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August 3, 2005 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever thought your boss might be a sociopath? According to some, you just might be right. A recent film called The Corporation actually goes so far as to argue that American-style free markets select for sociopathic tendencies. While some on the left seem all too eager to chime in with their self-righteous “I told you sos,” others on the right dismiss all such notions to defend free markets with open contempt… Which is strange when you consider that free market theory owes its existence to Darwin’s theories of natural selection, which many on the right don't accept. Seriously--help me sort this out, or else I'm going to have to conclude we've all gone crazy.
posted by all-seeing eye dog (86 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
What? a new movie??? ... The one from 2003?
posted by Napierzaza at 2:45 PM on August 3, 2005


Any system will eventually breed two sorts of people -- people who are good at doing that which is in the system's "mission statement" (also known as the producers), and people who are good at playing the system (also known as the sociopaths and, more often than not, "boss").

The larger the system, the more chances that the guy who can shout loudest and inflict the most damage (i.e. disciplinary measures) on those who disagree with him will end up at the top.
posted by clevershark at 2:51 PM on August 3, 2005


Between 2003 and 2005... Call it trickle-down cinematics.

Corporations, schmorporations. How'z about entire branches of government?

Is discriminating between political and socioeconomic versions of "executive power" simply a moot, redundant, or trifling exercise at this point?
posted by objet at 2:58 PM on August 3, 2005


What? a new movie??? ... The one from 2003?

Not "new," Napierzaza... "Recent."

To me, 2003's pretty recent! (But I'm getting old these days, so my sense of time just keeps getting more off...)

Also, take what clevershark said, and tada! Hello, Ambassador Bolton (but that's a derail)...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 3:01 PM on August 3, 2005


For some leftist metooism, my interest in political activism started decreasing when I realized what kind of people rise to power and why. Oh well. Maybe someone will come up with a way for lazy hippies to counter these "sociopaths," but I doubt it.
posted by MillMan at 3:02 PM on August 3, 2005


2003 is the middle ages in Internet Time. This is hardly new news. That being said, it's a really novel thesis.

Also, a bit of a nit to pick. Your "boss" isn't the sociopath, rather the institution for which both you and he work. The corporation itself - as an entity - is sociopathic.
posted by absalom at 3:02 PM on August 3, 2005


This blurb is a mischaracterization of the movie: it appears to say that sociopathic people are selected to rise in the corporation. The movie never says that; its point is that the corporation itself is a sociopathic person. Corporations are legally people, and the rules which they operate by are calculating and unfeeling, exactly like a sociopaths.
posted by Osmanthus at 3:05 PM on August 3, 2005


A corporation's primary (and arguably only) goal is to make a profit for the stockholders. It cannot be otherwise. So whenever there is a choice to be made between doing what is moral and doing what is profitable - and such choices will inevitably arise - the corporation will almost always choose the latter. It's really not any more complicated than that.

A human being who behaves in this manner might indeed be classified as a sociopath.

The thing is, all organizations (political, economic, social, what have you) tend to have the effect of replacing the individual's values with their own. Men who would never grab someone off the street and torture them will do so when they wear a uniform and answer to a commanding officer. People who would never keep silent about the sexual abuse of children will when their church wants them to. This principle has even been verified scientifically .

I would argue that the corporation is one of the worst offenders in this respect, but it's certainly not the only one. The question is, do corporations do anything at all that justifies their existence? I mean, churches are an outgrowth of spirituality, so whatever their crimes, I think a strong case can be made that they have a right to exist. I'd make similar arguments for schools and governments. But what about corporations? Certainly we can produce and distribute goods without them. So why do we allow them to exist?
posted by Clay201 at 3:06 PM on August 3, 2005


absalum and Osmanthus: your points are well taken. i might have been clearer about that...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 3:07 PM on August 3, 2005


duh.
posted by keswick at 3:14 PM on August 3, 2005


But what about corporations? Certainly we can produce and distribute goods without them. So why do we allow them to exist?

