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Corporation as Psychopath

by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2004 at 1:28 PM

Management guru, Peter Drucker: "If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast." chair of the libertarian Cato Institute, William Niskanen: says that he would not invest in a company that pioneered in corporate responsibility.



Read the Book, See the Movie

CounterPunch.com, February 17, 2004

People ask -- Rob, Russell, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. What can we do about it? We say -- read one book, see one movie. Unfortunately, the movie and the book are available now only in Canada. But wait -- before you head north of the border -- they will be available here in a month or so. And believe us, it is worth the wait. (Full disclosure -- our work -- the Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s -- is featured in the movie.)

The book is titled: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. It is by Joel Bakan (Free Press, 2004). The movie is called: The Corporation. It is by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan.

We've seen an advance copy of the movie. We're read an advance copy of the book. And here's our review:

-- Scrap the civics curricula in your schools, if they exist.

-- Cancel your cable TV subscriptions.

-- Call your friends, your enemies and your family.

-- Get your hands on a copy of this movie and a copy of this book.

-- Read the book. Discuss it. Dissect it. Rip it apart.

-- Watch the movie. Show it to your children. Show it to your right-wing relatives. Show it to everyone. Organize a party around it. Then organize another.

For years, we've been reporting on critics of corporate power -- Robert Monks, Richard Grossman, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Sam Epstein, Charles Kernaghan, Michael Moore, Jeremy Rifkin. For years, we've reported on the defenders of the corporate status quo like Milton Friedman, Peter Drucker and William Niskanen. But Bakan, a professor of law at British Columbia Law School, and Achbar and Abbott have pulled these leading lights together in a 145-minute documentary that grabs the viewer by the throat and refuses to let go.

The movie is selling out major theaters across Canada. And if it detonates here -- which in our view is still a long shot -- the U.S. after all is not Canada -- it could have a profound impact on politics.

The filmmakers juxtapose well-shot interviews of defenders and critics with the reality on the ground -- Charles Kernaghan in Central America showing how, for example, big apparel manufacturers pay workers pennies for products that sell for hundreds of dollars in the United States -- with defenders of the regime -- Milton Friedman looking frumpy as he says with as straight a face as he can -- the only moral imperative for a corporate executive is to make as much money for the corporate owners as he or she can.

Others agree with Friedman. Management guru Peter Drucker tells Bakan: "If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast." And William Niskanen, chair of the libertarian Cato Institute, says that he would not invest in a company that pioneered in corporate responsibility.

Of course, state corporation laws actually impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make money for shareholders. Engage in social responsibility -- pay more money to workers, stop legal pollution, lower the price to customers -- and you'll likely be sued by your shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, puts it this way: "The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine (shark seeking young woman swimming on the screen). There isn't any question of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed."

Business insiders like Monks and Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Corporation, the world's largest commercial carpet manufacturer, lend needed balance to a movie that otherwise would have been dominated by outside critics like Chomsky, Moore, Grossman and Rifkin. Anderson calls the corporation a "present day instrument of destruction" because of its compulsion to "externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it externalize."

"The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction," Anderson says, as pictures of biological and chemical wastes pouring into the atmosphere roll across the screen.

Like Republican Kevin Phillips is doing as he criss-crosses the nation, pummeling Bush from the right, Anderson and Monks are opening a new front against corporate power from inside the belly of the beast. They are stars of this movie and book.

The movie and the book drive home one fundamental point -- the corporation is a psychopath.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare runs down a checklist of psychopathic traits and there is a close match.

-- The corporation is irresponsible because in an attempt to satisfy the corporate goal, everybody else is put at risk.

-- Corporations try to manipulate everything, including public opinion.

-- Corporations are grandiose, always insisting that "we're number one, we're the best."

-- Corporations refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions and are unable to feel remorse.

And the key to reversing the control of this psychopathic institution is to understand the nature of the beast. No better place to start than right here. Read the book. Watch the movie (http://www.thecorporation.tv).

Organize for resistance.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action, a corporate accountability group. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press; http://www.corporatepredators.org).
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