It’s About Being Responsible

The intent of this site is to offer an informed perspective on the business of business.  That said, the following, while at first glance might seem to not align, a little further critical thinking places it squarely within the realm of the business of business, more specifically the identification of the responsibility business or more accurately is it a problem of irresponsibility with business as practiced.  

If we continue to ask why, then we often get to the root toward a better understanding.

A Problem 

After a mass shooting event—and there are many each year—the go-to-utterance “our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims”, is heard from the public office holders we see at the other end of the camera.  But then, without missing a beat, their go-to-response to the shooting in the moment they unflinchingly offer their questions of exploration into why this particular tragic event, placing the sole blame on the shooter.  It is the mass shooting version of pilot error, disregarding the entire system facilitating it happening.

Mass killing-by-gun happens so often it is endemic in the U.S.—no other industrialized country comes close!  The U.S. presents the context (a.k.a. system). No, the U.S. doesn’t have a higher incidence of mental illness but the U.S. does have a higher market penetration of gun sales/ownership.  Moreover research has shown that most people with mental illness are not violent and so the link between mental illness and mass shooters is a weak one at best—far more other factors are involved.

The U.S. has the highest per capital firearm ownership in the world.  A PEW Research Center survey found thirty-two percent of U.S. adults are gun owners, yet the number of guns per 100 people is 120—a little over one gun for every person.  Clearly, gun ownership in the U.S. is highly concentrated within a segment of the population.  What a profitable business strategy, getting your customers to buy more of your stuff—now that’s customer loyalty!

Why?

Why do these mass killings continue to happen?  As noted above, the avoidance tactic of placing focus solely on the specific shooter in moment,  diverts attention and effort away from actually understanding the facilitating system that makes it possible, if not probable.  With each individual presenting his unique story, we never really get to understanding the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence in general.  Yet, increasing the number of guns in the mix by arming teachers, resource officers and additional police presence are offered as the solution.  This will likely increase gun sales, but it doesn’t get at the root.

So, the story line is that there is not enough political will (a.k.a. moral courage) to stop it–to make it so that he can’t or is far less likely to happen!  

Why?

What’s influencing the political will?  Agency theory: Industry money flowing to elected officials with authority over policy transforms elected officials from agents of the public (i.e. care and concern for people’s well-being) to agents of the industry (i.e. care and concern for an industry’s profit ).  

Why?

Why the change in agency? There is just too much money to be had from those in pursuit of profit through growth in market penetration.  We mustn’t forget, how much money one accumulates (a.k.a. wealth) is the measure of success in capitalist society. There is little to be had in caring for peoples’ well-being and a boat load to be had in facilitating the intent of business.

Why?

Why is this continuing to happen?  

The simplest, logical and most obvious answer is because they can: that is to say, the system is facilitating industry, political officials—as well as shooters—so they can?

It’s just business (ah hum, ‘what’s in-it-for-me’), nothing personal!  

The Overarching Question

Since the above applies to all types of industry—all industries have lobbyists—we must ask, what is the meaning of corporate social responsibility when the intent of business is the maximization of short-term profit?  In effect, with the corporate intent not encompassing responsibility to society—actually running counter to it—then corporate social responsibility is an oxymoron. To the business minded a society (of people) is a resource for exploitation, not a responsibility—no different than any and all other resources (think Nature)!  

So here is something to think about: Should business/industry adapt to and meet the needs of people in society or should people in society adapt to and meet the needs of business/industry?

Recanting The Common Good

Of late there are two global issues—climate change and COVID-19 pandemic–that make quite clear what those who are in charge of human society truly care about and are concerned with.

As twenty-six climate summits have come and gone, humankind has yet to truly commit to doing what is absolutely necessary to avert our very own destruction—think self-annihilation, suicide. So, why is global warming not seen as the existential threat that it is? Having this understanding with its corresponding action will hurt the economy and thus impinge upon profit-making.

So, again, why is global warming not seen as an existential issue but a (business) problem nonetheless?
 It offers the potential for increased environmental regulation (government overreach is the problem)
 It increases the cost of doing business (but of course will be passed on)
 It increases companies’ healthcare benefit cost (but of course will be passed on)
 It impinges upon profit
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.
Similarly, environmental cancer-causing pollution is a concern, because:
 It offers the potential for increased government—e.g. EPA/OSHA–regulation (government overreach impinges on profit)
 It shortens the life of productive workers
 It reduces the labor pool
 It increases companies’ costs, such as healthcare benefit cost (which can be passed on)
 It impinges upon profit, unless your business is in the symptom relief/treatment business

Today’s other global issue is the COVID-19 pandemic. Why haven’t the COVID-19 vaccine producers, as well as elected officials, enabled vaccine manufacture and thus distribution world-wide that would (likely) stop the spread of the virus and the emergence of future mutations?
 There’s relatively no material gain in doing so
 Belief that maximizing (their) profit is a right—patent protection
 Demand must continue to exceed supply (for maximum profit of course)
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In The Mind of Those In Charge
Why do the business-minded (which includes elected officials) continue decision-making as they do?
 Economic (self) interests!
 Pursuit of unlimited material growth requires it!
 Mustn’t let indisputable scientific facts get in the way of pursuing what we want!
 There is so much more (yet) to exploit!
 There is so much more profit (yet) to accumulate!

