3A. SENSING THE UNSEEN WORLD LUXURY Issue 2014 JPG High Res Photography By Alan Briskin – San Francisco, California




Becoming Conscious Of Capitalism

The Death & Rebirth Of Prosperity’s Dream

Corporate Persons
What Does Not Serve Me Shall Not Be My Concern
Time Range: 1985-Present




Who even knew that corporations had legal rights as if they were actual persons?  In a strange twist of legal gymnastics, the originating idea of a corporation being birthed and legitimized by a government grant had been transformed into a corporate body beholden to no one but its owners.

Economic self-interest was the law of the land, and the corporate persons cultivated in such an environment could be as sweet as your dear auntie or as self-serving and weird as the guy down the block wearing just a raincoat.  However, both would be legally obligated to prioritize their shareholder economic interests over other concerns such as the corporation’s effect on human beings or the earth’s resources.  Economists even have language for this.  Externality is the effect on others, positive or negative, by corporate action that is not calculated into the cost of the goods or services.

“An externality,” wrote the economist Milton Friedman, “is the effect of a transaction … on a third party who has not consented to or played any role in the carrying out of that transaction.”  He offers a relatively benign example of a man who must clean his shirt more often due to smoke emissions from a local power plant.  He tends to minimize the effects by calling them “neighborhood effects” or “spillovers.”  In a free market, positive and negative externalities theoretically cancel each other out or are eventually internalized by the corporation.  However, a less cheerful view might look something like this: persons who dissociate their actions from their effects on others are called sociopaths.



EDITOR’S NOTE: “Becoming Conscious of Capitalism” by Alan Briskin is a serial journal of cogent reflections and irreverent insights on the social effects of capitalism and the roots of partisan politics.  Pairing prose with HDR photography and “flash points” drawn from current and historical perspectives, the author seeks to recover lost wisdom and courageous action beyond the shouting and noise of today’s headlines. 





One Response to “SENSING THE UNSEEN: Becoming Conscious Of Capitalism – The Death & Rebirth Of Prosperity’s Dream: Corporate Persons – What Does Not Serve Me Shall Not Be My Concern – Time Range: 1985-Present”

  1. Dr. Rose Dyson | 06.27.14 at 2:08 PM said…

    An excellent quick assessment of unbridled capitalism and the harmful fall out to the public interest at large. We need more discussion on how to revitalize capitalism to better serve us in the future. But this is unlikely to happen unless we confront the infantalizing nature of our current consumer driven economy. The greatest emphasis today in global capitalism is not to serve real needs but to focus on creating new ones in those persons who have the ability to pay well. Consequently the poor and marginalized are left out. Children in the developed world are especially exploited commercially by clever advertising campaigns. Nag factor strategies are designed to wear parents down until they give up and fork out to buy peace for themselves and profit for merchants of items seldom necessary for their children and often harmful to their development. This is not a promising trend for long term sustainability.