The Coastal Post - May, 1997

The Corporate Environment: Private Profit & Public Loss

By Frank Scott

Capital creates private profit by putting the cost of doing business on the backs of public entities outside of itself. Just as banks use other people's money to make profits, paying interest but assuming absolutely no risk, capital uses other people's work to produce profit, at no risk for itself. In the old days of exclusively industrial society, the entities were mostly workers for the enterprise. They were the direct subjects of exploitation, in the textile mills and coal mines, for instance, where hard labor and dreadful conditions meant greater wealth accumulating for the owner-investors.

The situation is essentially no different today, with the most exploited workers and most sordid conditions usually found in the newly developing parts of the world. The old developed nations have a generally higher standard of living, but it has been acquired at a dangerous, even deadly cost for the majority of people. They have assumed roles as consumers, which loom larger than their actual performance as workers. Labels can transform workers into consumers, and debt into credit, but jobs, financial burdens and environmental destruction are life and death concerns, no matter what our language managers call them.

As the pace of accumulation has increased, the role of the capitalist corporation has become more prominent. Corporations are simply legal forms that are able to make even more money and take even less responsibility for outcome. Their power is greater than the original capitalists, who were globally oriented before much of the world knew that a globe existed. Early capital sent explorers-and pirates-around the world to find wealth and spread commerce. Global corporations now use electronic money,

tech weaponry , and legal gibberish that does more damage-and makes greater profits-than past colonial invasions.

The production of massive amounts of consumer goods, purchased by people carrying ever larger personal debt, represents part of what is called globalization. Poverty, garbage, waste, and ecological breakdowns represent more of this speedier form of capitalism that shows even less social responsibility than is normally the case.

The profit accumulation for a global minority of corporate and individual investors is astronomical, with personal fortunes that are obscene to all but the servants of the idle rich. And the social, political and ecological costs assumed by global majorities have become staggering. Yet, corporate capital has unleashed a campaign to free itself from the pitifully meager restrictions once placed upon it by semi- democratic government. Unrestrained private rule over nation states is the goal behind the campaign-dangerously successful, so far-to poison public attitudes towards government.

National government is the only institution that's supposed to work for the good of the whole people. All other institutions represent only a part of the whole. State and local governments speak for geographic areas within nations, private non-profits represent special interest groups, and countless public agencies and institutes address specific concerns for specific groups. Only national government is-theoretically-supposed to do the most difficult thing, and represent the interests and greater good of the nation.

As long as the nation is defined according to the dictates of market forces under corporate control, it is understandable that people will take a dim view of the institution of government. Until that issue is openly

confronted, we'll have a continued drubbing of government's function by corporate conservatives, with defense coming from only slightly less reprehensible corporate liberals.

Each day we see more of private capital's costs absorbed by a public sector that is at the same time being decimated, with the complicity of people who most desperately need that sector. One example is capital's need for cheap labor, which it imports, uses, and when through, dumps on the back of taxpayers through welfare, leading to divisive battles between workers that insure continued domination by capital. Another example is the current move by private nuclear power corporations to have the public create taxpayer financed dumps for their dangerous nuclear waste. These cases are only small examples of the public assuming burdens of private profit. The largest and most obvious example is what is happening to the source of all life, Mother Earth herself. She is ravaged, raped, pillaged, burned and then dumped, like a used worker, when she is no longer profitable and becomes a loss leader in corporate accounting terms. In age-old fashion, the creation of private garbage depends on a public sanitation service, but this time the garbage dump is the earth itself.

The environmental movement may yet become the organism of social change, even as much of it remains devoted to private property investment protection, hidden behind a facade of nature worship. A movement focused on the economic and political forces that cause environmental destruction is growing , as global capital's effect on earth and its people is seen as detrimental to all of humanity in the long term, even if profitable for some of humanity in the short term.

Capital thrives on separating people according to interest or ethnic groups, which coincides with its plan to separate nations from control over their resources. Divided people are a soft touch for domination. The interests of humanity demand coming together, which is what corporate politics prevent. As long as we act as isolated individuals and groups, unable to become democratic combinations of the many, capital will rule. And the corporate environment will keep the profits private, while insuring that the public battles itself, as it absorbs ever greater losses.