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July 17, 2014

eduardo porter on corporate ethics

A nice read concerning the interaction between big business and the rest of us is this Eduardo Porter column entitled "Motivating Corporations To Do Good."  Now, others might tell you to go read the Andrew Ross Sorkin from Tuesday, but I'm not that fellow.  Sure, hate-read that piece of apologia, the weeper about the sad Big Pharma company that just has to depatriate to the Netherlands because of a couple of points's savings in corporate tax, but no need to start the day gritting your teeth.

Porter takes the longer view, going into how business culture has changed w/r/t public responsibility:

"Over all, there is no question that the ethos of corporate America has changed dramatically over the past 40 years," said Rick Wartzman, executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, who is writing a book about how the social contract between workers and employers has changed since World War II. The belief that business must serve multiple constituents, he argued, has given way to an imperative "to make the shareholder king..."

Though legally dubious, the argument that it is an executive's fiduciary duty to maximize the company's share price became a mantra from the business school to the boardroom. And it was nailed down with money.

This is demonstrably true, to the point that Americans believe in this on some personal level as an excuse for callous greed.  "Why did you embezzle all that money from a church?"  "Just increasing shareholder value, who could blame me."

Though I wonder if this maxim has not metastasized into something much more insidious, like, "The fiduciary duty to increase shareholder value by increasing executive compensation," though that might be a bit cynical of me.  Oops!

But this stuff is important.  We live in a nation of Walmart drones and Amazon warehouse pickers, underpaid and commensurately miserable.  This was not always the case!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:42 AM

July 15, 2014

purge in the traditional sense

Apropos of nothing, may I say publicly that the "Purge" series of motion pictures offends me on a moral level.  If you missed them (and I'm only thinking about them because the sequel coming out soon is advertising all over NYC's subways), the premise behind them is that there's this alternate universe America that picks one day a year where (wait for it)... all crime is legal!  Hurrah, confetti, etc.

Obviously a movie, or a book or a video game or what have you, is not an endorsement, it's not a proposal of proscriptive behavior.  In fact, consensus is that the plotline of the "Purge" is hamfisted political commentary: intended as an emotional outlet for the emotional well-being of society, the process is instead a cynical ruse by the future-government to mask population control of the lower classes.  Okay.

And it's not the first to posit some version of society where everyone has the uncontrollable urge to go out and murder people.  Go back to The Lottery, or Escape From New York or any of the silly Rollerball ripoffs where televised mayhem is the order of the day (more on that some other time).  Still, seeing those freaking posters while waiting for the A train has me seething a bit.

I am not anti-speculative fiction, or sci fi or horror or any of the ancillary genres.  In fact, it's a lot of what I'm reading at any given time.  But the suggestion that given the chance we'd all devolve into savages just really irks me in a visceral way, like I get all frowny and my mood plunges when I see the posters.  Maybe because I'm afraid it's true?  Maybe confronting the fact that my high estimation of human nature could be off the mark is something I'm having difficulty with?

Whatever.  See the movie if you want.  But if want to see something that will make you fall in love with the mundane, with the innate possibility in every day, go see Boyhood instead.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:12 AM