Do corporations have a conscience?

Recently I read an article discussing the need for cooperations to have a social conscience [1].
I believe that that is no longer possible in the age of post-Scrooge Capitalism.

We all remember Dickens’s famous christmas carol Scrooge. Scrooge was a typical exploitive capitalist solely motivated by profit and money. The ghosts of Christmas showed him the non-monetary consequences of his behavior. Scrooge saw his life being fruitless, and he realized that he would rot in his own hell. This made him recant his ways. He found back his conscience with the help of the ghosts of Christmas! With this simple but beautiful Christmas carol Dickens proved that there was always hope for a Scrooge type capitalist. And with that also always hope for a Society driven by and dominated by entrepreneurial capitalists like Scrooge. All assuming of course that they are or become enlightened enough to recover or develop a social conscience. Dickens apparently still had hope in the potential of a compassionate capitalism.

Where have we heard that recently?
George “W”‘s Compassionate conservatism, that was his promise….sure!

What about capitalists of today? Corporate capitalism is no longer controlled by the human entrepreneur. Corporations are large systems of many people interlinked in complex organizations usually with only one goal being to make maximum profit for the shareholder, all the rest is nonsense!

Remember no-nonsense management: make profits and make them fast and your reward will be bonuses and stock options; stock options another extra incentive not to loose focus of the one and only goal of the cooperation: profits. These complex cooperations don’t have feelings, they cannot think, they cannot dream about the non-profit consequences of their actions; In fact if Scrooge had been an CEO in one of todays corporations he would have been fired if he had acted on his dreams. Scrooge could find or recover his conscience, present corporations are systems which do not have a conscience to recover.

There are some cooperations (e.g. Shell) who claim that they do have a conscience; They claim that they need to behave in certain ways in order to maintain their license to operate in society; in fact this is conscience based on a the threat of a penalty. Just like we don’t kill anyone because it is against the law of society and/or the laws of God.But what if there is no law? For instance in cases of environmental or social pollution? If there is no law against murder or if there is no law against having sex with minors are you than “clear” to do so while still maintaining that you have a clear social conscience? Today’s modern multi-national corporations can seek out the countries in this world where regulations are lacks, where workers are not protected, may not form unions etc etc. They do so all the time.

So either laws, preferably international laws should be in place to force corporations to behave themselves in a social responsible way so as if they had a social conscience, or cooperations should develop a conscience from within. Considering how things are going at present I do not expect to see a lot of results coming from within the corporations.There is no incentive whatsoever to do so, no profit incentive! So my conclusion at present is that the government, acting for all of us should introduce the necessary legislation in a guided economy society to force corporations into behaving in a social responsible way.

Unfortunately several of these same cooperations are so powerful in their lobbying, propaganda, and unscrupulous buying of voters and/or government officials, that it may already be too late to pressure them into changing their actions via the presently existing democratic institutions.

Unfortunately the cancer [2] has already attacked and weakened our immune system: our democratic institutions and the media. Today the strong and growing power of large corporations is the root cause of our problems and we need to take action now, before it is too late. The action to take is simple: break them up into smaller pieces and put them under strict laws, including no interference in politics and/or media with corporate funds. Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt acted wisely in their times, we need the same kind of leadership today.

Politics and the media should only be accessible to individuals, humans, people and forbidden terrain for corporations! Corporations cannot feel, they cannot think, they can definitely not be compassionate or have a conscience, so giving voting and/or media rights to inhuman corporations is dangerous, undemocratic, it is monstrous! Still this is exactly what has happened in the world’s greatest democracy the USA.

How are we going to reclaim true Democracy?

I do not think that corporations are going to give up their privileged position voluntarily. I am afraid that we are going to have a long and hard struggle whereby some alternatives that arise may be even worse than the situation we have today. Still this does not mean that we should stop looking for alternatives, we have to, we need to take the chance, it is our only chance. Leaving the future of our society and the earth, of our children and grand children in the hands of the growing power of inhumane corporations is not a sane option, it is plainly suicidal!

We need to find a new way, maybe several pathways, respectful, thoughtful and fruitful ways of living. We may need to fight, be it the ruthless inhumane corporations, and fascist style governments, fundamentalistic religions (in all denominations), misinforming media etc. We will need to fight for a just society, a society with a true social conscience. We will need to heed Martin Luther King Jr’s call : “justice for all of God’s children!”

We need to fight for what is right! In the end, the outcome is unsure for us. We may loose the battles and we may even perish, but at least we will have tried. That is the best we can do as a common human beings with a social conscience. But who knows, we may even win, we may even think up ways to create organizations, maybe even entrepreneurial  corporations, which do have a conscience!

– Paul O’Connor, November 2011 –

[1]”Corporations need a social conscience” by Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times, November 6th 2011.,0,442445.column
[2]”The Cancer Stage Of Capitalism” by John McMurtry.

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2 Responses to Do corporations have a conscience?

  1. Great Post. Thought you might like my version of A Christmas Carol

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