Now we are human commodities

Linked with Chris Maser – USA.

Published on CultureChange.org, by Chris Maser, not dated.

2 excerpts of a very long text: … The corporation, it turns out, is an invention of the British Crown through the creation of the East India Company by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600, which, being the original, transnational corporation, set today’s precedence for big businesses. The East India Company, “found India rich and left it poor,” says author Nick Robin. The corporate structure of the East India Company was deemed necessary to allow the British to exploit their colonies in such a way that the owner of the enterprise was, for the first time, separated from responsibility for how the enterprise behaved.

This conscious separation of personal responsibility from the act of looting is not surprising because “looting” is, theoretically as least, considered immoral in Christian circles. The corporation is thus a “legal fiction,” that lets the investors who own the business avoid personal responsibility whenever the business dealings are unethical or even blatantly illegal, despite the fact that such unscrupulous behavior profits them enormously.


A corporation, after all, has but one purpose to make money for the owners. Economist Milton Friedman gave voice to this pinhole vision when he answered his own rhetorical question: “So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not.” In fact, the “corporate system,” say analysts, “has no room for beneficence toward employees, communities, or the environment,” a notion endlessly demonstrated on a daily global scale.

Founders of the United States, such as Thomas Jefferson, recognized the dangers of corporate greed, which accounts for why the founding fathers believed corporate charters should be granted only to those entities willing to serve the greater public interest. Throughout most of the 19th century, therefore, states typically restricted a corporation they chartered to the ownership of one kind of business and strictly limited the amount of capital it could amass. In addition, states required stockholders to be local residents, detailed specific benefits that were due the community, and placed a 20- to 50-year limit on the life of a corporation’s charter. Legislatures would withdraw a corporation’s charter if it strayed from its stated mission or acted in an irresponsible manner …

… Consumption as an end it itself arose with the conceptualization of “the economy” as a macro-social entity and “economics” as a macro-social science rather than as household management, which is the true meaning of the word economy. To this end, Adam Smith wrote: “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production.”

Because consumption and consumerism dominate social discourse and political agendas of all parties, consumerism hogs the limelight at center stage as the prime objective of Western industrialized societies, which, in the collective, are known as “consumer societies.” Within these consumer societies, the purpose of consumption is: variety, distraction from daily stresses, pleasure, power, and the status that one hopes will bring with them a measure of happiness and social security. None of this comes to pass, however, because people themselves are increasingly seen as economic commodities. How can a commodity find security from another commodity? In this sense, the marketplace satisfies only temporarily our collective neuroses, while hiding the values that give true meaning to human life.

Author James B. Twitchell puts it nicely: “Once we are fed and sheltered, our needs are and have always been cultural, not natural. Until there is some other system to codify and satisfy those needs and yearnings, commercialism [consumerism] and the culture it carries with it will continue not just to thrive but to triumph.”

In the final analysis, it is doubtful many people really subscribe to the economist’s notion that human happiness and contentment derives solely from, or even primarily from, the consumption of goods and services. It’s therefore surprising that such a notion has come to hold nearly dictatorial power over public policy and the way industrialized societies are governed … (full very long text).

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