I'm not sure what you're asking here. They exist because they are a more efficient means of producing and distributing goods, and raising and organizing capital. They provide a good mix of legal and tax protections with the ability to pool resources among a group of investors. It's like asking why we allow money to exist, when we could just barter for everything.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:18 PM on August 3, 2005


Clay201: good question. i've actually been working on an argument that both communism and corporatism have common roots in a very similar sort of collectivist impulse--really, big companies and governments aren't all that much different in the way they operate.

Aside: Interesting factoid I learned last night (take this with a grain of salt; I learned it from a TV show). Apparently, Coca-Cola controls approximately 75% percent of the world's soda market, and yet, employs only about 300,000 people world wide. When you consider the amount of economic resources a bohemoth like that sucks up, it seems absurd that they employ so few people! That figure seemed incredibly low to me, so if anyone knows better, please correct me...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 3:18 PM on August 3, 2005


That figure seemed incredibly low to me

Well, it doesn't include all the upstream (downstream?) workers that produce the sugar, aluminum, etc, not to mention (I assume) companies that contract with Coca-cola. The soda is just an end product. That said, what seems to make the number low? Something people forget is that it doesn't take a whole lot of people to run factories these days, and coca-cola isn't in need of a gigantic development team since their products are largely unchanging.
posted by MillMan at 3:25 PM on August 3, 2005


Actually, Coca-Cola only employs about 50,000 people worldwide; less than 10,000 of those are in the United States. Remember, though, all the company does is make and sell the syrup concentrate. The bottlers do most of the work. From the company's 10-K:
We sell the concentrates and syrups for bottled and canned beverages to authorized bottling and canning operations. In addition to concentrates and syrups for soft drink products and flavored noncarbonated beverages, we also sell concentrates for purified water products such as Dasani to authorized bottling operations.

Authorized bottlers or canners either combine our syrup with carbonated water or combine our concentrate with sweetener (depending on the product), water and carbonated water to produce finished soft drinks. The finished soft drinks are packaged in authorized containers bearing our trademarks—such as cans, refillable and non-refillable glass and plastic bottles (‘‘bottle/can products’’)—and are then sold to retailers (‘‘bottle/can retailers’’) or, in some cases, wholesalers.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:29 PM on August 3, 2005


free market theory owes its existence to Darwin’s theories of natural selection, which many on the right don't accept

I'm not going to go back into the "what do those wacky fundies think about evolution?" debate beyond stating that there is no internal inconsistency between a belief in divine intervention on earth (however flawed that view may be) and supporting that basis for free market capitalism.

In other words, nobody (even the most fundamentalist Christian) denies that within a species the more "fit" (able to compete for resources and mates) members are more likely to reproduce. That's been shown time and time again in the lab, in the field, in computer experiments, etc. That's the only premise you need to support the free market "choosing" more "fit" companies to grow and prosper.

Some people don't believe that life on earth started as one cell and got where it is today by the process mentioned above. Some don't believe that a new species diverging from old species is possible. The truth or fiction of those belefs is irrelevant to the question at hand (and if you want to debate their validity go to the other thread) since neither of those concepts is required to support the idea that "fit" companies will prosper.

Thus, there is no internal inconsistancy between a belief in divine intervention in the creation of life and a belief in the Darwinistic theory of the free market.

