Profit-based corporations exist to make money for shareholders and to protect individual shareholders from some excessive risk. This sounds and is reasonable at face value. Profit goes to investors. It has a certain simple, elegant logic to it.
Those of us who have worked in business at various levels know that profit-based corporations themselves have no emotions, compassion, or consideration. Unlike the suggestion of the Supreme Court Ruling in Citizens’ United, corporations are not humans and do not have human traits. There is only the ‘logic’ of the bottom line. This is not to say that individuals in corporations, even leaders of them, lack love, compassion, or concern. Rather, the charter of profit-based corporations, their cultural underpinnings, and their rules are inevitably to make a profit.
With this in mind, it is easy to see how profit-based corporations can easily bring out the worst in those who work for them. Salary and benefit increases, so akin to profit, end up being primary motivators for workplace behaviors. Competition for attention and promotion logically follow. The vocabulary of corporations speaks volumes about the logic of the bottom line. Employees are resources. Talent is acquired and maintained. Company policies for corporate headquarters provide amenities that keep people closer to their desks for longer periods of time for more days of the year, but contracts with suppliers are often too tight to permit any amenities at all for the workers who are actually producing the widgets from which profits flow.
As corporations seek to find more profit through achieving greater margins, worker rights and benefits — all seen as expenses — erode. Pensions become less commonplace and investment schemes require less corporate buy-in and more employee risk. And each of us with a 401k or 403b plan becomes embroiled in the system because we benefit from the corporate profits.
In order to boost sales of the corporations for which many of us work and/or invest, we too often tacitly agree that one cannot live simply. The late model car, the annual wardrobe expansion, the vacation getaway, the $50 meal with the $12 cocktail with the $2 designer ice cube (seriously!) seem somehow necessary or at least desirable. Just because greed is ubiquitous it is no less real. Or damaging.
Periodically news sources and commentators will question the ability of judges to fairly hear a case. A past investment, former employer, something they wrote in the past, or even a spouse may be seen as evidence that the judge might not accurately see the situation about which they must make a decision. But what about the rest of us trying to build, develop, or otherwise foster community? Can we form unbiased assessments about what is needed and how to proceed when our investments, employers, and other factors suggest otherwise? Do our things obscure reality?
One thought on “The house that greed builds”
In the non-profit world I believe we can avoid allowing things/shiny pennies to obscure our reality by having a clear vision that strongly articulates the mission. Along with that clear vision, thoughtful goals and a plan are essential. With this in hand things/shiny pennies, which seem so enticingly wonderful, are able to be more clearly set aside. I also believe that when we consistently work the plan great results take shape for our non-profit missions!