So maybe if we’re going to give corporations all the rights of people we should possibly hold them accountable for their behavior, just like people. After all, if you’ve got rights you should also have responsibilities, just like people. We’ve all heard of humans called psychopaths because of their antisocial, irresponsible, remorseless behavior. If humans are sick because of the symptoms they show, what about corporations? Can a corporation be labeled psychopathic because of the symptoms it shows as determined by its behavior?
A new book, The Value of Nothing, by activist and academic Raj Patel, questions many of the foundations and principles of neoclassical economics as it is commonly taught in academia and used by politicians and economists to set the course of our economy. Patel uses material from the book, The Corporation, by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan to reveal that large corporations exhibit many of the same characteristics as psychopathic persons.
The American Psychiatric Association says that to be classified as psychopathic or sociopathic the patient needs to meet at least three of seven criteria. In abbreviated form, they are:
(l) Failure to conform to social norms... repeatedly performing acts that could be grounds for arrest
(2) Deceitfulness... repeated lying... conning others for personal profit or pleasure
(3) Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
(4) Irritability and aggressiveness... fights or assaults
(5) Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others
(6) Consistent irresponsibility... consistent work behavior... honor financial obligations
(7) Lack of remorse... indifference to hurting... rationalizing hurt... stealing from others
So let’s for fun compare the behavior of large-scale, international corporations that make up "Big Oil," "Big Coal," and "Big Banking" with the rules for identifying psychopathy. We might be surprised at what we discover.
Did Big Banking conform to accepted social norms when it greedily ran our economy off a cliff?
Does Big Oil violate social norms when it pollutes waterways with its spills, devours native cultures in the search for new oil sources, and does essentially whatever it pleases? And as Big Coal destroys West Virginia with its mountaintop removal and continually violates governmental mine safety regulations, is that within accepted social norms for what is just and right? Regarding deceitfulness, do the corporate behemoths tell us the truth about the damages they do to people and cultures? Do they really care for people like they say they do? Do they spend billions on misleading or even false advertising?
Considering impulsivity and failure to plan ahead, why do oil spills, mine collapses or banking debacles occur at all? Why aren’t the dollars spent for safety and protection of the public even remotely equal to those spent for advertising, big salaries, bonuses, and dividends? Why isn’t safety equipment immediately available in case of disaster? Are big corporations irritable and aggressive? How about the eager and aggressive ways they attack, take over or sue competitors? How about the bellicose attitude they show when questioned on their behavior? How about their continued resistance to any attempts to hold them accountable for anything? Do they recklessly disregard the safety of others? What about the mass poisonings, pollution, exploitation of both people and resources, ignoring of safety regulations and other damaging activities almost too numerous to count? And don’t forget the millions killed each decade in mine disasters, industrial accidents, chemical poisoning, coal dust and asbestos inhalation and so on. Much of this happens because of reckless disregard for public safety. And how about consistent irresponsibility and failure to work in a consistent manner? With the possible exception of BP in the Gulf, do you see corporations rushing to help the people they have injured, or do you observe them claiming that they are not responsible, or blaming someone else for their damaging behavior?
And then there’s the matter of remorse. How many Wall Street CEO’s have shown any remorse over the disasters they have wrought on unsuspecting people and businesses? And worse yet, they’re still doing the very things that almost sank the economic ship. For shame!