There's been something of a brouhaha in the UK this week over the scavenging of ship-wrecked goods from Branscombe beach. A cargo ship, the MSC Napoli, transporting approximately 2,400 containers, was deliberately grounded in Lyme Bay after suffering a 'structural failure' in last Thursday's storms. A number of the containers and their contents have been washed-up on the beach, and various goods, including BMW bikes, have been half-inched by happy middle-class beach-combers.
Whilst the authorities have accused such individuals of unmitigated greed, I think the action of the scavengers is largely justified. In radio phone-ins this morning, members of the public seemed to generally agree that it was wrong to take the property owned by individuals, but the property owned by companies was fair game. As one individual said, "companies screw us most of the time, so why shouldn't we screw them for once?" Quite.
This reminded me of the fact that companies, if treated as people, would be considered psychopathic. A company is totally selfish, has no conscience, feels no compulsion to speak the truth, and acts to destroy other companies. Those companies who pretend to be moral or environmental, try to promote these 'brand-values' as a calculated means to furthering the selfish interests of the company. Just recently, a delivery man from Amtrak broke my letterbox clean off. I've written to the local Amtrak depot manager, and even the chief executive, seeking some compensation. Needless to say, because Amtrak know that they can get away without doing anything, that's exactly what they do. People who work for companies often feel under no obligation to think morally, and consider that they are merely following 'company policy'. Rather like soldiers in wartime are merely 'following orders'.
In our current capitalist liberal democracy, government legislation should, in theory, act to constrain the power of companies, but it's a difficult balance to strike when the population desires economic growth. Is there an alternative political-economic structure to the 'companies plus government' structure? We know that a communist society, in which the 'means of production' are owned by the government, is a completely dysfunctional society, so this is not a viable alternative. Is there, however, a hybrid unit of structure, a combination of company and government, from which a better society could be built?