While watching the documentary film “The Corporation”, we can hear truthful information about environmental pollution, harmful human activity, work operation, including child labor, and about the fact that farmers use anabolic steroids to increase milk production, which is unhealthy for people who will consume milk. The film reveals that it is worth keeping in mind the fact that corporations abuse their power because the government and laws allow them to do so.
This film does not only provide facts concerning the tremendous influence which corporations have on our society and our ecology as a whole. With the help of the California AP Holistic Critical Thinking rubric, it is possible to characterize the content of this film as follows:
• the film accurately interprets evidence, statements, graphics, and questions;
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• it identifies relevant arguments (reasons and claims);
• it justifies some results or procedures and explains reasons.
In 1868, the 14th amendment to the Constitution of the USA was adopted, which influenced modern corporations. This amendment provided freedom to Afro-Americans and put an end to slavery. Also, the amendment promised them freedom and the right to property. A legal entity called corporation was created and managed to use this amendment in its own favor.
What should be said about the relationship between corporations and the government? We do not need to speak about corporation actions against the government. We should speak about tricks which corporations use in affairs connected with the governments (society). Courts, not legislators, granted unlimited rights to corporate enterprises. Thus, corporations managed to receive freedom of speech, actions, and eventually freedom of promotion of interests. Under the slogan “The world without deficiency of consumer goods,” board members lobby their interests.
There is a certain unwritten law that states, “If you help, it means you will be helped too, or vice versa.” Corporations have sponsored pre-election campaigns of candidates for the president post since the First World War. In return, they have received all legal freedoms and support.
“They are granted the right of what is called ‘national treatment.’ Persons don’t have that right. Like if a Mexican comes to New York, he can’t claim national treatment, but if General Motors goes to Mexico, it can claim national treatment. In fact corporations can even sue states, which you and I can’t do” (Noam Chomsky).
Profit is a main goal and lever of corporate enterprises.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) takes part in the investment project only if a special contribution made by it supplements activity of subjects of the market. Corporations will make private investments in developing countries if they show that investments in these countries can bring benefit.
Corporations operate on a commercial basis and aspire to obtain maximum benefit. Corporations invest billions to shape a favorable public and political opinion and create a positive image. They also spend a fortune on media promotion to make their products popular with the new generation. It is an obvious fact that currently advertising tremendously influences consumer behavior. Thus, corporations must develop effective strategies and advertising campaigns to be successful.
Influence on the World
Many multinational corporations possess some exclusive rights. Some corporations may be so large and powerful that their management runs business directly with heads of states. As a rule, such corporations are provided with support of politicians, diplomats, wealthy people, and the mass media. There are numerous examples of this. For instance, in 2003, the American company Halliburton signed a $680 million contract for restoration of infrastructure objects in Iraq.
Since the times of the first industrial revolution, corporations have never been interested in providing public benefit. Their highest purpose is and has always been profit. If it was not so, the corporation Shell had not aggravated the state of the environment.
Also, there are different ways in which corporate enterprises can manipulate governments, one of them being bribery. Bribery has two subjects: the government and a corporation, which can be industrial, construction, and innovative.
On November 2nd, Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based campaigning group, published its Bride Payers Index. According to the study, Russia and China had the highest level of corruption; Dutch and Swiss companies were seen as the cleanest, with Belgium, Germany and Japan being in the middle of the list (The Economist).
After breaking the law on the minimum payment per hour in Bangladesh, China, and Singapore, corporations and their leaders lost the trust of the population. “Increasingly we don’t trust our business leaders. The tentacles of corporate corruption have extended way beyond where they were ten years ago, with the scandals at Enron, Worldcom, Tyco and elsewhere” (Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones).
It is no wonder that corporations being provided with unlimited power by the governments are not trusted by society, as in most cases, everything that is done by corporations runs contrary to public interests.
Corporations do not only have a voice in solving public issues, but they also cause a lot of social problems and shape public opinion. They create artificial demand for their goods, which leads to the fact that there is a set of things without which today’s civilization could to manage. Presently, the market competition is rather rough, and a company can survive only if it offers some extraordinary novel products to attract more and more customers. New technologies are being developed every day, and somehow limited access to them widens the gap between developing and developed countries. It is obvious that corporations do not represent public views and interests, as this is one of the tasks of the governments. Society is just an element in a corporation’s structure, an element that brings profit.
The film suggests that individuals who run corporations are saints who place corporate interests above their personal ones and think about the common good. Unfortunately, this idea is far from being true. In numerous ecological and economic disasters in the world, the root of all evil has been corporations. The aim of any corporation is to obtain maximum profit; thus, the management always does their best to earn as much money as possible at any cost. The founders of any corporation write a Memorandum of Association or a Certificate of Incorporation, which states their purposes. The purposes are specified in the memorandum by the board of directors. They are also fully responsible for any harm that the corporation may cause.
I consider that ordinary workers should not bear responsibility for the corporation’s activity. They earn their living by doing what the management tells them to do.
“We must build deliberately cultures of integrity across business and government. Nobody said that’s easy, but nothing less will do” (Rushworth M. Kidder).
It is possible to accuse managing directors of corporations. It is possible to blame corporations for abuse of power given to them by governments and legislations, but it will not rectify the situation. The government is the main link in the chain. The rights and freedoms of corporate enterprises are legal and provided by the government. Some possible solution to the problem is to abolish corporations and make them public property, as it used to be before the beginning of the industrial age. Ordinary people can also contribute to the improvement of the situation, as being co-owners of corporations, they can supervise the majority of processes.
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