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Re: <nettime> draft article on WTO
scotartt on 15 Sep 2000 05:29:35 -0000


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Re: <nettime> draft article on WTO


----- Original Message -----
From: Ronda Hauben <ronda {AT} ais.org>

> "scotartt" <scot {AT} systemx.autonomous.org> wrote:
>
> >Just a point of order here David. Corporations are created with the
> >specific goal of "profit" -- its illegal to run a public company for any
> >other (primary) motive. Human values don't enter into the equation. They
> >are just a set of factors that affect profitability. So if defying these
> >values (I have to point out, legally defying, because corps must obey the
> >relevant laws as much as we as indivisuals do) produces better profit .. so
> >be it, the corporations act that way.
>
> In the US, there was until 1984 a different kind of corporation,
> AT&T was a corporation but one subject to very signficiant regulation.
>
> It had to provide universal access to telephone service, it had to
> show that it was doing research to provide the most advanced technology.
> It had the rates it charged telephone users strictly regulated.
> It was one of the largest corporations in the world at the time
> (or so a book about its breakup claims).
>
> So this was a different type of corporation.

Still its primary goal is the distribution of dividend to shareholders. ie
profit. The government may make many rules about any one corporation's, or
a sector, or all corp's methods in making that profit, shareholder dividend
and capital increases remain its primary reason for existance. look at
airlines and the things regulatory agencies make them do, which all impact
on the "bottom line". But they are still dividend driven entitities. Most
sectors of the economy are in fact like this, from mining to transport to
communications to finance to manufacturing, myriad Government regulatory
bodies and laws control the way that corporations are allowed to go about
their business of maximising shareholder return.

More salient perhaps would be psuedo-corporations like Telstra (ex Telecom
Australia, at one time an out and out government department -- part of the
post office, incidentially also now 'corporatised') and other
government-owned corporations. Still, they are somewhat normalised; the
major or only shareholder being the government (ie the people).
shareholders, in the this case the government, may like to tell the
Corporation just how it is to go about making a profit, but a profit it is
still designed to make. Many people generally oppose the privitisation of
Telstra because they feel the Government should reap 100% of the dividend,
and continue to excercise some shareholder control over its actions, as
well as Governmental regulation.

The issue I was trying to highlight is that it is up to the people to
enforce 'human values', corporations are neither with them or against them
as of course I felt David Teh was trying to say. Although he did say that
corporation 'oppose' such values I think they do no such thing, which is
why I wrote that email.  They are just focused on "maximising shareholder
value" to use the jargon. Specific human values may or may not impact on
this aim, they will only be opposed if they are seen by the directors to
affect the bottom line adversely. If they *help* the bottom line, the
corporation's directors and officers are breaching the law if they oppose
them.

The chief way I feel we have of creating an environment of 'human values'
that corporations have to follow is by way of a regulatory environment set
up by our alleged representatives in Government. This may be either
punitive or encouraging, (the stick or the carrot) or more usually a
combination of both. I feel its time to reclaim Government as the rightful
enforcer of our societies' shared values. Too much nowadays is regulation
seen as only an aid to smooth operations of corporations, whereas the
primary motive force in Government should be to help create the general
environment of 'values' that corporations operate within. Of course
consumer behaviour (eg boycotts etc) is important but the vast majority of
corporations don't sell anything to consumers, particularly the worst
offenders e.g. mining companies operating in the third world. Plus I'm
sceptical about the level of sustainable mass consciousness required about
the innumerable micro-issues that must be brought to bear in this sphere.

I don't believe there should be other types of corporations (strictly
speaking in the business sense of corporation), that if the goal is not
profit then there are alternative structures available for an incorporated
organisation, not least of which is the Government agency or department.

But corporations are NOT "evil" (as so many anti-WEF protestors appear to
believe), or "bad" or "good", they do what they do to make money for their
owners. The point, which hopefully we all agree on, is to influence what
they can do and how they might go about doing it. I would make the case
that in the national environment it is up to the people to force the
Government to be the primary influence there, and in the international
'globalised' environment, supra-Governmental bodies. I was always brought
up to believe that socialism's goal is a globalised world system of
international relations that not only define intra-national foreign policy
(eg the UN) but also supra-national social and economic conditions. I am
not anti-development -- that was supposed to be the POINT of the exercise.

Hence, I am more for reform of the WTO and the World Bank than for its
abolition (the IMF can just fuck off though -- its just social welfare for
money market speculators). If international bodies where abolished it would
leave a completely laissez-faire international environment where the weak
nations are preyed on by the strong (nations and corporations), and
development is hodge-podge at best leaving pockets of enormous poverty
offset by others of enormous wealth (like we have now). Therefore I am not
supportive of any protest that seeks to 'shut down' such international
bodies. That is precisely what capitalists want. The point is to produce a
egalitarian outcome in those bodies, not to destroy any hope of regulating
this enviroment.

Of course many here will virulently disagree with my reasoning, my
objectives and my proposed methods (reform not revolution). That I can live
with.

If you think of society as a biological organism, I find it is like the
anti-globalisation forces are the immune response anti-bodies seeking to
preserve the Industrialised world's standards of living (its 'health') by
denying capital flows to the poor (redistribution of development). I know
that exactly that is the stated objective of many protesters, but I don't
think that will be the outcome they achieve if they are successful. I am
suspicious of all utopias. It doesn't matter what the T-cell thinks it
motives are, what its outcome is the important factor.

regs
scot


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