Aug 142011

There’s a fascinating way forward on the icky subject of corporations at The Nation right now:

[…] a promising alternative [to the current figure of exclusively profit-driven corporations] is emerging: an entity called the Benefit Corporation, which has been written into law in Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and Vermont, and is moving quickly in other states too. The new laws permit companies to join the profit motive with the purpose of making a “positive impact on society and the environment.” In their articles of incorporation, Benefit Corporations declare their public missions—things like bringing a local river back to life, providing affordable housing, facilitating animal adoptions or promoting adult literacy. Under the law they must go regularly before a third-party validator like B Lab, the visionary Philadelphia-based alliance of more than 400 so-called B Corps across the country, to prove that they are not only meeting their goals but treating their employees, customers, communities and local environments with the same respect as their shareholders. […]

This piece is worth reading in full.

The issue, of course, as we have known for too many years now, and ever since Milton Friedman’s moral imperative to make a profit crystallised the greedy rights of traditional corporations to be responsible to their shareholders and to no one else, is that too many corporate bodies – if not all – attempt to externalise as many of their costs onto the society they refuse to contribute fully to.  In a sense, and if we are to believe that corporate figures are essentially “people” (more here), then from entities aimed at generating wealth – and making society more functional instead of less – these behemoths of transnational business have turned into corporations on benefit.  Just like, in fact, some of those people in our society which those on the right are happy to accuse of fraudulent behaviour.

Thus it is that these gigantic companies end up sucking so much societal wealth into the pockets of a generally concentrated population of shareholders rather than generating it for a wider interest.

If people on benefit are wrong to live off the state indefinitely, then surely – where we accept corporations are as near to the legal figure of people as makes no difference at all – corporate bodies are also committing a delinquency.

And if not, I am minded to wonder, then please tell me why not.

Aug 142011

I was following an exchange on Twitter a moment ago where the question arose of why conservatives seemed better than progressives at providing game-changing moments in history.  The particular example in question involved first-time moments for women (first woman prime minister, first woman chancellor, first woman president of the United States), but the thesis could just as easily be applied to moments such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the final fall of Communism and other key historical events in recent political history.

I responded with the following thought, which I guess in retrospect should’ve had a question mark after it:

@LukeBozier Things happen in society thru’ pressure of progressives – but only take place thru’ final acquiescence of conservatives.

And whilst writing this post, I was also reminded of another tweet I saw this morning (apologies to its owner – I’ve been unable to find it) which said something on the lines of:

When you fall, don’t look at where you finally slipped but rather at where you started slipping. 

To say that the telling of ultimate home truths to society is the job of conservatives everywhere is therefore not to underestimate the importance of being a progressive.  Without the pressure I mention above, nothing would ever change.  But without the final agreement of important conservative opinion-makers, in the face of overwhelming and contrary evidence to their readers’ and viewers’ dearly held dogmas, such home truths would never hit their targets.

And certainly not from the easily rejectable sources of progressive and oppositional thinking generally deposited quite elsewhere.

I think it was New Labour which tried to square this circle – which tried to convince us all it was possible to be progressive and an ultimate game-changer.  But, in so doing, it lost its progressive cloth and feel – and became as corporately centralised as any of the more traditionally right-wing organisations happily choose to be.

It is, therefore, my evermore strongly held belief that the true progressive must be resigned to winning such wars without the opportunity of sealing their corresponding peace treaties.  We can be witnesses to injustice whenever we wish, but must be prepared to allow the right to have its days of curious glory.

That is the responsibility of those on the right – who we must accept, emotionally more than anything else, have the means to trigger the change only our continually moving goal-posts can set the framework for.  We may paint the sidelines and run the defence.  But, in this weird game of politicised football, if we attempt to take on the roles of striker and midfield, the fame and fortune such a role entails immediately makes us unfit for the job.

Is this a home truth we on the left must take onboard?  Perhaps it is.  But we can surely live with it – as long as we know that long-term ordinary people are going to benefit.  Being in power and exerting it – as business leaders the world over know most fully – are not exactly the same things.  And a defender of the truth is much more singular and useful than a gold-awash striker of sporting glory.

Aug 142011

Today’s print version of the Sunday Express decides the following:

Bring Back National Service

My immediate response was:

@dazmando @suttonnick Yeah, right. Put rioters & looters in army – and then call out army to deal with next set of riots. <face palm>

For there is a certain, perhaps I should say pretty widespread, tendency in many modern societies – particularly the English, and particularly in times of crisis – to argue that parents, schools and always finally the army need to be punished in some way in order that a broader society’s ills be resolved.  And, in general, most parents, schools and finally the army deserve far better than this.

Whilst the Sunday Express can massage conveniently its readers’ prejudices by arguing the army should turn “thugs” into channelled fighting machines, what the army most definitely doesn’t need is an influx of the poor, aimless and misguided – just, and precisely when, it might be called on to support the police in their attempt, on the brittle streets of England itself, to control and marshal such wayward forces.

What the Express doesn’t seem to appreciate with headlines such as these is that the army – like most parents, schools and other pillars of our civilisation – deserves to receive and mould the very best.

If there are antisocial elements in our society who do what they do, and who need to be dealt with, it’s the job of all those pillars to get involved simultaneously.  Not the job of one to sort out problems everyone else wishes to wash their hands of.

Nor the job of an institution already struggling and at the mercy of two-faced cuts; an institution whose avowed supporters are quite happy to circumscribe it in the role of general dogsbody and sorter-out of incredibly complex problems.

The army shouldn’t be seen as the dustbin of society.

And we should resist such calls for national service on this basis.