Thursday, August 2, 2012
In the wake of Occupy most of us have felt a good deal more comfortable denigrating corporations. An unintended consequence of this, of course, is that the denigration we offer one another is so much more common, and accordingly so much less "impactful."
Accordingly, I'd at least like to respect my few readers enough to issue a few ideas you haven't heard elsewhere and then, should anyone care, try later to develop them further.
These two ideas have a common origin, which is Sabbath economics. As I learned about Sabbath from Ched Myers, I finally apprehended how merciful and wise the whole structure is. Predicated in part upon a wise familiarity with how hard and how brief human life is, the Sabbath recognizes culture's obligation to incorporate forgiveness into our common life that it might remain, for the most part and for most people, bearable.
Corporations, however, live forever and have no feelings, and therefore bear nothing. My first proposal, then, is to deny them bankruptcy. They live forever, so they have forever to repay their debts, should they incur them. Now such a discipline would have little effect should share value descend to zero and then languish there forever, so in order to prevent that, my second proposal is that share prices be allowed to go negative. Shareholders, after a series of legislative adjustments I cannot begin to fathom, would then be required to pay those debts to get rid of them. After all, if every voting machine manufactured and approved for use in US elections permits casting "negative votes," how hard could it be to have shares with "debt." At least the concept is logically feasible, unlike the Diebold votes.
In this way, when clever lawyers, each enfolded in their own protective "S" corporations, collude to create closely-held shell corporations to distance well capitalized parents from holding onto looming eco-disasters and public health nightmares like the BP spill or nuclear waste, we can take some protection from knowing that the bill will be paid by those shareholders and not the public.
These two modifications, eliminating corporate bankruptcy and allowing share prices to "go negative" might repair the two largest "loopholes" by which corporations avoid the pain of being persons. Were we to add in the subject of an upcoming blog, corporate imprisonment, we might then "enflesh' corporations with the kind of pain that might make them responsive enough to slow the disaster of co-existence unfolding before us.
Why the Roman Catholic church, with its profound commitment to the "Human One,"is largely silent on this matter is confounding to me. Especially since the Roman Catholic Church, alone among all the entities on Earth, partook rarely of these "sins," until recently. Roman Catholic dioceses are owned and run by corporations sole, the only type of corporation which has a soul and does not eschew responsibility. This is why we have paid more liability claims than all the cigarette companies on the planet - for the simple reason that, when we owe, we pay. For me, more than anything else, this is legal proof that the Roman Catholic church is holy. If we could for one moment retreat from our reactionary stance of opposing everything Mr. Obama does and return to our proper role of addressing the far larger question of how to civilize Western Civilization, I hope this is the issue our Bishops will choose. It should be remembered that only thirty years ago abortion was only a "catholic issue."
I have often wondered why even libertarians fail to recognize the reality that risk, like heat, can only be transferred and never wished away. Every ounce of responsibility corporate shareholders eschew is foist upon the public as surely as every therm removed by air conditioning from my overheated palace is blown onto my neighbors' place.
In the same way that we watched antibiotics fall to resistance in a manner than offered no market feedback to increase responsible prescribing practices, and even as we now watch helpless as China fills our air with carbon while it strives to match our standard of consumption, we are surrounded by demons over which we have not only no control, but no handle with which we can wrest control, generally, from chaos.
When people, especially Christian people, create economic (and now political) "persons" with the express intent of making a profit (serving Mammon) while denying personal responsibility six days each week, and rest only on the seventh, true economics portends only one thing:
We are headed to Hell in a handbasket at 86% of "escape velocity," which is the speed at which we eschatologically, demonically, arrive.