That said, Darwin's theories have been pretty well overrun by the neo-Darwinist synthesis and there are much better justifications for a free market system than Darwinism. But, just to clarify the last part, the beliefs are not internally inconsistant (even if both are outdated).
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:31 PM on August 3, 2005


Previously on Metafilter.... (Just for the sake of reference.)
posted by mr_roboto at 3:38 PM on August 3, 2005


all-seeing eye dog:

While Corporations weild massive influence, they don't have their own armies and police forces (in theory, anyways :tinfoil:).
posted by basicchannel at 3:47 PM on August 3, 2005


I don't know that free-market theory takes its beat from darwinism, at least not in its original codification:

The Wealth of Nations (Adam Smith) and The Origin of Species (Chuck D.) were published in the same year, and were each decades-long works.
posted by metaculpa at 4:01 PM on August 3, 2005


I don't know that free-market theory takes its beat from darwinism, at least not in its original codification:

That's also very true. I think all-seeing eye dog (correct me if I'm wrong) would be more correct to have suggested that there was a period during which darwinism was the in vogue explanation for free market theory, but it is not the "existance of" since markets have existed since the start of time and formal theories occured simultaneously.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 4:08 PM on August 3, 2005


Another opportunity to praise chomskytorrents.org, where you can download Corporation, Kissinger, Fog of War, the entire Eyes on the Prize series, and many more documentaries.
posted by mert at 4:09 PM on August 3, 2005


[corporations] exist because they are a more efficient means of producing and distributing goods, and raising and organizing capital.

More effecient than what?

And even if they are more effecient than the alternatives, why/how does that justify their existence? Fascism might very well be a more effecient means of government than democracy, but that doesn't justify its existence.

They provide a good mix of legal and tax protections with the ability to pool resources among a group of investors

Well, that's wonderful for the investors. But what about the other ninety percent of the population who aren't stocholders? What do we get out of the deal?
posted by Clay201 at 4:11 PM on August 3, 2005


But what about the other ninety percent of the population who aren't stocholders?

If you have a pension or a 401k then you are a stockholder.

As of 1998 (most recent figures I could find in a cursory Google), 48% of American households held stock. That doesn't invalidate the argument for the other 52%, but it clarifies the scope.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 4:16 PM on August 3, 2005


we also sell concentrates for purified water products such as Dasani

Whoa. I'm feeling woozy with the flu and the engines of comprehension are not firing on all cylinders, but that just seems ... odd.
posted by cairnish at 4:20 PM on August 3, 2005


metaculpa writes "The Wealth of Nations (Adam Smith) and The Origin of Species (Chuck D.) were published in the same year, and were each decades-long works."

Uhhhh.....

The Wealth of Nations (1776)
The Origin of Species (1859)

Smith and Darwin weren't even in the same generation. But the essay linked to in the FPP isn't just talking about Smith....
posted by mr_roboto at 4:22 PM on August 3, 2005


Clay201: Access to potentially dangerous products like cars and tobacco. I know I wouldn't sell anything like that if my own assets and livelihood weren't protected by the corporate veil.
posted by mullacc at 4:24 PM on August 3, 2005


That Adam Smith name sounds like a made-up name to me. Is he real?
posted by Postroad at 4:27 PM on August 3, 2005


Mr_roboto, what the hell was I talking about? I am an idiot.

But that does make sense. Darwin's codification of theory certainly didn't cause Dutch tulip-traders to engage in complicated options exchanges in the preceding century.

Another point is that the American protestant justifications of the free market are moral arguments, and not scientific ones. The Protestant work ethic, Puritan virtues, and the duty to build the shining city on the hill that was protestant America - all of these carry over into the modern day in an interesting form. I see it a great deal in the modern "Prosperous" genre of charismatic preaching, which "helps you help God", to both save your soul and secure that promotion. It seems like the work ethic is alive and well; but with the ideal of redemption through work replaced by a crazy entitlement.

Oh, duh. I know what it is. It's Calvinism! The prosperous are prosperous BECAUSE they're virtuous. And the poor are poor because they low, and base, and probably the wrong color. Social darwinism puts a nice pseudo-scientific veneer on that, for those who need one.

Now, the argument that it's actually Calvinism that kick-started Capitalism is much more interesting:
Here's an article that's kind-of about that.

