The Corporation is Like the Titanic
Last night I had horrible nightmares about the failure of our corporations. This morning I am asking myself what that means – and asking “What do the corporations symbolize?”
The answer seems to be that they stand for almost everything, and the end of them will be the end of our whole world – not just the end of our global economy, but the end of everything. We can’t imagine life without them.
The reason for this is not hard to find: the corporations provide our jobs, the most important thing in the world. But they are no longer able to do this, and for this reason everything is breaking down.
Now I have said this, I must say it again: if we cannot provide decent jobs for almost everyone we are doomed. But we no longer can do this – and we aren’t even trying. We say something else is more important, without being able to say what this is.
I think I know what this is – now that the world is not working, we have decided to regress, and return to a simpler world where a few have everything and the rest are dependent on them. This would not be an ideal world, we tell ourselves – but at least it would work.
We have been in this fix before: with the collapse of the Roman Empire. True enough, the world did go on – but in a much simpler way. People continued to reproduce, although most of these died an early death. Much as before civilization. We sometimes ask ourselves “When this world is over, what kind of world will take over?” We now know: it will be another Dark Ages – assuming we don’t have atomic warfare, and really cook everything.
But let us back up a notch, and consider the present. As I said (and Keynes also) our primary objective should be to provide full employment ( the details of just how full that should be are debatable, we can agree that all who really want to work should be able to).
For some time now, perhaps forever, many jobs have been useless – but the holders of these jobs didn’t care, all they wanted was that paycheck. A prime example is the military: useless, dangerous work that has no shortage of applicants. They know they may not survive, but rest of their family will.
But, to repeat once again: our present economic system, dominated by the corporations, cannot provide enough jobs, and doesn’t even have that as one of its primary objectives. The people, who should be demanding this, are helpless – and don’t really exist.
This is an important point: at some time in the past, probably in the last few hundred years, people (as independent beings) have been eliminated. And no one has noticed. This is understandable – nothing like this has ever happened before, and we do not even have the vocabulary to explain it.
A key part of this process has been technology: we have put all our efforts into it, instead of ourselves. We now have a stupendous technology – the computer/software/internet/wireless, to say nothing of the automobile and the TV. But no way of managing it.
Indeed, this summarizes our overall situation: we have more things than any people in history – but no people and no tools to manage them.
I want to spend some time on the tools part of this. I worked in the software industry for 20 years, some of that time as a programmer. And I have been interested in finding out what is going on there. Software development is a key technology (after all, software now runs our lives) and we should be concerned about its condition.
Ignore for a moment that most people are not capable of thinking about this, or anything else. And assume some people are, and are working at making things better. What have they come up with? A lot, actually – but on balance they have not been able to make things much better. For the most part, the drive to destroy (which I keep referring to) has made this impossible.
Here the analogy with the Titanic is appropriate. The economy, which consists mainly of the corporations, is a huge machine incapable of coping with reality. It shows no interest in reality, and thinks it can ignore it.