The Washington Consensus, Gastric Value And The Blood Of Virgins

It is mildly gratifying to see the current homage paid to “corporate social responsibility”; meaning that a corporation should have social objectives and obligations other than maximising shareholder value. Other people strongly disagree with this, saying that a corporation exists solely to make a profit for its stockholders and can have no other aim or duty.

Now, no one can quarrel with the proposition that a person needs to eat in order to go on living. Similarly, almost no one would take issue with the claim that an enterprise needs to make a profit in order to survive. The propaganda of the last twenty years has, however, obscured the distinction between making a decent profit in order to survive, and making an indecent profit in order to wax mighty and consume everything in sight, by whatever means necessary. It is currently denied that an enterprise can possibly have any other objective; which is sometimes confused with the claim that it may be under no other obligations whatsoever. Let us translate that back into the individual level for a moment. We then derive the proposition that a man not only may, but must, eat as much as he possibly can, no matter what the consequences for other individuals around him; for his only obligation is to increase “gastric value”.

Here is a thought experiment. Remembering that a company is what we call a corporate person, let us now imagine a single human being – with a bottom to be kicked and a soul to be damned – who announced that he had no objective, aim, duty or obligation other than to accumulate money. We would call this person a sociopath – and perhaps, in the vernacular, even ruder things. If, then, we judge the person of flesh and blood in this way but allow that a corporate person has no ethical or social obligations whatever, what is this but an announcement that, if they wish to be free of all moral restraints, all people need do is to band together under articles of incorporation? After all, a corporation is only a bunch of people, and it were passing strange if mere multiplication of warm bodies should nullify all ethical imperatives; similarly, shareholding means only that one gang of people hires another gang of people to make them money, and it were passing strange if the mere act of hiring should abolish their moral responsibility as members of society.

Or let us consider the corporation as a medieval baron or renaissance prince; for the renaissance prince and medieval baron were not just one individual but a House, a team, a company of men and women, a complex mechanism. They had shop-floor employees (peasants, seamen and so on), managers (stewards and bailiffs), corporate decision-making bodies (vassals’ courts and family councils), security personnel (knights and assassins), public relations experts (family monasteries and client chroniclers), corporate ethics specialists (confessors), design profiles and logos (liveries and coats of arms) and mission statements (Latin mottos).

Many barons became infamous for massacring and torturing peasants and townsmen, and for plundering churches; which latter was what really got them noticed, being the equivalent of the Americans’ attempt to bomb John Simpson of the BBC. I expect the barons said at the time that they were merely downsizing villages and reallocating assets.

Elisabeth Bathory was said to have bathed in the blood of virgins as a skin-care lotion. Were she a corporation, it would be amusing to watch The Economist defending the practice in terms of the efficient allocation of resources. They would probably claim that her use of the blood represented added value and that said blood was more valuable outside the skin of the productive Elisabeth Bathory than inside the unproductive virgins.

In the twelfth century there grew up a counter-ideology that we call chivalry, or a code of practice for corporations’ security personnel; for example, they were now supposed to ask nicely before having sex with gentlewomen, that is, with middle-management wives (the shop-floor was, as always, fair game). Later came the management philosophy that we call Noblesse Oblige, of which our modern phrase “corporate social responsibility” is a prolix and inelegant rendering. These two great principles were much honoured in the breach, of course, but it would have been an unusual medieval or renaissance man who openly went round saying that a baron or prince owed duties only to himself. With any luck, they would have burned him as a heretic.

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 11:48 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE ENSLAVING MAMMAL, The Return Of The Feudalist

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