Saturday Session on Corporations by Vincent Campos? Comments by Stephen P. Horn
Vincent has spent considerable time and effort over the last few years presenting his look at the corporate world and its relationship to economic problems we face today. I attended his presentation with the full intent of seeing it entirely. However, I had a family birthday party scheduled for 5:00 PM that night. I was told that the presentation would be 1.5 hrs so that left me time to get home in time for the party. Unfortunately, the start was delayed apparently waiting for people who had been at the Monsanto demo earlier. At any rate I had to leave about 4:40 so my comments following are based upon what I was able to see before I left plus many conversations I have had with Vincent over the past year or two.
First of all, I would agree that corporate power is out of control. My caution throughout is that there is a tendency to present very complicated problems in “either/or” choices. The listener has got to recognize that seldom in life are such narrow choices really so limited. Most any real life situation has almost limitless variations including certainly political or economic possibility. To reduce complicated topics to ultra simple situations is generally not workable.
We have early in the game a quote: “Free market does work as long as the government stays out.” I would say that so-called Free Market does not even exist let alone solve the problems of our economy. The second part of this statement is but one example of the anti-government stand that was a thrust throughout the presentation. We have these holy tenets one of which is that most all functions of the government can better be performed by “private enterprise”. Despite these claims there are all kinds of examples where government is both necessary and better suited than private enterprise.
Atlanta privatized their water system for a time until disaster made them reverse themselves. The entire country of Bolivia had a similar experience until they essentially threw the rascals out. There are all kinds of other examples. Here in good old Nebraska we have been treated to the privatization of our child care system, a decision that has carried with it all kinds of negative consequences. Our Health Care system is so screwed up largely because various parts of it are obviously in it to make the most money they can. It is certainly not a government run system. Medicare, the semi-government system, runs quite efficiently and costs considerably less than the private insurance run system most of us have (or don’t). Social Security is one of the most successful governmental programs in history. Anyone who actually thinks private companies would do better obviously has missed the huge crash of the stock market which was the supposed place to put your retirement funds by those who want to gut SS.
Vincent spent considerable time on the history of our country and on that of the corporation. Again there was much simplification with positions reduced to the two groups gathering around Jefferson and Hamilton as opponents. The quotes describing their beliefs were questionable in that they were so pointed that I have a hard time believing that any politician would utter them. The listener ought to be aware that those presenting views are not necessarily objective. History itself is filled with “facts” that many people would dispute including, undoubtedly, the very people involved. (Witness the current attempts to limit voter participation in the USA. These people will seldom admit that they want to remove certain groups from the voter rolls. Years from now naive “historians” might rightly “prove” that these people were really concerned about voter fraud by quoting their statements made at the time they were justifying their actions.)
Part of the simplification was addressed by one of the few questions posed while I was still there. Boards were “elected” by the shareholders that in turn chose the CEO. The truth is that shareholders like me, for instance, have little or no input to the actual running of the company. Most all corporations are dominated by major shareholders and the elections held are dominated by these fairly few lucky huge shareholders. Then too, the board (which was held up as a group which ran/decided company policy) most often are largely picked to do the bidding of the major shareholders and many times are nothing more than very highly paid PR fronts for the powers that be. Witness the OWH article the last few days that exposed the 100,000 dollar payments to the president of NU for his “work” on the board of Valmont. Of course, this is not viewed as a conflict of interest by the OWH or any of the NE power structure. This despite NU having big programs dealing with water. Vincent rightly points to the legal immunity of corporations as one of the critical factors that allow immoral or criminal behavior. There certainly is truth in that. However, to think that we can go back to a time w/o corporations is beyond comprehension. Even if we could, evil still exists and such people will still require that controls be placed upon their actions for the good of all. Libertarians want little or no governmental controls. The holy “free market” will address all and punish those who transgress.
This gets way too long. Let me just close with my thoughts on the DVD that was given out free to all at the presentations. Turns out it was a John Birch Society product. Some of you may not be aware of the JBS and it’s history. I first ran up against it in about 1963 or so when they put on a series of fancy presentations at the Civic sponsoring rich, right wing, largely racist, speakers who were really upset with Civil Rights and the Warren Court. As I recall the audiences were all white. Turns out JBS considered President Eisenhower a communist, among other outrageous beliefs. By the way, for you youngsters the concept of “States Rights” which comes up frequently is, in many minds, intrinsically interwoven with attempts to block Federal Civil Rights actions. This organization is not one anyone familiar with its history should use.