The book "When corporations Rule the World" by David Korten describes the way things will be in the future with multi-national corporations. These large corporations are found all over the world. There are many different problems that are appearing and many of them can be seen to be connected to corporations. We need to look at what is occurring with corporations and see if they are causing more problems or are helping to solve problems of the world. David Korten addresses this question in his book. He points out many of the problems that are being caused by multi-national corporations in the world today. He points out the effects to communities, families, the individual and the environment that are being forgotten about in the ever expanding process of economic globalization. Korten states " the process of economic globalization are not only spreading mass poverty, environmental devastation and social disintegration, they are also weakening our capacity for constructive social and cultural innovation at a time when such innovation is needed as never before" (269).
Corporations have not always been as big and powerful as the are today. Through economic globalization they have become very powerful. "Corporations have emerged as the dominant governance institutions on the planet, with the largest among them reaching into virtually every country of the world and exceeding most governments in size and power" (54). Prior to the Civil War, owners were personally responsible for any liabilities or debts the company incurred, including wages owed to workers. Early Americans feared corporations as a threat to democracy and freedom. After the Civil War, owners and managers of corporations pressed relentlessly to expand their powers, and the courts gave them what they wanted. Perhaps the most important change occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court granted corporations the full constitutional protections of individual citizens. By the early 20th century, courts had limited the liability of share holders; corporations had been given perpetual life times; othe number of owners was no longer restricted; the capital they could control was infinite. Some corporations were even given the power of eminent domain. In effect, the U.S. Supreme Court bestowed natural rights on unnatural creatures, amoral beasts that were created to serve selfish men. Now corporations had life and liberty, but no morals, and the fears of the early Americans were soon realized.
There are many problems that can be seen being caused by the multi-national corporations that have spread all over the world. One of these problems is the thoughtlessness of these large corporations to abuse the environment that we all have to live in. Corporations have been destroying both the renewable and non-renewable resources of the world. Many of the nonrenewable resources are being used at very excessive rates for profit to the few and nothing for the people where the natural resources are being taken from. "When industrialization caused countries to exceed their national resource limits, they simply reached out to obtain what was needed from beyond their own borders, generally by colonizing the resources of non-industrial people" (27).
Many renewable resources are also being destroyed all over the world and this is having very devastating effects to many people. One of these main resources is the polluting of the fresh water and air in the world and the ability to absorb our wastes. One example of this is the amount of damage that has done by acid rain. "At the global level, each year deserts encroach on another 6 billion hectares of once productive land, the area covered by tropical forests is reduced by 11 million hectares, there is a net loss of 26 billion tons of soil from oxidation and erosion, and 1.5 billion hectares of prime agricultural land are abandoned due to salinization form irrigation projects" (28).
Two of the most important aspects of good health are in the abundance of clean water and proper sanitation. "Countries with high income levels are experiencing increases in rates of cancer, respiratory illness is, stress and cardiovascular disorders, and birth defects, as well as falling sperm counts" (41). This is due mostly to what is left after economic growth, waste and pollution.
One of the other effects is that many of these multi-national corporations have much more power than many governments of the world. "As markets become freer and more global, the power to govern increasingly passes from national governments to global corporations, and the interests of those corporations, and the interests of those corporations diverge ever farther from the human interests" (67). This means that these corporations have the power to influence many decisions that are made by the governments of the world. This can be done in two main ways. The first is in helping to get the people that they feel will help make political decisions that will benefit them. This is done through the many donations that are made to the campaign funds of those individuals. The other way is in the nature of the corporation. This is through the large amounts of capital that the success of the corporation of the is dependent on. In democracies, a person gets one vote. "In the market one dollar is one vote, and you get as many votes as you have dollars. No dollar, no vote. Markets are inherently biased in favor of people of wealth" (66). This means that the market only recognizes money, not people. It gives no voice of the penniless, and when not balanced by constraining political forces can become and instrument of oppression by which the wealthy monopolize society's resources leaving the less fortunate with out land, jobs, technology or other means of livelihood. "Money is its sole measure of value, and its practice is advancing policies that are deepening social and environmental disintegration every where" (69).
These huge corporations are also effecting and changing our lives in another way. These corporations are able to manipulate the cultural values and universal symbols of the societies of the world. "Our cultural symbols provide an important source of identity and meaning; they affirm our worth, our place in society....When control of our cultural symbols passes to corporations, we are essentially yielding to them the power to define who we are...We become simply members of the "Pepsi generation" detached from place and any meaning other than those a corporation finds is profitable to confer on us" (158). The societies of the world, are loosing their heritage and traditions that had separated each of them and made them each unique. As the world grows smaller through technology and we become more dependent on each other many of these important traditions that united a community are being lost and forgotten. The corporations are looking to just make a profit.
