Thursday, March 25, 2004

It always seemed to me that "The Matrix" is a perfect metaphor for a corporate-controlled society. The dominant institutions of our society -- created by us to serve us -- instead now enslave us. Teddy Roosevelt was one of the last Presidents to recognize the corporation as a Frankenstein monster in 1910: "The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being."

By then, it was too late. By then it was too late. Property had gained the right of people (the doctrine of corporate personhood was established in the 1886 Santa Clara decision). And now, people are once again becoming property (patenting of life).

Key to the machinery of corporate control is a corporate governance system that provides an illusion that what we have left somehow allows us to somehow control the corporation's behavior. The illusory notion of of "shareholder democracy" for instance (a paradox if there ever was one -- in a democracy, after all, it's one person/one vote), is supplemented by an additional illusion: that the interests of shareholders stands in perfectly for the public interest.

Instead, "share-centered corporate law creates the very problems it is meant to police," explains Daniel Greenwood in his essay, Enronitis: why Good Corporations Go Bad. "The single-valued profit maximization ethos of the share-centered corporation demands that managers teach themselves to exploit everyone around them: it is inevitable that some will learn this lesson so well that they will exploit even those for whose benefit they are supposed to be exploiting."

We buy into a self-colonizing system when we put our faith in notions such as "shareholder democracy":

"...the fictional shareholder resembles nothing more than a classic imperilist oppressor. The fiction we have created treats us as if we were a colonized people -- to be befirended, used or discarded only according to the interests of the colonizing power. But the colonizer is us and it is we ourselves we are colonizing."