The Coastal Post - February, 1997

Corporate Gods

By Frank Scott

Back in the 19th century, a Supreme Court decision established the power of a corporation to live eternally, and become a form of super-citizen. As we near the 21st century, there may be no more important legal challenge than to correct that abuse of an earlier age.

From its origin as capital's most efficient accumulating power, the corporation was criticized and feared by political leaders, from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln. Despite this fact, it has achieved domination over earth, space, time, people and consciousness, to such an extent that corporate capital has become a seeming deity from whom all blessings flow, and most curses descend.

Establishment politicians and economists act as though the market forces of humanity's creation are mystical aspects of capital, from which escape is neither possible, nor necessary. They tell us we must adjust to the dictates of private controllers of these forces, and to hell with what happens to growing numbers of humans. Luckily, there are agnostics whose faith lies in people, rather than profit and loss statements. This group needs to focus on the great gods of capital, the corporations, before those gods bring further destruction down on earth .

Many people come unglued at a newly perceived power of one-world government, which their deluded leaders identify as godless communism. But the power organizing world response to its market commands is hardly communist, nor is it new. Corporate world government has reigned for a generation in covert form, but has become more overt now, due to electronic technology advances advertised as a boon to consumers. Actually, under the control of capital, they are a boon to the production and distribution of more waste, with human and other environmental impacts that grow more dangerous each day of their continued operation.

The triumph of capital in its corporate form has brought the possibility of a better world, but with a serious contradiction. The better world cannot be realized as long as the system that made it possible continues without democratic control. Nothing new there, but easier to understand in the modern era than in the 19th century. Thoughtful citizens would be rewarded by reading the" Manifesto" of Marx and Engels, a work that shook the world-except for the USA-back in that time. It offers a clear exposition of what capital had done to material life and what possibilities it offered for a better future, if it was transformed into a human-centered, rather than a profit- obsessed system of accumulation.

That short essay's explanation of our political economics is more clear than most of what passes for present economic wisdom, which is the stuff that makes students weep and drives citizens crazy. No greater example of the inhuman tendencies of the profit system the authors wrote of then can be seen now, than the massive cuts in the current work force, identified by one Wall Street observer as "streamlining operations to eliminate people, since people are expensive."

Present global economic policies, like those of the past, are sucking profits out of people and the earth itself, but at a faster and more alarming rate. The result sends many looking for conspiracies, cabals, scapegoats, or more often, religious solutions to our problems . It may be natural to visit churches, mosques and synagogues to find community and seek spiritual answers to questions of creation, but those buildings and communities are aspects of material life. It is that material life, so often the result of nearly invisible corporate forces, which needs to be understood and acted upon, before we all become immaterial.

All roads may lead to a spiritual truth behind the universal veil of mystery, but on the way those roads make an important stop at the corporate temple, the church of capital. Debates over myth and legend are based on faith, but the material world can clearly reveal facts. It's necessary to rise above corporate mind controllers who would have us believe we can theorize moral truths in our imaginations, but practice immoral lies in everyday life. Our social and natural environment should indicate that we need substantial change in the material world, if we would ever achieve something closer to the ideals we're all taught to believe are godly.

Adam Smith-the poorly understood theorist of capital before it had a name-was far more idealistic than the current generation of money changers in our corporate temples. Some would have us return to the simpler time of individual enterprise exemplified by Smith's ideals, and even that would be better than the curse we have unleashed on ourselves and our planet. It may never have existed in the form its supporters advocate, but maybe striving for it will help us understand what we need to do to help humanity rise to success , rather than continue our fall into warring factions of privileged minorities in the north, impoverished majorities in the south, and a shrinking, confused middle in limbo.

Whether inspired by Marx, Smith or God, we need to bring the corporation under human control. That means ending its treatment as a mystical force of nature and servant to minority finance capital, and beginning to treat it as a material force in service to democratic majority government. These entities are chartered by the people, and so they must be regulated to do the people's bidding. In the process of reigning in the private force, we can better learn how to use it for the public good.