Disclaimer: I'm a Quaker, and the West Side Q's don't much like the Southie Calvins. In fact, I just holied the friggin spirit out of some guy the other day - he was wearing a t-shirt that said "Calvin begat Darwin begat my Bling Bling", so I was totally justified..
posted by metaculpa at 4:29 PM on August 3, 2005


thedevildancedlightly: I think that is part of the problem. I've said this in a couple other threads, but here it goes again...

Much of the justification for the behavior of corporations comes from the fact that shareholders will, theoretically, impose their values on that corporation by selling shares, voting off directors, etc. However, the reality is that most shareholders own indirectly via 401k, mutual funds, pensions and the like - those shares are probably voted by the institution that manages the fund and may even be voted according to the recommendations of a private consulting service called ISS. If most people that own Wal-Mart don't even know they own Wal-Mart, how can they be expected to impose their values on it?
posted by mullacc at 4:30 PM on August 3, 2005


thedevildancedlightly:

Very little of that stock is held by the poor or middle class. (Relatively few of whom have pensions or 401K's). The vast majority is held by the wealthy. But even if a McDonald's cash register jockey did make money when Wal-Mart increased its profits, that still doesn't justify the existence of the corporation. When Roman emperors assumed the throne, they'd often give out a cash bonus (a few gold pieces, if I recall correctly) to the members of the lower classes. That didn't justify the existence of the dictatorship.

Would the cash register jockey be better off without the Wal-Mart stocks and, instead, with a union that forced his employer to pay him more money and give him health care benefits? I think he would. At the very least, he should be allowed a choice in the matter. Corporations work very hard to see that he doesn't have such a choice.

mullacc: I don't see any reason why other systems of production and distribution couldn't likewise limit liability sufficiently to allow cars and tobaco onto the market. I know that non-profit groups usually have a liablity shield in much the same way that corporations do.
posted by Clay201 at 4:32 PM on August 3, 2005


1. We must reject the identity limited liability corporation = entity with sociopathic behavior.

Simple fact: it's like equating apples to oranges, it can be done but it's a false identity and we're not interested in false indentites, on the contrary we should seek an approximation to truth , an identity that allows us to almost perfectly describe what we're talking about.

2. From the law point of view Corporation is a set of rules , from the economist point of view it's a set of resources.

The reasoning behind the creation of LIMITED liability corporations is pretty simple

a. few people want to risk all their money into one investment

b. yet "a lot" of money or resources are needed to produce some kind of complex goods (for instance the Space Shuttle)

c. also , few people want to -carry- all the risks even if the potential profit is enormous..they prefer less risk and less profit..or better, no risks and all profits


So the outlook is that very few capitalists are rich enough to sustain very large, risky and expensive projects. One idea to overcome the problem was taking 10, 1000 or 10000 thousand capitalists and ask them to give a company some money..to limit their risk STRICTLY to the money they invested and to force by law that the Corporation MUST do stockholders best interest, which is to make monetary profit.

d. corporation as a tool is tainted by the people running it and by stockholders and indirectly by consumer demand

If all the stockholders care about is having some more money at the end of the year they'll ask corporation to give them money and if they're lucky they'll obtain...if they're more then lucky and have the control packet of stocks they'll get ALL the money..which will be partly invested to buy more corporate power in a neverending cycle of accumulation.

If consumer demands something corporation will try to give the demanded good so as long as consumers give something back..either money or work..but corporations prefer money as it's an extremely flexible instrument.

So if group of stockholders controlling the corporations demands to extract more money from it in order to gain more power, they'll do anything and everything and they'll use their financial power and the human resouces they rented to obtain more profit. From this point comes the apparent sociopathy of corporation..which reflects most of the sociopathy of the people running it and demaning results from it.

If the most profiteable thing of the moment is scamming people into believing they should work for less and work more and with less security for the future then that will be the sociopathic goal seeked by corporation...who don't always necessarily seek to have more monetary profit..sometime even preparing a market like China is more interesting, sometime control over the workforce is the primary goal

Meanwhile something is needed to keep people on their toes working and producing and actually lusting after some objective (either a car or cure for cancer or whatever people want).

