Ideas from the film

The Corporation


1.       A few bad apples? Is the illegal and unethical behavior in business isolated or systemic?


2.       Chartered by the states (to serve the public good?)

          a.       Explicit contract between these businesses and society

3.       A legal person

          a.       The 14th amendment to the constitution, originally passed to secure equal citizen rights for Blacks, was interpreted to secure rights for corporations (to sue and be sued, to own property)

4.       Limited liability: Shareholders only financially liable up to value of their shares even if cause much more damage.

          a.       Editors’ VW hits Mercedes example

5.       Legally required to maximize shareholder profits?

          a.       Film says: “Corporations required by law to put the bottom line ahead of every other interests”

          b.       Lynn Stout (in “Bad and Not-So-Bad Arguments for Shareholder Primacy”) argues there is no such legal requirement.

                    i.        Cites over 30 states that have passed laws allowing managers to sacrifice shareholder interests for the sake of other stakeholders


6.       Externalities:

          a.       A cost of business that others external to the business are forced to pay (e.g., pollution)

          b.       Corporation as an externalizing machine


7.       Unfair (exploitative) wages

          a.       E.g., for making a $17 shirt, the workers are paid 30 cents.

          b.       Corporations search the globe for places people are starving and are willing to work for these wages

          c.       But workers want these jobs, which pay more than their alternatives and might lift them (even if only barely) out of starvation


8.       Chemical industry largely responsible for our cancer epidemic???

          a.       Trivialize the risk of these chemicals


9.       Corporations violate laws if cheaper to pay fines than obey

          a.       Businesses make decisions to obey or violate the law depending on what is most cost effective


10.     Unsustainability

          a.       Our society and way of doing business is not sustainable

                    i.        We can’t continue on this path over the long term without disastrous results

          b.       “Every living system and life support system is in decline”

          c.       “Death of birth” (species extinction)

          d.       Poisoning and diminishing our environment

          e.       Exploitation of resources faster than the can be renewed (e.g., fish stocks, forests)

          f.       Unsustainable businesses as “plunderers” (Ray Anderson, Interface Carpet)


11.     Can corporations themselves be morally responsible/good/bad?

          a.       No: Only people who work for them can be

          b.       Yes: Institutions can be evil/monstrous, while the individuals who work for them can be sweet


12.     Corporate spying

          a.       Morally problematic? Legal?


13.     Executive responsibilities

          a.       Should the executive who runs Nike visit its manufacturing sites that are accused of poor conditions and unfair wages?


14.     What can/should be owned?

          a.       Property in everything?

                    i.        So as to make things more “efficient,” create more wealth, and make sure people take care of things?

                    ii.       Unowned things won’t be taken care of?

          b.       Fire departments privately owned (only help those homeowners who have paid their fee)

                    i.        Or is safety a public trust? Something that should be provided by the community to all (and paid via taxation)

          c.       Health care privately owned?

          d.       Water privately owned? (Bechtel and Bolivian riots)

          e.       Pollution rights privately owned and traded?

          f.       The song “happy birthday”?

          g.       Patenting life

                    i.        Owning living organisms like mice

                    ii.       Owning genes and genomes

15.     One value of public ownership

          a.       Public institutions can be run at a loss

                    i.        Railroads, busses, airports, fire department, police, recreation centers

                    ii.       Good or bad?

                    iii.       Provide side benefits for many


16.     Marketing to children

          a.       Manipulation, nagging, Ph.D. psychologists aimed at getting $ from children


17.     Marketing/advertising as want creation and perception management

          a.       Focus of life on insignificant things (e.g., fashion?)

          b.       Undercover marketing

                    i.        8-10 undercover messages a day?

          c.       If products so purchased makes life better who cares why we purchase them?


18.     Fox News and Monsanto stifling freedom of the press about BGH

          a.       Is BGH (bovine growth hormone) harmful to humans (in the milk we drink) or to the cows who are injected with bovine growth hormone?