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Posts Tagged ‘economics’


I was sitting at lunch yesterday in our break room listening to the constant banter about the Bayer lawsuit situation. Bayer bought up Monsanto, it seems, and then Monsanto got hit with lawsuits concerning a product they make, Round-Up. It’s a herbicide. I’ve used it. Works well.

Apparently, it’s more dangerous than just being a poison and because Bayer is now the parent company, they get to deal with the lawsuits. My colleagues tend to be a conspiracy thought tank and they were waxing on the evil of both Monsanto and Bayer. It grew very tiresome and I eventually left.

I’m not going to comment on this situation or take it into great detail. However, it did bring to mind an issue that we deal with today, and have for a while; government regulation of businesses that do dangerous things.

On the one hand, you have the businesses (usually quite large corporations) that say, “We know what we are doing. Your regulations and controls are stifling our business because it costs too much to comply with all of them.”

On the other hand, you have John Q. Public saying, “We don’t trust you because you all have bad track records.”

Both sides of the coin are true. Business works on one premise: make profit and all of it you can. They want to spend as little as possible on the production of a product so that the profit is as high as possible. It’s less expensive to not use the environmental and safety controls and processes required to really do the job safely and protect the environment in which we all live. The track records of many large chemical, petrochemical, and radiation businesses is dismal, Three Mile Island, RSR Smelters, Love Canal, and others.

Our forefathers in America believed in capitalism and we still do, and should. Capitalism works and provides a lot of economic power for the USA. I can’t prove this, but somehow, I still think that our forefathers were honorable people that had a code of ethics to follow concerning how a person should do business. I don’t think that most would be pleased at the disregard for human safety and life when businesses make decisions (injury and death have occurred, including increases in cancer rates). I know even much of that was coming apart through the middle and late nineteenth century. Hence, the labor laws and antitrust laws of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are the result of how businesses acted during that time.

Since that time, we’ve seen a steady increase in governmental regulations concerning safety of people and environments near these businesses, and of their products. We don’t use DDT anymore. We don’t use Mercurochrome anymore. Ford no longer makes the Pinto. Some of the mistakes a business may make in the development of a product are not intended at first. However, when someone discovers a problem with a product or business action, that’s where bad things can escalate.

There is a logical reason for why this adversarial nature exists between government and business. As background, we first need to ground in our thinking that the government is “us”. The US government is not an “other” looking out for the public, it is the public. Then, we have to understand the nature of the large corporation. Our Supreme Court gave us a clue in a recent decision on campaign funding and voting rights when it declared “corporations are people, too”.

While, legally, this equation may be true, one must examine what kind of person a corporation really is. Under many of the things we know now, a corporation would be amoral (no concept of right or wrong) and a sociopath (no ability to feel for others). It would have some level of narcissism (vanity, feelings of self-superiority) and consider itself above reproach.

It’s possible my definition is overdone, but not by much. Detractors would say, “Wait, there are people in corporations. They would be capable of morality and compassion.” While true on some levels, I don’t give it much credence as a check on how the entity reacts. Corporations, like people, determine threats and mobilize resources to counteract those threats. They often tend to see government or public intrusion as threats to survival and use all available means to do so. Much of the reaction from a corporation comes from its leadership. That leadership, as explained in a previous post, is now very connected and enriched by the leadership’s position in the entity. I think this type of symbiotic relationship forces down any rebellion in the entity when people do wake up and see the damage done by the entity of which they are a part.

Yes, John Q. Public is right, business cannot be trusted to act in a moral and thoughtful manner in regards to decisions that affect the safety and welfare of the public or our environment. If we accept that corporations are people, then we should also accept that its amoral and sociopathic nature means the entity needs external controls on behavior in order to safeguard human life and where we all live. That is why I think that business needs regulation despite the fact that we live in a society where capitalism is our economic model.

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OK, maybe I might lose a few of you on this one, but that may just be too bad.  I have watched and listened over the past few weeks about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I have listened to the derision of the protesters from the politicians and the pundits.  And, I am ashamed.  I do not completely know how the protests will turn out, but as I recall, our forefathers fought a war over just this issue, the idea of being able to redress grievances.  In case anyone forgets, our nation was born in revolution, and as a good submarine captain once quoted, “A little revolution now and again is a good thing.” (more…)

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janice writes fiction

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