You may know the story of the frog and the
A scorpion wanted to cross a swift river, and asked
a frog to carry him.
asked "How do I know that you will not sting me?"
"Well," answered the
scorpion, who was
good with words when he wanted something, "then I wouldn't be able to get
across the river."
"Well," said the frog, "then how do I know that you
won't sting and kill me as soon as we're across the
"Oh," said the scorpion,
"because I'll be so grateful for the ride, why would I want to kill you then?"
This con-vinced the frog as
frogs are easy to
fool - so he let the scorpion on his back, and began swimming across the
They were about 2/3 of the way across the raging river, when,
to his great surprise,
the frog felt a painful sting and looked around to see the scorpion pulling his
stinger out of the frog's back.
the frog felt himself becoming
Just before he was completely paralyzed, the frog had the
breath to ask "Why?"
"It's just who I am," said the scorpion, as they
both sank and drowned.
Of course, the story was never really about
It was meant as a
warning against certain rare but dangerous kinds of people who are like
scorpions intent on destroying others even if it destroys them too.
is such a frightening story is because a person like the scorpion, a person who
lacked even basic
compassion, isn't quite human.
One of the scariest things we can
imagine is a machine-like
thing with a will, that seeks to harm us, and
when we suffer, cry, or die.
Think of those android-type
men in the "Matrix" movies, for instance.
Or the Orcs and Sauron in
"Lord of the Rings," or the
governor of California as the "Terminator," a robot programmed only to
I suppose the most famous story
like this is still Mary Shelly's 1818 tale of Dr. Frankenstein and
the monster he forged
from dead human body parts.
For nearly two centuries, the
Frankenstein monster has been a symbol of creating something inhuman,
giving it life and immense power
without a soul, then living to see it turn on us, as the monster even
killed Dr. Frankenstein.
There have been a lot of movies on
this theme in the past few years.
The "Terminator," "Total
Recall," Darth Vader in "Star Wars," the casual indifference to life in "Pulp Fiction," powerful
forces of greed and destruction in "Lord of
the Rings" - you can probably think of another half dozen.
When I was
growing up, the most powerful movie like this was the original 1956 version of
the Body Snatchers."
It was about the difference between real
people and pathological
You probably know the story.
A mindless life force
from outer space drifted from
a desolate, dead planet
and wound up on this
It operated under a simple program.
When a human fell
asleep near it, it produced a giant pod that duplicated the sleeping person,
taking their body, looks, even their memory, and draining their life, then
destroying the original and taking their place.
You could hardly tell
They looked the same, had all the same memories.
But they had no soul.
They had no
no feeling for anyone.
The squeals of a dog hit in the road drew no attention.
didn't matter to them.
Only reproducing their kind, to no other end
than reproducing their kind.
Eventually, like the frog and the
scorpion, they kill everything.
Then if the
cosmic winds are right, they may blow
across the galaxy and
suck the life out of yet another planet.
When humans act like this, there's something fundamentally
them evil, novelists call them demons or monsters, and
psychologists call them
Since psyche means soul,
the word really
means people with sick souls.
unable to feel remorse
Psychopaths won't accept responsibility for their destructive
no depth; all manipulation.
Why am I talking about persons who are not
real, psychopaths and scorpions who have been programmed to destroy, even if it
also destroys them?
It's a way of introducing the business of
understanding the money
power that has taken over American
society and is on the verge of taking
over the world.
I am talking about
person which, like the invasion of the body snatchers, is seeking to, and
succeeding in, destroying the compassionate qualities of people.
think I've badly overstated the case when I say that this dangerous person who
is not a real person is the corporation.
There is remarkable book by a
Canadian law professor Joel Bakan is "The Corporation: The Pathological
Pursuit of Profit and Power."
Corporations began forming in the
late 17th and early 18th centuries, to pool the money of a large number of
Laws were passed saying investors had no liability for deeds
of the corporation.
All investors could lose was their
This gave the corporation
limited liability, but
start, as a matter of structure and law, the only purpose of a corporation was
to make as much money as possible for its stockholders.
It was the
only way in which to get people to invest.
