If healthcare corporations and insurance companies are persons, as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision says, then what sort of persons are they?
As presented in this award-winning documentary, which you can watch below, the operational principles and legal requirement of a corporation to serve shareholder investment interests, give it a highly anti-social “personality.” Corporations are inherently self-interested (profit-driven), making them often amoral, callous and deceitful, even breaching social and legal standards to get their way. And while they can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism, corporations don’t suffer from guilt and can’t be jailed. In short, modern corporations behave like a psychopath, and they use their political clout to avoid regulation and reform.
Free-market capitalism is no longer played on a level playing field, even in healthcare, because large corporations unfortunately invest in lawyers and paid lobbyists to gain political influence and craft laws in their favor. They can effectively “buy” elections with unlimited funds directed in secret to political action committees.
The Corporation is a complex and sobering yet darkly amusing video documentary that takes its audience on a graphic and engaging quest to reveal the corporation’s inner workings, curious history, controversial impacts and possible futures. Based on Bakan’s best-selling book, ”The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power,” the film has achieved box office success, has won dozens of awards from prestigious festivals around the world, and stands as the top-grossing Canadian feature documentary of all time.
The Corporation includes encounters and interviews with CEOs and top-level executives from a range of industries: energy, pharmaceutical, computer, tire, carpet, sporting goods, public relations, branding, news, advertising, and undercover marketing, as well as a Nobel-prize winning economist, a corporate spy, and a range of academics, critics, historians and thinkers.
The Corporation helps us understand why we can’t just trust “market forces” to control behavior and must instead restore the checks and balances of regulatory oversight, even establishing criminal penalties in some cases.
The Corporation helps explain why so many U.S. corporations behaved badly and contributed to the global financial crisis. Apparently some corporate officers even forgot the ethics lessons they learned in kindergarten. They obviously believe in privatizing profits and socializing losses, because they too adopted the same self-serving and psychopathic behavior of the corporation itself, putting both stockholders and society at risk for personal gain.
You can also order the 2-DVD Special Edition version, which includes over 8 hours of excellent extras at www.thecorporation.com, or see the short descriptions and links to 23 separate chapters below.
INTERLOCKING DIRECTORATES — At the beginning of the film, George Bush cited “a few bad apples” as being responsible for bad corporate behavior, but we all know what happens when one bad apple is put into a basket with otherwise good apples. They all go bad. That’s largely what happens with interlocking directorates, which I believe should be illegal but generally are not.
The problem of interlocking directorates comes when members a corporate board also sit on other boards, and they approve each other’s compensation package without sufficient oversight of shareholders. The practice widens the income gap between workers and executive management, but potentially worse is that bad business practices and behaviors of one corporation can quickly infect the others. Like schools of fish, geese and cattle that stampede in one direction following a lead cow, if one corporation increases profits through automation, offshoring, and mass layoffs, others quickly follow, often blindly. Interlocking directorates allow corporations to influence more political power as a group, often against the interests of the public and society as a whole, and that’s whey they should be illegal.
The Behavior of a Psychopath
- Self-serving with disregard for the feelings and rights of others
- Lacks conscience or feeling of remorse or guilt
- Unmindful of putting themselves or others at risk
- Extremely organized, secretive and manipulative
- Repetitive misbehavior, deceit and concealment of evidence
- Understands the rules, social mores and laws but disregards them
- Charismatic and charming outer personality, often hiding a nefarious inner personality
- Able to fly under the radar of society by mimicking behaviors that make them appear normal
The behavior of a psychopath and sociopath are similar, but a sociopath’s crimes are typically disorganized, spontaneous and relatively easy to detect. A psychopath’s crimes, on the other hand, are well planned and concealed.
|THE CORPORATION [Chapter 1/23] What is a Corporation? (7:14 min)
The Corporation is today’s dominant institution, creating great wealth but also great harm. This award-winning documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts and future of the modern business corporation and the increasing role it plays in society and our everyday lives.
|THE CORPORATION [Chapter 2/23] Birth (4:55)
How the corporation came to be. Originally, corporations were set up to serve the public good. Corporation lawyers gained rights through the US Supreme Court using the 14th Amendment (set up to protect slaves) that gives them the rights of a person. In the last century, however, the corporation has been given more and more rights while people are increasingly stripped of theirs.
