Corporations vs. People

So, one of the things I see repeatedly is people hating on corporations. This is understandable insofar as corporations have a number of flaws – the biggest one being that they often optimize for profit over other, more valuable goals. There’s been a lot of discussion about the legal decision to treat corporations as people, with all the same rights (but apparently none of the responsibilities). There are a few things that distinctly separate corporations from people – and I may in fact be rehashing old material here, but I was having a discussion with my dad about it and I thought it was interesting so I thought I’d post about it.

1) People are a tightly coupled neural network. While you’re not consciously aware of being directly connected to everything you know, you are a neural network with data stored in all the associations between neurons. Corporations are much more loosely coupled, with much information not being shared at all between individual ‘neurons’ (corporate members)

2) People optimize for a number of different things (see the hierarchy of needs pyramid). Corporations generally optimize for very few things, and unfortunately in the way they are set up in the USA, they optimize first for profit. (The ideal corporation, in my opinion, would optimize for serving the employees first, serving the customers second, and then for profit third – in fact, not making a profit, but simply breaking even while providing value to humanity would be considered a win. In the current system, *destroying* value for humanity is a win if you make a profit while you’re doing it)

3) People can experience consequences for suboptimal behavior in ways corporations can’t. A corporation can’t be placed in jail, can’t feel physical pain, and won’t necessarily learn from things like fines – in fact, if a activity will generate a fine but is profitable beyond the fine, a corporation would normally decide to perform the activity anyway.

Corporations are often used as liability shields – or legality shields – for questionable behavior. I’m not sure what the ideal fix would be (see, already displaying the hypocrisy I talked about in the previous article) – although I do think one thing we could do that would help a lot is adopt the german ownership and directorship model for corporations in place of our own.

One big problem with corporations is that they (probably inadvertently) can exacerbate the problems caused by the Milgram effect. Individuals can be acting against the interests of the species as a whole, against other individuals, and even against their own common sense and feel that they are obliged to do so because the corporate rules and standards require it.

2 Responses to “Corporations vs. People”

  1. Alderin Says:

    The best new point on corporations I’ve heard: they don’t learn from experiences the same way we do, because they don’t experience like we do. I can still see abuses with the German system having “one member with unlimited liability”, aka “skapegoat”. The supervisory committee appointing the management committee seems overly complicated for, say, the corporation I work for that only has 100 employees.

    One way to look at it is that Corporations in the US are “Profit Addicts”, and act according to the same general patterns as a drug addict would: anything to get the ‘fix’. The life of a corporation not being tied to any form of internal health, this behavior has few self-limiting factors. Disgruntled employees leave only to be replaced from the multitudes of unemployed workers, so the corporation doesn’t really “feel” it. Low morale may lower profit, but that is seen as a management problem, and management units get swapped until profit improves, the corporation still doesn’t “feel” it much. Its senses are too narrow, inputs too focused, to properly inform a complex ‘being’.

    As for the Milgram effect, I agree, it is probably inadvertent, and stems from prejudicial thoughts on the corporation’s unwritten desires, plus falsehoods like the separation of business and personal actions, and individual darkness being empowered by corporate anonymity shields.

  2. bunne Says:

    The problem with corporations is they understand one thing only. More. As they grow and diversify, that is, take on things outside of their areas of expertise, they become disingenuous and manipulative. Almost nothing in the financial sector actually creates wealth, they imply move numbers around inside of a construct wherein their numbers get bigger and somebody else’s numbers get smaller. They rake in billions of imaginary bank notes and complain that they are hobbled with regulations and taxed woefully high. They do this to gerrymander the legal constructs within which they find protection for their tactics and often conspire to flout the very laws they use to get “more”. Corporations are leviathans. They’re filter feeders who figured out that if you can skip selling things that cost a million each to 1,000 people and set up a way to get 99.00 a month from 10 million people, and legislate the dichotomy between what it cots them and what it pays, they can always get bigger. The end game of the corporatocracy is a feudal oligarchy. It’s Snow Crash. And, much like the imaginary money they covet and transfer and trade in as debt, unsustainable. Money is redundant. And toxic. And they use that.

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