to the second question is everything.  The major reason for the success of the Allied powers in both WWI and WWII was the economic might of the United States.  Economic power translates into military power and military power translates into political power.  This fact has been recognized for over 500 years now.  Spain’s ascendancy to a world power was built on its confiscation of wealth in the New World.  Hitler recognized that Germany could not be a dominant world power without confiscating the wealth of Jewish citizens and also of its neighboring countries.

“Great Britain was once a dominant military force in the World while it had a dominant economy.  At the start of the First World War, it devalued its exchange rate.  By the end of the War, owing to its military expenditure, it had large trade deficits and falling gold reserves.” — Buoyant Economies

The question of Trump brings a larger issue to the fore.  Generally, we have seen that as the dominant world power shifts, the leadership shifts along with it.  The features of buildings as a representation of power has followed these shifts.  However, in terms of the new power of corporations, it would seem that the buildings have been created before the shift in leadership.  That is until Trump became President of the United States of America.

a-corporate-worldIs Trump’s election an anomaly or does it truly represent the emergence of corporate power into the political arena?  My view on this is that Trump’s election is merely the tip of the iceberg.  For over 20 years now the United States has been electing more and more political leaders who are not politicians.  I am considering someone as not a politician if they are people who have not made a career of politics.

Many business people are jumping right into the political arena without experience in either local, state or federal government.  The founder of Electronic Data Systems, Ross Perot may be remembered by many voters as the ultimate tycoon-turned-politician.  Perot ran for president in 1992 and 1996 as a third-party candidate.

An article written in 2010 before Trump had become a candidate stated the following concerning the election of corporate people to public office:

“Whoever believes politics is big business must have seen this coming. The high levels of accountability from running a corporation and high expectations of seeking a seat in government have many parallels.  Amid this confluence of business and political streams, Chief Executive magazine dubbed 2010 “a high-water mark for the CEO as candidate.”

More than 40 business magnates – the presidents and founders of banks, restaurants and tech giants – are running for seats on Capitol Hill or for governor’s offices in 25 states. And looking ahead Donald Trump says he is “absolutely thinking about” a 2012 presidential bid.” — Ten Business Leaders with Politics in their Blood, by Bill Briggs

During the Republican runoff to the nomination of Trump, we saw Carly Fiorina who was a former CEO also emerge as a potential candidate.  We now have ten governors with no former elected government service.  Seven former US presidents with business experience have all been elected in the 20th or 21st century.  The following chart shows the net worth of the wealthiest senators in the US. Congress as of 2012.senator-net-worth

The next chart shows the average net worth of 90 incoming freshman representatives to the 113th US Congress

January 3, 2013 to January 3, 2015

Year Number of Freshmen Reports Average Net Worth Change from previous year
2011 90 $7,835,242 —-

More data can be found at Ballotpedia at https://ballotpedia.org/Main_Page

the-50-richest-people-on-earthMy point here is that most millionaires make their money in business.  On the 2016 Forbes lists of richest 400 people in the world, richest billionaires in the world and richest people in the world, the majority (about 2/3) have made their money in business.  Furthermore, they are self-made in that they did not inherit their fortunes.  Perusing Forbes, it is clear that the dominant path to becoming rich is to sell something that people want at a price they can afford.

It is clear that wealth accumulated to a business background has increasingly become a stepping stone to politics and political leadership.  Trumps presidency is the crown on the new sovereignty.  Business leaders are now rapidly replacing politicians and bureaucrats in the area of political leadership.  Already Trump’s nominees include the chief executive of Exxon Corporation; the chief executive of CKE Restaurants; the former chief executive of the World Wrestling Entertainment; a former Goldman Sachs executive; a billionaire investor; a right wing media executive and a former chief executive of Nucor Corporation.  These are only a few of the still to come appointments that Trump will make.

corporate-powerIt is my prediction that business leaders will continue to make the transition to political leadership.  The business model is now the sovereign model for world power.  The power of the state has been usurped by the power of big business.  Global power is corporate power.  The public is sick of career politicians.  The common people bring a (perhaps unfounded) belief in the power of business to save the world.  Considering that we have tried the power of academia, the power of science and the power of big government to save the world, perhaps the power of business can do better.  One might argue that they can at least do no worst.