By the late 19th
century, a single court clerk had transformed the corporation into "a person",
a "legal person", and even spoke of it in that way.
In 1886, lawyers
representing this newly minted "person" won a ruling from the Supreme Court
saying that, as a "legal person", corporations were entitled to be protected by
the 14th amendment for "due process
of law" and "equal protection of the law."
These provisions of the 14th
amendment, as you may remember, were written for the protection of freed slaves
after the War between the States.
Since 1886, it has been used almost
exclusively to protect corporations - even when they
make slaves of workers
all over the third world and, some would argue, within our own country.
Since being christened as "persons", corporations have done what any
person would do: they have fought for both survival and
dominance, lobbying for laws
that favor their aims, and
buying influence, lawyers,
judges, politicians and presidents (Woodrow Wilson,
Roosevelt, Harry Truman,
Reagan, George HW Bush,
George W. Bush) when
they can - and, looking back, it seems they can quite often.
It isn't seen as evil. Its just
business as usual. And
what are their aims?
If the corporation sells stock, its
sole legal purpose, under international and American laws, is to make as much
money as possible for its stockholders.
A corporation can pretend to care about
society or the environment, as long as
the money they spend makes
more people want to buy their products and so
increases profits for
Friedman, a third-rate economist,
adopted the greediest kind
of corporatism - neoliberalism in the EU or
Milton Friedman compared acts of social conscience to
car manufacturers using pretty girls to sell
"That's never really about the girls," Milton Friedman points
out, "it's just a trick to sell
Altruism just does not have a place in the vision of Milton
A corporation can donate to the special Olympics or civic
projects, but only if its intent is to sell more product.
Drucker, the guru of corporate management, claims if you have
a CEO who wants to do social good,
fire him fast!
There are laws supporting
Ninety years ago, when
Henry Ford was becoming
astoundingly rich from selling his Model T Fords, he decided that he was making
too much money.
So in 1916,
Henry Ford "cancelled the
stock dividends to give customers price reductions because he felt it was wrong
to make obscene profits."
Two of Henry Ford's major investors, the
Dodge brothers, took him to court, arguing that
profits belonged to the
stockholders, not the corporation, and the court agreed with them,
precedent that still rules.
Corporations exist as persons only to do
whatever is necessary to maximize profits for their stockholders.
Even if it harms people.
brothers start their own corporation in competition with Ford.
In 1933 Supreme Court judge
Louis Brandeis finally made the
He said corporations were "Frankenstein monsters" capable
of great evil.
Joel Bakan cites another
famous case from 1994, in which
General Motors was
sued because on Christmas Day 1993 a mother with her four children in the car
was hit from behind while stopped at a stop light, causing her gas tank of her
1979 Chevy Malibu to explode, burning and badly disfiguring them.
During the trial, a report introduced showed GM knew the gas tank was
set so far back that it could explode on impact, killing the car's
In fact, about five hundred people had been killed this way
at the time of the report in 1973 when the new Malibu style cars were being
A statistician figured that each fatality could cost the
corporation $200,000 in legal damages, then divided the figure by 41 million,
the number of cars GM had on the
The statistician concluded that each death
cost GM $2.40 per automobile.
The cost of ensuring that fuel tanks
did not explode in crashes was estimated to be $8.59 per car.
meant the corporation could save $6.19 per car if it let people die in fuel-fed
fires rather than alter the design of vehicles to avoid such fires.
huge jury award was later reduced by 3/4, and
General Motors appealed the
In support of
General Motors, the United States Chamber of Commerce
filed a brief defending the practice of using this kind of "cost-benefit
analysis in corporate decision making."
The jury's decision, the United States Chamber of Commerce said, was
deeply troubling, because manufacturers should use
cost-benefit analysis to
make the most profitable decisions.
The corporation's legal
structure requires executives to make only those decisions that create greater
benefits than costs for their shareholders.
Executives have no
authority to consider what harmful effects a decision might
have on other people or upon the environment, unless those effects might
have negative consequences for the
Do you see what
has happened here?