There are many other problems that are being caused by multinational corporations that are being over looked because they can not be measured by monetary means. These are the effects that the individual and society are noticing more and are trying to have to deal with. The first of these is in the feeling of job security. "Not so long ago, the firm which a person worked was almost like family. It was primary support system in an otherwise impersonal and transient world. A good job was far more than an income. It was a source of identity and of valued and enduring relationships" (245). With these large corporations we are getting away from this feeling of security. Many people are learning that "no amount of money can buy peace of mind, a strong and loving family, caring friends, and a feeling that one is meaningful and important work" (243). This is becoming true for people with jobs on any level. There is no longer any job security for virtually anyone at any level.
This feeling is also bring on many other problems. These are in the family. With out security stress levels can become very high causing many problems in the family. Is this why the divorce rate in America has climbed to unbelievable heights? "High rates of deprivation, depression, divorce, teenage pregnancy, violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, crime and suicide are among the more evident consequences in both high and low income countries" (45).
One of the other main problems falls to the poor societies of the world. They end up getting totally neglected by multinational corporations. This is done on all levels. From the taking of natural non-renewable resources to the poor not being able to make any impact on the decisions made because they do not have the capital to make their 'vote'. They are being excluded from land, technology is eliminating jobs faster than it is creating new ones, and public services that were placed there to help them are being dismantled because there is not enough funds. This is all being done to increase the wealth of those who really do not need any more. These large corporations do not have feelings or think of the destructive things that are being caused by their practices.
There are many things that need to be done to turn all of these problems around. Major changes will have to occur. One of these changes is trying to get back to small businesses that this country was started on and still depends on today. Locally owned small businesses are not only the foundation for strong communities; they are the driving force of strong economies. Small businesses are our engines of innovation and job creation. One example of this how small business is better than large corporations, is in the court case where an 81 year old woman, sued the huge multinational corporation of McDonalds for serving her a coffee heated to 180-190 degrees, far above the average temperature of 140 degrees. She was hospitalized for 8 days and had to undergo skin grafts for third degree burns. She was awarded $2.9 million dollars in the case. The jury was told that this had happened to 700 patrons over the past 10 years who had burned themselves on the super heated coffee. Only after the verdict did any fast food changes evaluate this unnecessary practice of subjecting their customers to this potential injury.
If this had occurred at a local neighborhood coffee shop, think of the consequences. How many customers would get burned until a customer talked to the owner and demand that the temperature get turned down. Big corporations require a legal system that allows the average citizen to force them to pay for their mistakes and mend their ways. Local business are able to more easily hear the voice of their customers and remedy the problems more quickly and easily.
Connected with this, since corporations can not be eliminated, they need to at least change their ways. They need to "Think globally, act locally" (271). This means that the need to help out the community. To set up programs for the people of the community. To bring 'community' back into the cities and towns where these businesses are. They also need to make sure that these efforts are working and reaching the people that really would benefit from them.
"We must decide whether the power to govern will be in the hands of living people or will reside with corporate entities driven by a different agenda. To regain control of our future and bring human societies into balance with the planet, we must reclaim the power we have yielded to the corporation" (48). This statement means to main things. That we as individuals must work together to reclaim the power that was given to these corporations and that they are abusing. It also states that societies need to come into balance with the planet, mainly the environment.
Korten states the three main things that have to change in order to come into balance with the environment. These are one the "Rates of use of renewable resources do no exceed the rates at which the ecosystem is able to regenerate them." Second, " Rates of consumption or irretrievable disposal of nonrenewable resources do not exceed the rates at which nonrenewable substitutes are developed and phased into use." Third, "Rates of pollution emission into the environment do not exceed the rates of the ecosystem's natural assimilative capacity." (272). With out more strict laws that effect corporations world wide it is going to be very difficult to have an impact on improving the environment.
In this book, Korten makes important points to opening the eyes of society to making changes to the free market and the multinational corporations that rule over it. He points out the effects of the threefold of human crisis, the deepening of poverty, the social disintegration and environmental destruction. At the heart of this destruction is the corporations. The are unaccountable for the polluting and driven by an addiction to economic growth, the serve the interests of a very small international elite and are harming the rest of us. He hopes on the co-existence revolution that is bound to come. He also looks to an awakening of civil society and the growth of more social movements.
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