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

was restored.

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.

The Point:

   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 Lesson:

   The sole purpose of a corporation is to generate revenue.  Everything else is a secondary effect of

this pursuit.

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.