This "person", by following its
and does endanger and kill human beings in the pursuit of profit on
On August 21, 1931,
Major General Smedley Darlington
Butler stunned an
audience at an American Legion convention in Connecticut when he had
"I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military
service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine
I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to
And during that period, I spent most of my time being
a high class muscle-man for
Big Business, for Wall
Street and for the Bankers.
In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster
I helped purify
Nicaragua for the
international banking house of
Brown Brothers in
make Mexico, especially
Tampico, safe for American oil
I brought light to the
Dominican Republic for
American sugar interests.
I helped make Haiti
and Cuba a decent place for
the National City Bank
boys to collect revenues in.
I helped in the
rape of half a dozen
Central American republics
for the benefit
of Wall Street.
In China in
1927 I helped see to it that
Standard Oil went its
The record of racketeering is long.
I was rewarded with
Looking back on it, I feel that
I could have
given Al Capone a few hints.
The best he could do was to operate a
racket in three districts.
Marines operated on three continents."
Given that speech, and
Smedley Darlington Butler's disgust with the role the military played, not in
serving democracy but in serving
the greed of large corporations, what happened three years later is truly
Delano Roosevelt took office in the midst of a banking crisis.
embarked upon a
socialist scheme of massive proportions with centralized government
planning and control very similar in many respects to the Soviets.
With many of these
projects an utter disaster Franklin Delano Roosevelt embarked upon
an industrial building project
- World War II.
attempts to increase industrial
productivity took lives - on the construction site and
Both fed the maw of the disastrous greed of the
Small business hated the
price, wage and
labor controls along with the army of "inspectors" which
The actual controlling interests, large corporations and their owners,
were then able to skim the cream off the entire output of the country.
Large corporations have always supported
socialism as wealth
flows to the center.
In 1934, Fortune magazine had a cover
story extolling the virtues
of fascism and the economic miracles Mussolini had
achieved in lowering wages,
unions, and generating greater profits
On August 22nd of 1934, Major General Smedley
Darlington Butler's was approached in a hotel room in Philadelphia by a
messenger of a group of wealthy businessmen, who opened a large suitcase of
$1000 bills and dumped it on the bed, explaining that this was only a down
The "business interests" wanted Major General Smedley
Darlington Butler to assemble a
volunteer army, take over the White House, and install himself as
the fascist dictator of the
United States, with the financial support of major corporations [Business Plot/White House Putsch].
feel with a different
general it may well have worked.
Smedley Darlington Butler refused,
and told the story.
In 1934, the business interests believed they would
have to use military force to take over the government, dismantle democracy,
and install a form of fascist government doing the will of the richest
corporations and individuals in America,
to the degradation or
destruction of everyone else.
This invasion of
snatchers comes close to succeeding.
years after the failed coup, a
well-organized minority again threatens democracy.
Corporate America's long and
patient campaign to gain control of government over the last few decades,
much quieter and ultimately more effective than the plotters' clumsy attempts,
is now succeeding.
Without bloodshed, armies, or fascist strongmen, and
using dollars rather than
bullets, corporations are now poised to win what the plotters so
desperately wanted: freedom from
democratic control." - Joel Bakan
Their reach is now worldwide.
World Trade Organization sues nations for safety or environmental laws
that cut into corporate profits.
The World Trade Organization is
effective in preventing governments from enacting environmental regulations
that impede corporate profits.
NAFTA, an investor protection plan,
enabled corporations to break unions and
out-source wage labor to
cheap wage labor markets
around the world.
Corporations get richer by destroying the lives of
American and other workers, gutting entire societies, leaving husks and moving
on to drain the life from another society, exactly like the invasion of the
Is there hope? Can anything be done?
"If a corporation is convicted of repeated felonies
that harm or endanger the lives of human beings or destroy our environment, the
corporation should be put to death, its corporate existence ended, and its
assets taken and sold at public auction." -
New York Attorney General Eliot
We change our laws and change the way in which this
Frankenstein monster is allowed to do business in this country and in the
We created corporations, we defined them, and
we have the authority to
redefine them, to insist that they may only operate in our society if they
are organized to serve the greater good of the majority in our society by being
unable to externalize costs, break laws and sling poison.
adapted from Sermon by Davidson Loehr, November 7,
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