|THE CORPORATION [3/23] A Legal “Person” (5:47)
Having acquired rights of immortal persons, what kind of person is the corporation? By law, the corporation can only consider the interests of their shareholders. It is legally bound to put its bottom line before everything else, even the public good.
|THE CORPORATION [4/23] Externalities (2:12)
What is an externality? Milton Friedman describes it as the effect of a transaction between two parties on a third party who is not involved in the transaction. A technical sounding term that basically means let somebody else deal with the problems the corporation creates.
|THE CORPORATION [5/23] Case Histories (22:53)
Case histories can be used to diagnose the kind of personality that makes the corporation an externality-creating machine. Externalities such as harm to employees through the use of sweatshops: the exploitation of Third World countries’ employees resulting in a huge discrepancy of price versus cost. Other externalities such as pollution and adverse health effects emerge, including links to cancer, birth defects and other toxic effects. Another externality is harm to the biosphere or environmental costs resulting from the way corporations operate — costs that will be passed off to future generations. By relaxing regulatory oversight, have we created a doom machine?
|THE CORPORATION [6/23] The Pathology of Commerce (0:46)
If we look at the corporation as a legal person, it exhibits all the characteristics of a psychopath using a personality diagnostic checklist by the World Health Organization.
|THE CORPORATION [7/23] Monstrous Obligations (6:14)
Who bears the moral responsibility for the actions of a psychopathic institution? The employees of the corporation can be the nicest people in their personal lives but still engage in monstrous endeavors at work. Can we separate the individual from the corporation?
|THE CORPORATION [8/23] Mindset (8:05)
The profit motive drives the actions of the corporation and creates a mindset of competition and anything goes. Meet corporate spy and self-described predator Marc Barry as he describes his tactics for gathering intelligence from competing corporations. Juxtapose his attitude with Ray Anderson, President of Interface, who, in an epiphany moment, realized he was a plunderer and it was only a matter of time before the law figures it out.
|THE CORPORATION [9/23] Trading on 9/11 (2:10)
A trader describes the tragedy of 9/11 as a blessing in disguise because for some people, it translated into great riches. Brokers celebrated the death and destruction of the Iraq war because “in devastation, there is opportunity”.
|THE CORPORATION [10/23] Boundary Issues (7:21)
We used to regard many areas as too essential to the public good to be commercialized; they were protected by tradition and regulation. Now, everything is becoming fair game in the private taking of the commons — land, oceans, air, water, education, health, energy and social assistance. Where do we draw the line?
|THE CORPORATION [11/23] Basic Training (9:56)
Marketing has transformed itself into a sophisticated, pervasive force that extends into every part of our lives. Slick advertising campaigns are designed for the express purpose of manipulating children into buying products and training them to become mindless consumers of goods they don’t really want. The Nag factor, a marketing study that evaluated the effect of nagging, was designed to teach children how to nag more effectively. Consumers are made, not born.
|THE CORPORATION [12/23] Perception Management (3:00)
Some of our best creative minds are employed to create illusions that divert us from the real issues and manufacture our consent. Beyond their products, the corporation sells us the idea of a better way of life and produces propaganda that affirms their power as necessary for human progress.
|THE CORPORATION [13/23] Like a Good Neighbor (3:35)
Pfizer attempts to “make the community better” with its own private transit security system. An illustration of how the corporation works behind the scenes to reconfigure public policy to suit its needs, yet the image we’re shown is markedly different. Can corporations be trusted to provide public services?
|THE CORPORATION [14/23] A Private Celebration (4:24)
Branding is not just advertising, it’s production. It’s the dissemination of the idea of the corporation, such as Disney building a town called Celebration, Florida. They are selling the living embodiment of what the Disney brand is supposed to represent.
|THE CORPORATION [15/23] Triumph of the Shill (3:09)
Welcome to the new world of undercover marketing and product placement. With staged encounters such as passer-bys discussing a hot new CD, advertising is infiltrating our lives in ways we’re not even aware of.
