Upon watching an interview with Alex Gibney about his latest documentary, “The Crime of the Century”, which presents the fraudulent behavior of the pharmaceutical industry in selling harmful drugs, namely OxyContin. But beyond this the pharmaceutical industry (a.k.a. Big Pharma) is keeping their hold on Covid-19 vaccine patent protection (a.k.a. profit generator) to the detriment of (desperately) needed Covid-19 global vaccine manufacturing/distribution as well as diagnostics and oxygen.
Yet, I found myself saying wait, wait this is not the only noteworthy crime. In fact it is but one of many perpetrated upon people of society by industry, all in the name of profit. Here is a list of just a few:
- Tobacco industry
Tobacco has killed and continues to kill people
- Automobile Industry
- Chemical industry
Forever chemicals have killed and continue to kill people
- Pharmaceutical Industry
OxyContin is addictive and has killed and continues to kill people
- Big Tech (Media) Industry
Disseminating public health misinformation has killed and continues to kill people
- Fossil Fuel Industry
Burning of fossil fuels has killed and continues to kill by destroying the life supporting environment—water, air, soil, climate–thus making life on earth uninhabitable
It should be noted that, in each case, the potential harm to people was known, so these are probably not from missteps/mistakes but reflect conscious decisions in support of a corporate profit goal absent of any concern for collateral damage/external cost. What’s operative in regard to the conduct of business is external (societal) cost or collateral damage and the internal private profit—the former doesn’t show up on the balance sheet.
Corporations, in these industries, are often fined– which generally is a very small fraction of the realized profit—thus giving the appearance of justice served but (usually) without having to admit wrong doing or responsibility. Case in point, to put an end to lawsuits J & J and its distributors settled to pay $26 billion as a result of their part in the opioid crisis—a relatively small cost of doing business. Moreover, to my knowledge, no one in authority within the companies in these industries has been convicted (let alone indicted) due to the criminality of their decisions.
On the basis of the sheer number of lives harmed or killed, it seems the fossil fuel Industry is in the lead for causing The Crime of the Century (if not in the history of humankind, spanning both the 20th and 21st centuries). As reported here, between 2015 and 2019 the 5 biggest fossil fuel companies spent at least $1bn in lobbying efforts denying the existence of climate change and investigations showed these companies knew for decades about the causal link between their products and climate change.
What’s the Commonality?
It appears, crime does pay if you do it through the auspices of a capitalist corporation. The communality lies in the fact that each are grounded in and are practitioners of capitalism. The corporations are doing what is required: Each is seeking to increase/maximize their profit absent of responsibility for external costs. As previously explained here and even here, capitalism has no grounding in morality. Hence if we are waiting and hoping for those in authority within these corporations (a.k.a. leaders) to demonstrate sound moral judgment, we’ll be waiting a very long time. Such action requires a very different mindset than that of the current business-minded who occupy the C-suite.
We do shape the leaders we get—leaders emerge out of our societal values in practice. Hence the above list!
We Participate in the Reality We Experience
Unless the system changes, the list will grow–nothing will change. To change of the system requires us to change what we actually care about—change what we think about and what matters–and with it we’ll change the intent of business and the experiences provided.
“For both the rich and the poor, life is dominated by an ever growing current of problems, most of which seem to have no real and lasting solution. Clearly we have not touched the deeper causes of our troubles…the ultimate source of all these problems is in thought itself, the very thing of which our civilization is most proud, and therefore the one thing that is “hidden” because of our failure seriously to engage with its actual working in our own individual lives and in the life of society.”
― David Bohm