This all may work and keep people too busy working/studying/relaxing and spending..therefore too busy to fight each other, making any government happy...but also creating strong social differences (expecially in income and accumlated capital and work conditions) that generate enrmous amount of social tension. If you add to this that future constantly looks less secure and privatization of healthcare and social security are on the roll, no wonder an increasing number of people is very afraid of the future..and not an irrational fear either.

But management by fear doesn't yeld good result on the long term, as (primarily) the Russian experience showed us.
Hey who cares, the next generation will pay for us ! Expecially when it's NOT our next generation that's going to pay.
posted by elpapacito at 4:35 PM on August 3, 2005


Oh, one other point: If I own a hundred thousand shares in Wal-Mart, I have a lot more say so in what they do than someone who owns a hundred shares. So to whatever extent this shareholding arrangement allows the ordinary citizens to participate in governing corporations (and it's actually not all that much; for example, stockholders could only raise wages so much before they cut into profits. No profits, no Wal-Mart), those who own more control more.

On preview: Spellcheck doesn't have "shareholding" but it does have "slaveholding." I'm not making this up.

Oh, it also doesn't have "spellcheck."
posted by Clay201 at 4:40 PM on August 3, 2005


Clay201: Non-profit groups are corporations.
posted by mullacc at 4:44 PM on August 3, 2005


Given that Wal-Mart had 4.2 billion shares outstanding as of March, one who owns 100,000 shares does have more of a say than one who owns 100, but neither has a say which is of any significance whatsoever...
posted by clevershark at 4:49 PM on August 3, 2005


So if group of stockholders controlling the corporations demands to extract more money from it in order to gain more power, they'll do anything and everything and they'll use their financial power and the human resouces they rented to obtain more profit. From this point comes the apparent sociopathy of corporation..which reflects most of the sociopathy of the people running it and demaning results from it.

No.

Let's take it one point at a time.

if group of stockholders controlling the corporations demands to extract more money from it in order to gain more power

There just isn't an "if" about it. Corporations seek profits. Period. It is what they do. When they cease to do it, they cease to exist.

which reflects most of the sociopathy of the people running it and demaning results from it.

If the corporation merely reflects the morality of the people who run it, then why do corporations all act alike? No matter the country, culture, time or place, they all do more or less the same stuff and they do it repeatedly. It's like a huge machine capable of replicating itself. Sure, people create the corporations, work for them, act on their behalf. And a piece of paper or a stack of money can't make a moral decision; only people do that. But if the behavior of the corporation merely "reflects ... the sociopathy of the people running it," then changing the people in charge of them would change their behavior. And clearly this isn't the case.
posted by Clay201 at 4:51 PM on August 3, 2005


we also sell concentrates for purified water products such as Dasani to authorized bottling operations

concentrates for purified water? What do they reconstitute these concentrates with?

Bosses who act like little emperors in the office have always been a curiosity to me. I always think they must have terrible lives outside work, but this is the one place they can demand cowering respect. But the fascinating thing was that they wanted people to cower. I had some overbosses like that in my early jobs, but usually my immediate supervisors were fine. Money and power are real tests of character.
posted by leapingsheep at 4:54 PM on August 3, 2005


mullac: I'm not one hundred percent sure about your point re: the terminology. I know that I'm a member of a non profit group and I don't recall any of the legalese involved in our formation containing the term "corporation." But if you're right and and you want to include, for the purposes of this discussion, all non profit organizations in the definition of "corporation," then that changes the ballgame entirely. I think, though, that most of us are talking only about the for-profit corporations (certainly this is the institution to which the documentary referred). I for one will stipulate that my comments apply only to the for-profits and not the non-profits.
posted by Clay201 at 4:57 PM on August 3, 2005


clevershark: Good point.
posted by Clay201 at 4:58 PM on August 3, 2005


In addition to concentrates and syrups for soft drink products and flavored noncarbonated beverages, we also sell concentrates for purified water products such as Dasani to authorized bottling operations.

