Friday, December 02, 2005

The CEO Presidency

(Ken Lay pretends to be listening.)

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

The corporate media will of course do all they can to insist that the gathering tsunami of GOP scandal is just the way of all flesh, and exactly the sort of things the Democrats do, or (if that doesn’t fly) did when they were in power. But the corporate media will always preach to the corporate choir. This will not stop the stooges of the Party from representing it all as a concoction of, or at least a hyping by, the Liberal Media. This might get hard to sell, too, if there are enough indictments by career prosecutors, but it will help the Believers stay in denial.
The ugly fact about the professionals of the GOP, and the reason why even Jack Kennedy regarded his his fellow rich white guys from across the aisle as “sons of bitches,” is that they’re basically immoral. Their unspoken credo is: “Party above principle, party above patriotism, profit above party.” This grows more clear in the news every day.

George Bush is the Ultimate True Believer in the GOP’s corollary prayer: “What’s good for [X Corporation] is good for America.” That’s why, when he was flying around on Enron’s jet, campaigning for his first term, he promised often that his would be a “CEO Presidency.” Of course he was being inadvertently truthful (the only truths he tells are inadvertent), for he has done for the country pretty much what Ken Lay did for Enron.

But the whole notion that corporate interest somehow dovetails with the people’s interest is just idolatry. If one were superstitious one might argue that the corporation is Satan’s most subtle snare, devised to undo man’s tentative progress, post Enlightenment, towards a just society. The corporation is indeed a sort of textbook monster, like a human, and yet not human. It has rights, property, plans, a philosophy, but no conscience. Its categorical imperative is: “Profit.” And if you try to confound it with questions like, “Short term or long term?” – it will only answer, “Both.” The corporation lacks even the vestigial and recessive reciprocal altruism we carry in our famously selfish genes.

Now many decent people work for and even run large corporations, but their moral impulses are under constant pressure, constantly being subordinated to the will of the stockholders, which can only articulate one consensus, “Profit.” Moreover, just as in any bureaucracy, the diffusion of all responsibility through the many layers of the organization will ensure that none feels it very compellingly. Unless a corporation’s most powerful executives articulate and exemplify a more ethical imperative, justice will not ensue.

We will do well to remember that Hitler was the golem of the Krupps and I.G. Farben, who expected him to preside over a kleptocracy for their benefit. He did, but then he took it a little too far – in the short term. We will also do well to remember that Auschwitz was a wholly owned subsidiary of I.G. Farben, a corporate property, run for profit.

The marriage of the corporation and the state is a miscegenation, as is that of church and state. It always spawns atrocity.


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