Of Corporations, Reputations And "Shakedowns"
It is more than a bit strange to talk about the “nature” of corporations. Humans have an inherent nature, and further are distinguished from animal nature in that they are morally assessed as responsible and judged “good” or “bad.” Corporations are not natural creatures or properly assessed as “good” or “bad.” They are an amalgamation of the interests of individual human beings. Neither is the primary interest of those participating individuals either good or bad. Their common interest is to reap a maximal profit from their investment of resources (time, energy, capital…) (gasp! The BEASTS!) Really? Does it make you feel any better if that profit is desired to promote the well-being and comfort of their own families and facilitate investments into work opportunities for other people?
I have listened for days to Republicans insisting that Congressman Joe Barton was wrong when in a Congressional hearing he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for Congress’ grandstanding beating and what he said appeared to be “a shakedown” by the Obama administration. Of course, Democrats in politically troubled waters have seized on this opportunity to portray Republicans as the tools of big business. If I have any interest in BP stock in a 401K mutual fund, I am unaware of it and, certainly for the moment, glad of that. But, we should consider a couple of important things about BP:
- This entire oil spill event has transpired amid the presumption by liberals that as a for profit outfit, BP has been dishonest and is not to be trusted, whereas regulation by the omniscient angels of government are where our faith should rest. That’s all BS. No entity on earth has more motivation to fix this problem and satisfy the public than BP, which is bleeding money and reputation all over the gulf. Never mind that their very existence depends on engineering expertise that government should never dream of. I started to say, “could never dream of,” but dreaming is the primary occupation of the left. But also,
- During this entire affair, it has struck me as a great irony that BP is precisely the sort of company that these Democrats have worked to appropriate and make of the largest American entities of the automobile, insurance, housing, health care, financial, energy..well, basically any industries that they can get their hands on. BP is essentially a publicly subsidized, highly regulated national utility, howbeit of the British rather than the American government. Britain has been a socialistically inclined democracy for many decades now, and in Britain BP needn’t be constrained by competition, of which there is none.. The American Democrats now in power, have been relative wannabes, though I must grant that they have been remarkably successful, accomplishing in less than 2 years (yes, they had a bit of a head start WITH Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) what it took decades for European democracies to accomplish. If European democracies are socially and fiscally burning about the thorax and shoulders, America already has a lot more than its tail on fire.
Republicans usually do a lousy job of making these distinctions. Perhaps they judge it too nuanced for a political sound bite. Let’s please put the morality of corporations behind us. Primarily interested in profit, corporations will act in whatever manner that public policy dictates, whether that is to resist or cooperate with government. If the free market pays, they are conservative, if cooperation with government pays, they are as fascist as necessary. American liberals are trying to make fascists of American industries.
And by the way, though liberals pose as the aspiring agents of at least relatively equalizing incomes in the public, for industry leaders, government officials, and the preferably supportive voices of mass media (be assured that they are working on ways to suppress other voices), they aspire to no such thing. I sometimes wonder if conservatives should at least sarcastically propose that all government and corporate officials and all media employees and celebrities should have their compensation reduced to that of the average American. That might pose the end of leftism as we know it. I imagine that they would think, though carefully express it, that of course these people should get more: they are critical to the proper functioning of society. Also only implied would be, “After all, what do all the peons know?”
But an ordinary language definition of a shakedown is to demand something at pain of a threat. In this case, the threat was a bully-pulpit assault on BP’s reputation. So, how was it not one? A few days ago when asked if BP had refused anything that was asked of them, Secretary of The Interior Ken Salazar stared silently with mouth agape. Obviously nothing leapt to mind. Of course BP cooperates. They’re business is at stake. So, why is the American government necessary to steward and dole out payments from an escrow account of BP’s money? Everyone says they trust Kenneth Feinberg, who has been assigned to administer it. And, one surely hopes that (contrary to the administration’s history) favor will not be given to political friends. But I might cynically ask, “Why would Obama stand aside and let BP take all the credit for resolving grievances? How in fact, will the fund be administered to balance legitimate claims against the long-term interest of BP’s many thousands of employees and British and American shareholders, the interest of many peoples’ crucial pension funds? In this case, and this case only, I wish British pensioners could vote in American elections.