They sell what? Concentrated water?
posted by uosuaq at 5:01 PM on August 3, 2005


2. From the law point of view Corporation is a set of rules , from the economist point of view it's a set of resources.

modern legal precedent has favored the notion that corporate entities are (by some weird conceptual stretch) legally people just like you and me (i apologize if this is a blatantly partisan site--i didn't check it out very thoroughly, and I'm sure the legal status of corporations is a lot less clear-cut than they make it out to be, so take it with a grain of salt), with all the same rights and protections under the law (and a few others, maybe)... which makes it seem unfair that individuals like me have to compete with them on a level playing field, in light of the fact that, as Sangermaine pointed out:

"They [corporations] exist because they are a more efficient means of producing and distributing goods, and raising and organizing capital. They provide a good mix of legal and tax protections with the ability to pool resources among a group of investors."

How am I supposed to compete with that?

I think all-seeing eye dog (correct me if I'm wrong) would be more correct to have suggested that there was a period during which darwinism was the in vogue explanation for free market theory, but it is not the "existance of" since markets have existed since the start of time and formal theories occured simultaneously.

Excellent point, thedevildancedlightly.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 5:01 PM on August 3, 2005


metaculpa, Darwin hardly invented natural selection. He simply made it rigorous. The ideas were floating around for quite some time and really came out of France.

elpapacito, your model of corporate governance is unfortunately a few hundred years behind the times. Corporate strategy is essentially never dictated by shareholders. All shareholders get to do--maybe--is vote on management. The other key point is that people are not corporations. Nobody lives their whole life for a pay check. Individual behavior is largely guided by extra-market forces and the result is the largely moral, docile populations of Western democracies. Corporations are the exact opposite. The corpoate parameters for success are completely determined by market forces. I wouldn't call this behavior sociopathic--any more than babies with their constant crying for food and shelter are sociopathic--but it's definitely not human. It is in fact a precious irony that so many conservatives are ready to regulate individual behavior but not corporate behavior.
posted by nixerman at 5:03 PM on August 3, 2005


(I'm sure what they sell is purified calcium or something. It's just hilarious, is all.)
posted by uosuaq at 5:03 PM on August 3, 2005


modern legal precedent has favored the notion that corporate entities are (by some weird conceptual stretch) legally people just like you and me (i apologize if this is a blatantly partisan site--i didn't check it out very thoroughly, and I'm sure the legal status of corporations is a lot less clear-cut than they make it out to be, so take it with a grain of salt), with all the same rights and protections under the law (and a few others, maybe)...

In the strict legal sense, corporate "citizenship" refers to where it can be sued and very little else. The Constitution grants federal jursidiction over cases between "citizens" of different states. To make that work, a corporation must be a "citizen" of somewhere. That's the most commonly mistaken part of corporate "citizenship": when lawyers start talking about the company being a citizen they're just picking where to sue it.

That said, given that a corporation is nothing more than a collection of individual interests, it makes sense to apply some other protections (most notably "no taking without just compensation") to the firm. The government can't take my factory without compensation if I own it individually, why should it be able to take it without compensation if my neighbor and I decide to own it jointly. It's the same factory, and the same ownership.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:07 PM on August 3, 2005


That "Dasani concentrate" reminds me of a Stephen Wright joke: "I bought some powdered water, but I didn't know what to add..."

