A corporation has no heart, no soul, no morals. When it hurts people or damages the environment, it will feel no sorrow or remorse because it is intrinsically unable to. (It may sometimes apologize, but that’s not remorse — that’s public relations.)
“A corporation cannot laugh or cry; it cannot enjoy the world or suffer with it,” as the Buddhist scholar David Loy put it. “Most of all a corporation cannot love.” Its “body” is just a judicial construction, and that’s why it’s so dangerous. The corporation is “ungrounded to the earth and its creatures, to the pleasures and responsibilities that derive from being manifestations of the earth.”
We demonize corporations for their unwavering pursuit of growth, power and wealth. Yet they are simply carrying out genetic orders. That’s exactly what they were designed — by us — to do! Trying to rehabilitate a corporation, urging it to behave responsibly, is a fool’s game. The only way to change its behavior is to recode it: rewrite its charter; reprogram it, edit its DNA.
This is not complicated. We grant corporations these charters, and so we have the right to amend them — or revoke them — if a company goes rogue. We the people are sovereign. We call the shots, we run the show. Us, not them.
So here’s how this goes. We start inserting certain behavioral clauses into corporate charters.
For example, a Transparency Clause. Our company will be transparent and open to the public in everything we do.
An Ecological Clause. Our company will be ecologically responsible in everything we do.
And maybe a Penalty Clause. If our company knowingly and grievously breaks the public trust — if it is caught repeatedly dumping toxic waste, damaging watersheds, fixing prices, defrauding employees or customers or keeping vital information secret from the public — it will have its charter revoked.
And at the end of every charter, we could add a Revoke Clause. If our company is convicted of criminal behavior we will no longer qualify for government contracts and we will have to place the phrase “A Criminal Corporation” on all our advertising, signs and vehicles as a public warning.
Look at Article III of Facebook Inc’s Certificate of Incorporation:
“The purpose of the corporation is to engage in any lawful act or activity for which corporations may be organized under the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware.”
That’s not a mission statement: that’s a blank check. It says, We can do whatever the hell we want so long as we comply. Maximum freedom, minimal liability.
What Facebook covets most, its precious Gollum ring, is its collection of data-gathering algorithms. The company shamelessly mines its users’ lives — and they’re jealously secretive about how they do it. But if you’re a Facebook user, that is information you need to have.
We can decide Facebook’s secrecy doesn’t serve the public interest. Blow open the doors. Add a clause to their charter that says: We the people hereby grant you the privilege of lawfully existing among us, but in return, here are two clauses we require you to live by:
Our company will ask for permission to collect personal data. The permission statement will be short and clearly written, so every person who decides to use our platform knows exactly what they are getting into.
Our company will be transparent and open to the public in everything we do. Our surveillance algorithm will be open to public scrutiny so every Facebook user knows exactly how their personal data is being used.
Look at the THIRD “purpose” clause on page 1 of Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s Certificate of Incorporation.
It’s that same meaningless phrase that just about every corporation uses. The one that gives it the legal right to carry out its business any way it wants with no responsibility to society whatsoever.
So let’s add in some responsibility:
If our company breaks the public trust — if it is caught repeatedly manipulating stock prices, engaging in fraudulent trading, hiding information from regulators or keeping vital public-interest data secret, then our business operations will be temporarily or permanently shut down.
A clause like this would stop Wall Street from engaging in the kinds of shady dealings that brought on the financial meltdown of 2008.
Underneath all the legal jargon in ExxonMobil’s Certificate of Incorporation lies the stark fact that this company is guilty of a crime against humanity.
We must add a clause like this to all the Certificates of Incorporation of all the corporations around the world:
If your company perpetrates massive social, ecological or financial harm on society, it will be sentenced to death, its charter revoked, its assets sold off and the money funnelled into a superfund for its victims.
Read Part 1 - here
Read Part 2 - here
Read Part 4 - here
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