Conclusion:

From Khufu to Trump, we have now briefly (my apologies for many simplifications and no doubt omissions in history) covered 4,500 years of political and economic history in a short seven or so pages.  I can see the great historians and economists of the world having fits at my narrative. Nevertheless, my thesis remains.  Simply put Trump is now the successor to Khufu, Caesar, Pope Boniface, Henry the VIII, Bismarck, Churchill and Roosevelt.  Big business is now the dominant sovereign power in the world.  How long will it last?  How long will it take all politicians to be replaced by business people?  I have no answers to these questions; but one must assume that somewhere down the road, another sovereign power will emerge or may already be emerging.  Until then, be prepared for most decisions to have a “let’s make a deal” flavor to them.

Time for Questions:

How long will the reign of big business last?  How long will it take politicians to all be replaced by business people?  Will business succeed in making the world a better place?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service . . . And during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

Thus, I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.

I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

Our boys were sent off to die with beautiful ideals painted in front of them. No one told them that dollars and cents were the real reason they were marching off to kill and die.”
― General Smedley Butler

“Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to serve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

The 4th of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Commerce without Morality.

Several years ago, a movie was made called “The Corporation.”   It is a documentary film written by Joel Bakan, and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. The film examines the modern-day corporation.   It considers its legal status as a class of person and evaluates its behavior towards society and the world at large as a psychiatrist might evaluate an ordinary person. The films thesis is explored through numerous examples and interviews.  Bakan wrote the book, “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power,” during the filming of the documentary.  I highly recommend this film.  I have shown it in many of my classes and used numerous excerpts from the film to illustrate key points about corporate behavior and the history of the corporate concept.  If you are interested in watching the film, you can do so on YouTube at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y888wVY5hzw

Most people do not realize it but the modern corporation and rules governing its behavior were not developed until the middle of the 19th century.  True, there were charters and rules governing businesses since the middle ages, but corporate law as we know it today is only about 150 or so years old.  The main point of the film is that despite not being human beings, corporations, as far as the law is concerned, have many of the same rights and responsibilities as people do.  Corporations can exercise human rights against individuals and the state,and they can themselves be responsible for human rights violations. 

However, while people have hearts, emotions, feelings and consciences, corporations do not.  While human behavior and codes of conduct have been developing since the Stone Age, the codes of conduct for corporations are practically non-existent.  Witness how Enron subverted their entire ethics process to allow the company to pursue almost unlimited degrees of immoral and unethical behavior.  In most corporations, the ethics statements are followed only when convenient and never if they conflict with the prime directive: “Make Money.”   Business schools may teach one class on ethics but seldom do students come away with any true sense that there must be an underlying morality to commerce.  Most students yawn their way through ethics since experience has already shown them that business ethics are expendable.  Noted economist Milton Friedman is famous for his criticism of business ethics and social responsibility for corporations.  According to Christine Travis, Friedman makes two key points in favor of his theory.  The first is that there is no uncontroversial morality.   Business owners are not ethicists and thus are not equipped to make ethical decisions.  Secondly, Friedman argues that maximizing long term self-interests will actually bring out the greater good.  (See Travis’s paper Philosophy: Summary and Explanation of Milton Friedman’s Stockholder Theory” for more depth on Friedman’s perspective.)

It is easy to see that Friedman’s theory has nuances which are valid but that there are gaps in his reasoning that allow too wide latitude of behavior.   If we argue that entrepreneurs, managers and business owners are not ethicists, we may as well allow that most people are not ethicists.  True, there is wide interpretation of what is moral and what is immoral but the same can be said for any system of morality and standards. Nevertheless, we would not want our children to grow up believing that because they were not ethicists they could discard any standards of behavior.  The proof of any theory may be in the pudding.  In this case, we can see the results of 100 years of corporate behavior and I suspect that the results do not portray business people in a very favorable light.  In fact, in terms of most admired and least admired professions, business people usually find themselves ranked among the “sleaziest professions.

20 Sleaziest Ways To Make a Living (http://scientificmarketingandadvertising.com/marketing-articles-least-admired-professions.html)

  1. Drug Dealer (0.61)
  2. Crime Boss (0.99)
  3. TV Evangelist (1.19)
  4. Prostitute (1.24)
  5. Street Peddler (1.45)
  6. Local Politician (1.52)
  7. Congressman (1.58)
  8. Car Salesman (1.59)
  9. Rock Star (1.72)
  10. Insurance Salesman (1.76)
  11. Union Leader (1.89)
  12. Wall Street Executive (1.92)
  13. Real Estate Agent (1.92)
  14. TV Executive (1.94)
  15. Oil Company Executive (1.94)
  16. Lawyer (1.97)
  17. Soap Opera Star (2.00)
  18. Movie Star (2.00)
  19. Broker (2.00)
  20. Prison Guard (2.02)

Real Estate Agent, Wall Street Executive, TV Executive and Oil Company Executive all rank in the list of twenty least admired professions.   If you go to the link above you can also find the 20 most admired professions. There is not one business occupation in the list of 20 most admired.  The article that this list is drawn from explores the question of “What can we learn from this list?”  The answers seems to support the thesis developed by Bakan that businesses do not have an incentive for morality and thus giving them “rights” as human beings poses a threat to our society. 