In a perverse way it actually makes sense that people with qualities often associated with sociopaths would make it to the top of very large corporations. Think of it this way -- those people are far removed from the actual production processes, and likewise there is no way that they're able to truly keep track of the company's day-to-day finances or anything like that. Their daily tasks literally have nothing to do with what the company actually does; they're more there to try and steer the ship and perform PR duties. However when trouble arises they are inevitably the ones to get scrutinized, and so their primary skill, in the end, has to be the ability to drive wedges between people so as to keep the balance of power on their own side. In the end the only thing which they really have true control over is their own power, and they will (and really, must) do anything to keep that power, regardless of the overall moral quality of the actions taken.
posted by clevershark at 5:08 PM on August 3, 2005


nixerman writes "Darwin hardly invented natural selection. He simply made it rigorous."

Actually he just pointed out that it happened in nature.
posted by clevershark at 5:09 PM on August 3, 2005


tddl, no, corporations are persons. They have rights. These rights, technically, come from God and are guaranteed by the Constitution. Corporate personhood goes far, far beyond just questions of liability.

all-seeing eye dog, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to compete with that. If you accept that people should be/are primarily guided by financial gain, then there's just no reason to see Corporations as strange and exotic persons. This might be the real problem. If you are going to hold Corporations to the higher standards of "real people", first you've got to decide what those higher standards are.
posted by nixerman at 5:18 PM on August 3, 2005


uosuaq writes "They sell what? Concentrated water?"

There are some flavored waters in the Dasani brand; it must mean those....
posted by mr_roboto at 5:21 PM on August 3, 2005


tddl, no, corporations are persons. They have rights. These rights, technically, come from God and are guaranteed by the Constitution. Corporate personhood goes far, far beyond just questions of liability.

I mentioned "citizenship" as being sued, and that in general companies are protected from takings without just compensation. Which exact rights are you so concerned with, and why are they wrong?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:29 PM on August 3, 2005


In my experience as a trade journalist I can attest to the fact that the majority of corporate officers are not only sociopaths but shrewd con-men -- well, you have to be a little sociopathic to be a con-man, after all. I mean, seriously, when you look at the SEC filings of most corporations and the insane things their forward-looking statements declare it makes you wonder how some of these companies stay afloat.

When Barnes and Noble first came online (Amazon had already established a strong presence by then) they projected future earnings based on two citings from analyst reports: one that said the number of internet users would double in the ensuing year and another that asserted the number of people buying books online would also double in the next fiscal year. Their solid conclusion? The number of people buying books from B&N.com would double in the next year.
posted by RodgerJ at 5:33 PM on August 3, 2005


Their solid conclusion? The number of people buying books from B&N.com would double in the next year.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems that if BN.com got about 10% of the online business, and Amazon got 90%, then if the total number of book-buyers online doubled and their market share remained constant then each of their businesses would also double. You can question the assumptions, but that seems hardly like a "con-man" statement in the middle of the .com boom. In hindsight we know that business didn't really double every year, but that doesn't make them "con men".
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:36 PM on August 3, 2005


The USA isn't exactly a free market. No one really knows what it would be like if there was a truly laissez-faire government in place today. And I'm talking no patents, no trademarks, no taxes (and thus no tax shelters and loopholes). There are a lot of forces at play here and we should be careful how we tamper with them...
posted by knave at 5:37 PM on August 3, 2005


So what about the corporation that donates food, water Dasani, communications etc during times of emergency?
I guess you could chalk it up to marketing or tax breaks or something, but my experience is that the leadership of said companies feel an obligation to support their communities.
There are thieves and their are samaritans. I think this is true in the corporate world as well.
posted by forforf at 5:48 PM on August 3, 2005


forforf, one thing that the documentary mentions is that the same corporations often give with one hand and take with the other - they may contribute to neighborhood beautification projects, or [with much fanfare] donate money and products during crises, but they are the same companies that lobby for less federal oversight and fewer and less stringent pollution controls, that run sweatshops or exploitative businesses overseas, etc. Which raises the question of how much of the altruism is simply PR-related, and how much comes out of an earnest desire to do good? If the same company plays the thief and the samaritan in different situations, is it really smart to assume that they're really a samaritan?