|THE CORPORATION [16/23] Advancing the Front (5:48)
Where do tomorrow’s opportunities for profit lie? In the US, the Supreme Court ruled that anything alive can be patented except a human being. When life itself is ruled commercial fair game, gene pirates scour the world for new sources and the human genome project takes on new fervor. [In Jan/2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling gave corporations the Freedom of Speech right to influence political campaigns with no funding limits.]
|THE CORPORATION [17/23] Unsettling Accounts (11:28)
Journalists Jane Akre and Steve Wilson were fired by the Fox News television station they work for after refusing to change their investigative report on Posilac, a Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) made by Monsanto. Their research documents potential health and safety problems of drinking milk treated with the synthetic hormone, but threatened with legal action from Monsanto, Fox wants the negative effects played down. The court eventually throws out Akre’s whistle blower lawsuit after deciding that the media is allowed to lie.
|THE CORPORATION [18/23] Expansion Plan (4:46)
The beginning of the fight for the world’s most important resource: water. In Bolivia, privatization makes water unaffordable for many of its citizens and the resulting protest turns violent when the military opens fire.
|THE CORPORATION [19/23] Taking The Right Side (6:55)
The rise of fascism has links to corporate power. American corporations played a role in Nazi Germany and the holocaust, such as IBM’s punch-card machines that tabulated the victims’ data. Corporate allegiance to profit trumps their allegiance to nationalism.
|THE CORPORATION [20/23] Hostile Takeover (3:24)
Despotism was often a useful tool for the corporation to secure foreign markets. Corporations once even attempted to overthrow New Deal President Roosevelt and impose a fascist dictatorship in the US. The story of Major General Smedley Darlington Butler.
|THE CORPORATION [21/23] Democracy Ltd. (8:57)
A coup is no longer necessary for the corporation to dominate governments. Capitalism’s protagonists and players are the new high priests of our day. Industry and government have become intertwined to the extent that it’s hard to tell when one ends and the other begins. But citizens are resisting and protesting their dissent to the centralization of power in corporate hands. The corporation has responded by enacting programs of corporate social responsibility. Are they just a tactic responding to market pressure?
|THE CORPORATION [22/23] Psycho Therapies (17:17)
The public is starting to fight back and demand accountability from its corporations and an end to abuse. The Kathy Lee Gifford and Wal-Mart scandal brought the issue of sweatshops into the national consciousness, yet they still exist. There is a disconnect between what we do for a living and taking responsibility for the effect it has on our planet. Citizens everywhere are exploring strategies to bridge the gap and regain democratic control. “One should never underestimate the power of the people.”
|THE CORPORATION [23/23] Prognosis (5:06)
Epilogue. Victories are being won around the world but are they enough to turn the tide of global corporate dominance? Can we exploit the corporation’s inherent weakness to pursue profit at any cost, even to itself?
- Share everything. No one person has a greater right to use the planet than any other.
- Play fair. We all know the rules, but are we following them?
- Don’t hit people. Be aware of how your actions affect others.
- Clean up your own mess. Put things back where you found them.
- Take responsibility for your actions. Say you’re sorry if you hurt somebody. Make amends.
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours. (And adults, don’t cheat, rob or plunder.)
- Flush. And wash your hands.
- Indulge. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Live a balanced life. Learn & Think, Draw & Paint & Sing, and Dance & Play & Work.
- Slow down and Rest. Take a nap every day.
- When you go out in the world… Watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
- Be aware and wonder. Remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.
Just as we judge corporations based on behaviors most of us learned in kindergarten, maybe we should also ask that about our current President, because his behavior seems to match that of the modern corporation rather than a public servant.
So what do you think? Did I get too political? Do you see a connection in corporate behavior and rising healthcare costs? Did the Affordable Care Act give even more power to big pharma and health insurance companies? What will likely happen to healthcare under the Trump administration? Will we ever have universal access to healthcare, or even universal access to health insurance? Should healthcare be a right or a privilege? I encourage comments below.
What’s the Proper Role of Government in Healthcare?
Here’s one view.
“Dirty Money” is a Netflix documentary about corporate greed and corruption.