Are the business-minded behaving rationally?
 To be rational in behavior essentially means to act in accordance with one’s intent
 If the intent is to pursue unlimited material growth—material self-interest—then of course the behavior is in relation to this intent: it is rational behavior.

But the essential question to explore is, is the intent rational in the context of life itself?
Rational, or in relation to what? Sustaining one’s viability as a living being?
 With the overarching intent being the pursuit of unlimited economic growth, and given a finite Natural world, the intent is not sustainable or as the business-minded like to say, it is not scalable.

Then, why don’t these people simply stop?
 Their worldview/system of orientation—the basis of capitalism—is about economic growth, not the common good and human progress, so their reasoning makes sense. That is, in the context of capitalism it is quite rational.
 They are addicted to material gain/profit

Need to Kick the Habit
The following question explains the above while answering itself:
Why is it that in the US (at least) the issue that its expensive we can’t afford it is raised when it comes to policy/legislation addressing the common good (e.g. climate change, universal healthcare, education) yet when it comes to policy/legislation benefiting the wealthy class (e.g. tax cuts for the wealth, funding war) the policy/legislation passes without the issue ever being raised?

This recanting of the care and concern for the common good, for humankind, is not an inevitability in human society. It is a human made phenomenon grounded in the worldview of capitalism, but it is not the only worldview upon which human society can be ordered. Contrary to what some have claimed way back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, there are alternatives.

The intent of life doesn’t have to be material self-interest maximization—a Hunger Game existence—which only serves the wealthy class. It is not our destiny to experience life in a society of competing individuals each seeking his/her self-interest—of a bunch of MEs wanting it all–with total disregard for the effect upon others. Isn’t this the kind of behavior you’d expect from an addict?

Acknowledging the need to kick the habit, to cease supporting (and cooperating with) business as usual means rejecting the maxim that ensuring the profitability of the corporation outweighs sustaining the viability of life itself. It means that you understand that conducting business as usual intensifies our problems, that it is suicidal to continue to do so. In the larger scheme of a life affirming worldview, human life is not merely a resource for the economic-engine.

It’s Happening, Continually

Have you ever called customer support only to hear the sound of a recorded message, “ you are (or your call is) very important to us…” So, you wait and wait for an actual person who you hope might be of some help.  As you wait you are feed sales pitch upon sales pitch to purchase more of what the company sells. Yes, your call is an opportunity for the business you are calling to get more from you—of course your call is important to them! Continue reading

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

A Drowning Class and the Invisible Hand

Whether as a symptom of or as a commentary about the state of affairs of the U.S. economy we hear many (pundits especially) say the middle class is declining… if not disappearing. A growing number of people the state of affairs is quite stormy as they are finding it harder and harder to stay above water, yet for a select few who are smoothly sailing along it has never been better. Continue reading

If We Cared About Our Development

A recent HBR article (Why companies are so bad at treating employees like people) by Herminia Ibarra speaks to the need to re-invent the workplace if there is to be human development at work. As Ibarra characterizes it, this re-invention requires “reimagining complex organizations so that they are more human and agile.” The implication seems to be that making organizations more human and agile involves solving the “thorny problem of developing people.” Continue reading

Is that all there is?

According to the mission of our materialist egoistic system of economics (aka capitalism) we are to accumulate, without limit, as much material wealth as we can and (individually) we are to do this by maximizing the satisfaction of our individual material self-interest. In other words one leads a successful life to the extent that one has realized material gain and amassed wealth—the greater the material gain, the more worthy and the more successful one is. Accordingly this is to be one’s goal in life, it is all there is to life itself! Necessarily, it follows that the pinnacle of self-interest behavior, of getting as much as possible for one’s self, having it all for one’s self, is greed—there is little doubt in this philosophy of life greed is good! 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

In The Larger Scheme of Things

What happens when the larger-scheme-of-things is ignored and denied out of existence? Continue reading

Roll The Dice or Cause a Game Change

The worldview underlying the capitalist system requires a way-of-being-in-the-world that has us believing that we each are independent competing entities each destined to pursue as much material gain as one can in our individual lifetime—the measure of life is the material gains accumulated. Accordingly we are led to think of our self and each other as separate independent entities, each seeking his/her own gain—there is no ‘We’ just a bunch of ‘Me’s’ consumed by getting and spending. Accordingly we seek dominance and control over everything out there in order to exploit them in service to the satisfaction of our immediate wants. It is all in the name and game of material self-interest gain and wealth accumulation. According to this worldview the only significant value is material value. Consequently, when value means material value, it is no wonder the reality we’ve created is one of strife, chaos and suffering. Continue reading