Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I, For One, Welcome Our New Overlords

Christian Science Monitor has published a preposterous commentary on how wonderful gi-normous companies are for society. (Their prime example is Toyota and their hybrid Prius. They say the fuel-saving Prius shows that Toyota is striving to fulfill the societal good of conservation. Of course, it couldn't be that Toyota saw the writing on the wall and decided to go hybrid ahead of everyone else purely for profit.) In the course of not proving their point, the authors do provide some very interesting factizoids:
A few facts explain why corporations may even supersede governments and religions when it comes to providing the economic - and in some cases social - tools and services necessary to survive in the 21st century:

• Fifty-two of the 100 biggest economies in the world are now corporations.

• The 100 largest multinational corporations, such as GE, DuPont, Hewlett Packard, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart, now control about 28 percent of global foreign assets.

• Three hundred multinational corporations now account for 25 percent of the world's total assets.

• The annual sales revenue of each of the six largest multinational corporations now exceeds the GDPs of all but 21 countries in the world.

Don't you look forward to a world where all our social needs are met by Wal-Mart and DuPont? Makes you feel all fuzzy inside.

(hat tip to Mrs. T)


Otto Man said...

So we're about three years away from living in the corporate paradise of RoboCop? Awesome.

InanimateCarbonRod said...

I'd buy that for a dollar.

S.W. Anderson said...

This trend is especially ominous when you consider that some corporations, in addition to becoming so large, wealthy and politically powerful, are situating themselves so that they owe no allegiance to any nation or people, and accept no oversight or control from those outside the corporation — at least not without a fight they're well equipped to win.

Regarding Toyota, profit seeking no doubt was the main factor in bringing the Prius to market. I have no problem with that. What does give me pause is concern about whether Priuses really represent a net gain for consumers and the environment.

After all, it takes resources to make those batteries. They will eventually have to be replaced and the old ones will have to be disposed of.

Smitty said...

The other interesting and ominous point here is that much of this wealth is absolutely on the back of the workers. While touting the amassed wealth of these corporations, they forget to say that it is because of low wages and no health care benefits to a massive, untrained and undereducated workforce (especially in foreign countries....WAL-MART THIS MEANS YOU). The the holdings and "economies" created out of this situation are only to the benefit of a very few people. The jobs created worldwide do not offer a real chance for anyone to make a living.

To some degree, Clinton started this with NAFTA. NAFTA makes sence for global competition, but in the end, he sorta fucked the unions. Sure...they forgave him, but what it did was create opportunities for corporations to seek lower wages overseas. This is not his intent, certianly, but this is how corporations have chosen to 'interpret' NAFTA. The end result: fucking Wal-Mart. Great. And these idiots at the Monitor are PRAISING the very people that Jesus ran out of temples: those who amass exorbitant wealth on the backs of people who suffer because of it. Feh.

Thrillhous said...

I agree, SW, Toyota (or anyone else) selling a product that's good for their bottom line as well as good for society is just fine by me. I wish there were more of it. I hadn't thought about the resource aspect, though. There's got to be a ton of circuitry and acids and such that ain't too earth friendly in there. County charges me to recycle a computer, imagine what it would cost to recycle a hybrid!

You said it, Smitty. I know Clinton meant well with NAFTA (I recall that even Bush sr. supported it; hmm, that should've been a red flag), but it just hasn't turned out the way we hoped. I don't particularly think the recent CAFTA deal was all that hot either.

And it's only now, after all this bloviating, that I'm getting I-rod's quote. Well played.

InanimateCarbonRod said...

I'm sure that lots of scifi dudes do this stuff all the time, but Kim Stanley Robinson's Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy does the corporate thing really well. Basically large corporations buy little countries and create armies to protect their interests. Not a bad little idea if you're a corporate overlord dealing with unstable countries.

Mrs_Thrillhous said...

Lately, I've been reading waaaaay too many doomsday finance articles online (so you know they're true), so I was a little heartened to see that U.S. corporations own so many foreign assets.

Thus, if other nations stop buying dollars, our economy won't necessarily collapse completely and we won't go into such a tailspin of huge inflation, since our big corp's own a big piece of them and will prop us up.

But the corp's don't need to own such big pieces of the world. If they joined together, then someday, we'd all be wearing a blue or orange apron. And those are not my colors.

ORF said...

I've been doing a lot of research for my job lately on corporate social responsibility because it's a growing trend, particularly with regards to the environment.

There's always a dilemma in non-profit fundraising work about just whom to accept money from. In non-profit, at the end of the day, the objective is to not die. And most non-profits are not really in a position to be turning money down, be it from an angel or the devil. Fortunately, most money that comes in from corporations doesn't have many strings attached, but that's not good enough for some people. There are pinko commie Internet watchdogs out there who accuse do-gooder orgs of actually being baddies merely for talking to a company like DuPont or BP about grant money.

In my opinion, I'd have to agree with T'hous that I'll take corporate responsibility anywhere I can get it. Is Toyota looking at it's bottom line in re: the Prius? You betcha! But isn't that what companies are known for doing? I'd be even more suspect if they WEREN'T concerned about their P & L. I think it's really great that a bi-product of that is that they're raising awareness of environmental issues. I'm not naive enough to think that Toyota is going to go all granola on our asses, but I do believe it's entirely possible for social responsiblity to exist within the capitalist system.

Thrillhous said...

I do believe it's entirely possible for social responsiblity to exist within the capitalist system.

My sentiments exactly, orf. We don't have to pick between social responsibility and profit, they should go hand in hand. I think it's great that hybrids are finally being made in large numbers, and it's great that so many states give tax rebates to folks who buy hybrids.

Irod, thanks for the book suggestion. I'm on the verge of finishing Snow Crash, which has turned out to be pretty good. It's got the whole corporations-own-everything theme, but it's not especially well done.

S.W. Anderson said...

Hope this isn't getting too far off track, but it's kind of a hot-button issue with me.

Watching the ongoing melee for several decades, I've come to the conclusion where corporations start to go wrong is in seeking to maximize profits.

Making profit is their reason for existence, a given and no sin in and of itself.

Going along with this is my impression that business schools inculcate a sky's-the-limit mindset in future MBA's. Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, CEOs, board members and investors have no concept of enough. No amount of efficiency, productivity, sales and profits is ever enough. No salary, perk, bonus or severance package is ever enough.

Now, we call a person who's that way about their appetite a glutton. When a drinker is that way, we call him a hard-core alcoholic. We call a drug abuser who's that way an out-of-control addict. Someone who's that way about sex is known as a womanizer or nymphomaniac, or worse. In all these cases, we're quick to recognize pathological excess and call it what it is.

But for some reason, when it comes to corporate movers and shakers, we're supposed to accept being out of control with greed as a virtue.

That's foolhardy and it's a big part of what's wrong with our society, our economy and our politics.