Let’s take a second to see what the Gandhi Institute says about Commerce without Morality: 

As in wealth without work we indulge in commerce without morality to make more money by any means possible. Price gouging, palming off inferior products, cheating and making false claims are a few of the obvious ways in which we indulge in commerce without morality. There are also thousands of other ways in which we do immoral or unethical business. When profit-making becomes the most important aspect of business, morals and ethics usually go overboard. We cut benefits and even salaries of employees. If possible we employ “slave” labor, like the sweat shops and migrant farm workers in New York and California where workers are thoroughly exploited. Profit supersedes the needs of people. When business is unable to deal with labor it begins to mechanize. Mechanization, it is claimed, increases efficiency, but in reality it is instituted simply to make more money. Alternate jobs may be created for a few. Others will fall by the wayside and languish. Who cares? People don’t matter, profits do. In more sophisticated language what we are really saying is that those who cannot keep up with the technological changes and exigencies of the times do not deserve to live–a concept on which Hitler built the Nazi Party. If society does not care for such people, can we blame them if they become criminals?

One of the key points that I glean from the Gandhi Institute is that Gandhi was against “Profit superseding the needs of people.”  Friedman would argue from the enlightened self-interest perspective that they are the same.  If the corporation takes care of profit, it takes care of people by creating jobs and value for the society.  The proof of value creation is evidenced by the fact that only corporations that make a profit survive.  People are free to choose where and what they spend their money on.  Thus if they support Corporation X over Corporation Y, it is because they perceive more value for their money in doing so.  This argument would have more merit if people had access to perfect information and were perfectly rationale.  However, since people are often deceived and given erroneous information and since Madison Avenue has built up numerous ways to convince people to spend money against their best interests, Friedman’s argument is perpetually, inevitable and indubitably doomed to failure. 

The primary force that protects human existence and all of humankind has been and always will be moral behavior. No amount of police, regulations, lawyers, prisons or inspectors will ever be enough to replace the moral force of human conscience and caring for other human beings.  Corporations have no incentives or mechanism to be kind to anyone unless it somehow provides a path to increased profits.  On the numerous occasions when this is not possible, profit trumps concern for employees, concern for the country, concern for the environment and concern the future of humanity.  The proof of what I am saying has been demonstrated time and time again.  You have only to pick up the morning paper to see yet another example of short-term corporate thinking and focus on greed above the well-being of any other factor.

Just to test my own hypothesis, I turned to CNN Money.  What did the headlines show today?  A list of The Top Twenty Most Profitable corporations in the world!  Would it surprise anyone to find that out of the top ten, there were four oil companies?   The price of gas keeps going up, but our dependency on the gasoline engine driven by the greed of the oil companies insures that there is still a steady stream of profits to the largest oil companies.  Whose well-being is being served by the outlandish incentives that continue to drive the oil industry?  Is the oil industry an example of “corporate morality?”  I doubt few would say yes to this question. 

To conclude, Gandhi believes that Commerce without Morality is a sin or social blunder.  I think it has shown itself to be an unmitigated social evil.  Our present laws do not provide an adequate solution to this problem.  A corporation is not a human being and should not be treated as a human being.  It is time we rethink the laws developed in the 19th century to govern corporate behavior.  It is time to put human well-being as the primary directive for all corporations and not the making of profit.  We cannot be blamed for putting the cart before the horse because we have never really attached the horse to the cart.  There is no mandate for a corporation to be either moral or ethical.  Any statements to the contrary are simply straws in the wind. When the accountants look at the ledgers, profit trumps every other card in the corporation.   Can you imagine if we simply judged people by the same standard?  Those people who made the most money were rated as the most well-adjusted and socially responsible people.  Is this what we want our culture and society to be remembered for?  Simply how much money we made!  I think our Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves at the thought. 

Ok, time for questions:

Do you think the Oil Industry is guided by a set of moral or ethical codes? Should it be?  Do you think corporations have an incentive for ethical behavior?  If so, I would love to hear your comments on this question either way.  Do you think we can change our corporate law to make them more responsible? Should we?  Why or why not?  Would you want the caption on your grave stone “I made a lot of money?”

Life is just beginning.

 

%d bloggers like this: