Thought and Intent

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

Multiple settlements  

  • 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

Potential Psychopaths Us All

In the article Three Things to Know to Hold Wells Fargo Accountable the author Lynn Parramore (Senior Research Analyst at Institute of New Economic Thinking) relays what William Lazonick (Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Lowell) identified as the three things we need to know: 1) American businesses have become stock manipulation machines; 2) focusing on short-term stock prices leads to corruption; and 3) punishment means little until executive pay is understood. The first essentially speaks to the profit maximizing intent of business and its executives and the second to the importance of it happening now if not sooner while the third is that the entire scheme is ultimately profitable because of the enormous size of the gains. So now that we know these things, what are we to do about it? Continue reading

Clueless in a Human World

The authors of a recent HBR article, Wells Fargo and the Slippery Slope of Sales Incentives, provided the answer “to meet sales quotas and earn incentives” to the question “why they (they being the lower level employees of Wells Fargo) did this in the first place.” The “this” being unethical if not illegally selling and charging customers for services they did not need or request. It seems that the perspective here is that the employees where at fault, after all they are the ones who acted fraudulently! Continue reading

A Theory for Leadership for a Human World

Leadership, according to Peter Northouse (2010, p 3), is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. So then is evidence of leadership the achievement of a goal by a group? Does the goal matter? Do the means matter? Continue reading

Leadership Untainted

When most people talk of leadership what they are really speaking to is the highest levels in the management hierarchy. They are talking about the legitimate authority positions in an organization. They speak of leadership as if it was a noun, a name we attribute to a person or position. Continue reading

Our Fires Consume Us

How often, in either your workplace or community or on corporate television news, have you heard questions asked such as who allowed this to happen or what caused that individual do this after the occurrence of an undesired outcome or terrible incident? I suspect quite often. Continue reading

Work-Life Balance

The balance of work and life is something many of us are concerned about and struggle with. That is we are concerned about the amount of time (and attention) that work demands from us in our life. Though several tactics have been offered these tend to make the conflict between work and life tolerable they don’t dissolve the conflict.

So let’s give this—the whole idea of work and life being in balance—a bit more critical thought. Continue reading

Why GM Acted as It Did

As we learned that GM had waited until 2014 to recall vehicles having a defective ignition switch which causes the car to suddenly shut off rendering brakes, steering and airbags non-functional which can lead to accidents killing people I am reminded of a brief discussion about GM’s tunnel vision in the post Gravity of Vision.

 

“It is unfortunate that many believe that it is not what the vision is, but what the vision does that makes it so important. For many having a goal is all that matters.  Accordingly most visions are in effect mission statements—what some might call BHAG (big hairy audacious goal).

As illustration consider GM’s vision, “Design, Build and Sell the World’s Best Vehicles.”  This speaks not of people but of things—yes the objects—the organization makes.  While GM’s statement offers a far-reaching noble goal it does not offer guidance to people toward developing and maintaining meaningful relationships with each other and the work.

When results-only becomes the thing then meaning is lost as everything becomes objectified.  Moreover as concern for results dominate relationships all interaction among people become mere transactions. Unavoidably, motivation turns to movement caused external authority and people become disconnected from the work.  Because engagement in the work turns superficial keeping people on task toward results guides the approach of management.”

 

I think it speaks to why GM acted as they did—choosing not to incur costs in recalling and replacing the defective part—and likely will continue to act similarly in the future unless management changes the profit-only intent and correspondingly the morally bankrupt vision of the business.