A Corporation Defined
“Corporation: A body formed and authorized by law to act as a single person although made up of one or
more people and legally endowed with various rights and duties.”
In other words a corporation is an artificial entity. It is created by a piece of paper and only exists on a
piece of paper. It is not a person. It does not have feelings and emotions. It does not have a soul. It can
not have guilt. It can not have a sense of right and wrong just legal and illegal. It is created for the single
purpose of generating revenue. Even none profits. They just have to use up the revenue in the process
of their activities. It is atheistic. I note this for the religious readers. For even if you work for a non-profit
religious ministry. The corporation does not believe in God. It can’t it can’t think it can’t believe. (Note: the
fact that companies can not think explains a lot of their decisions)
This being said let’s dig a bit deeper into how the concept expresses itself. If it is an amoral actor and its
sole purpose is to generate revenue then its actions should be based upon a simple cost benefit analysis.
Its behavior then should be somewhat predictable. The only kink in this theory is that corporations are
made up of people and no two people are the same so they add an element of randomness into the
corporate decision making process. If you consider a corporation to be equivalent to a person then the
people working for a corporation are like individual life experiences of that person. The more thoughtful
and compassionate people a corporation has working for it the more thoughtful and compassionate it will
appear. (Remember this is only an appearance and not reality) And the same can be applied for all the
human character traits. In this way a corporation can and does take on a personality based on its
employees. It works for a company to have people, customers, and employees identify with it. (It’s good
for business) But it is also a dangerous thing for those groups because having personalized this amoral
actor they make decisions and develop expectation based on false assumptions of human understanding
in a none human entity.
During the quite morning hours of Sunday October 4th 1982 an unremarkable tanker ship move through
the water near Puget Sound as it ferried its cargo to its destination. It was unremarkable as it had made
the same trip hundreds of times as did hundreds of other ships just like this one. Then in a moment of
uniqueness for reasons that are irrelevant to this story the ship ran aground ripping a gapping hole in its
side freeing ten million gallons of crude oil to spill out into the pristine water of north west Washington.
The ship, the Valdez owned and operated for and by the Exxon mobile oil company.
In late 1983 a disgruntle and disturbed Mike Smith decided he hated people and loved chaos. The dog
told him to do it. Mike an employee of the Johnson and Johnson Company at a pharmaceutical plat in
Indiana began to add a small amount of arsenic to the production line of Tylenol, America’s most trusted
over the counter pain reliever. Day’s later three children and several adults had died as a result of his
heinous action. Almost over night the country’s confidence in the product and the company dissolved and
was gone. Millions of boxes of Tylenol were recalled and pulled from the shelf. Investigations were
launched, congress created new laws (tamper proof), and years went by before any sense of confidence
In June of 1991 a two year old died in Washington State and his death due to salmonella poisoning was
traced back to tainted hamburger at a Washington Jack in the Box. Four more cases occurred in the
following day before the source could be completely identified and removed but the damage had already
been done and Jack in the Box was as tainted as the meat they had server. In the end they closed several
restaurants and spent millions to compensate and restore consumer confidence.
It’s true that these are but a few examples and there are countless others. It is also true that these
examples are mild in regards to the company’s fault and responsibility as there was nothing purposeful
about them for the companies. There are many more examples of potentially and predictably dangerous
action and products that companies have known about and continued with in pursuit of revenue. The
Tobacco industry comes to mind but there are others and for my part I don’t hold it against the tobacco
industry. I mean, if you can light a fire inches from you mouth and suck the smoke into your lungs and
think that its not harmful then you might do society a favor by not reproducing. I am harsh I know but I
believe in personal responsibility. If you cut you finger off with a knife I don’t think you should have a right
to sue the knife maker because they didn’t put a sticker on the knives stating that the knife was sharp and
could cut you. Where I do draw the line is between what is obvious; Coffee is hot and can burn you and
what is not; the paint on your walls contains lead and will kill your children or the asbestos isolation in your
walls and ceiling is toxic and will cause your lungs to close up and you to die. It is a process, I know
companies are continually looking for the new, next, and better thing in order to make a profit and often
potential and harmful side effects can only be see in hindsight and over time. (Improvements are often a
side effect of the scramble to make a profit – profit motive is not good or bad in it’s self) I don’t hold
corporations as evil for this (even though some of their employees are) nor do I feel for them when they
have to pay billions in compensation. They take the risks to make money and as my sister is often heard
to say sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.
A final note is that companies and industry as a hole change over time as we moved from a barter system
to a monetary system there were lots of disparities, as society entered into the industrial age there were
endless and now legendary excesses and exploitations. The environment was tarnished, resources
devoured, and whole populaces redesigned. Women and children in Western Europe and America were
devoured in the meat grinder of the emerging industrial complex. It took years even decades for
government regulation and market forces to resolve the difficulties of the time. (Note: government can’t
keep up and is reactionary) It’s this way with everything new. Capitalism is constantly searching for the
next big thing in order to survive and along its way it creates a mess which in turn creates new opportunity
for new business and in this way we move forward.
A corporation is not a person. We project our images of a person on it. We are setting ourselves up
for disappointment and failure.
The sole purpose of a corporation is to generate revenue. Everything else is a secondary effect of
The Brutal Truth:
Corporations are neither good or bad they just are. As such they can be viewed as either obstacles
to avoid or tools to use.