Can't say that I'm sure I agree with the thesis of the film, but if you take the time to investigate, there are damned few corporations that seem to act out of any kind of real altruism, no matter how many flashy "helping the world" programs they list on their website. After all, the purpose of a corporation isn't to help the world, it's to pursue profit.
posted by ubersturm at 5:59 PM on August 3, 2005


forforf writes "I guess you could chalk it up to marketing or tax breaks or something, but my experience is that the leadership of said companies feel an obligation to support their communities."

That obligation never extends to a necessity for donating resources anonymously though. On the contrary they're great ways of getting your name out there, and it makes for good photos to slip into the annual report under the ever-present "Our company and the Community" section.
posted by clevershark at 6:11 PM on August 3, 2005


Can I just make one observation -- when companies do start to act according to a moral code that tends to enrage far more people than acting amorally ("amoral" as in "following all applicable rules, but not attempting to impose a moral code"). The most prominent example that I can think of is when a pharmacy decides that dispensing the Morning-After Pill is immoral and decides to stop dispensing it. All of a sudden everyone wishes that the firm would just go back to acting according to rules and regulations and stop trying to follow a contested moral code.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 6:14 PM on August 3, 2005


There was a very good and very under-rated film made sometime in the 80s that dealt with this very issue. It was called, I believe, "The Coca Cola Kid" and starred Eric Roberts as a freelance corporate troubleshooter who was slightly more sociopathic than the corporations he tried to rescue.
posted by RodgerJ at 6:15 PM on August 3, 2005


clay201:

There just isn't an "if" about it. Corporations seek profits. Period. It is what they do. When they cease to do it, they cease to exist.

Because you said so ? Profits aren't the exclusive goal of a corporation , suffices it to say that if "my corporation" has potential to extract profit for 3 years, but only for the first and the third year because of some investment required in the 2nd year (rendering my 2nd year annual profit to 0). In practice, if I only look at the 2nd year I should "cease" my corporation at the end of the 2nd year because it's no longer profiteable. Therefore corporation don't end when they cease to produce monetary profit, they end when there's no outlook for profit.

If the corporation merely reflects the morality of the people who run it, then why do corporations all act alike? No matter the country, culture, time or place, they all do more or less the same stuff and they do it repeatedly.

Because the true-and-tested proven techniques to produce something (service or good) are limited and those who yeld the most profit for the longest period of time are even less numerous. That's to say two superficially different cars are produced in some place with almost exactly the same steps they're built anywhere else..the materials are going to be roughly the same, the methodoloy of assembly may change, the logistic may change but they all converge toward the most profiteable/less expensive method avaiable at a moment in time and space.

At the end constrains practically imposed by technology are similar, therefore corporation working on similar technology behave similarly ; as for the management methods, they also are similar even if the difference can be striking to the casual observer they usually converge toward predictable combination of local culture + human psycology. Why reinvent the wheel if that's not profiteable ?

if the behavior of the corporation merely "reflects ... the sociopathy of the people running it," then changing the people in charge of them would change their behavior.

I did not say they merely do that , but they certainly can adapt as much as possible to the goals of people running it.

For instance if a company decides to take the risk of not revealing that a certain car model is very likely to catch fire (because of misdesign) that could be a very sensible business decision IF the people running the company evaluate the risk to be tolerable and profiteable (by
annihilating recall costs). Certainly different boards of directors can make a lot of difference.


all-seeing-eyedog:

I forgot mentioning that, indeed, corporations are considered as legal entities as this is a formal requirement to make any person (either physical or virtual) capable of having rights and obligations (lawyerfites please help on this ?). Indeed this make a corporation legally the same as a legal person, but I don't think a corporation has exactly the same rights and obligation of, for instance, the citizen of the country in which the corporation have legal residence.

Indeed you could in theory compete with a corporation if enough people decided to invest money with you taking decisions..but that's not going to happen anytime soon because you as legal person don't enjoy limited reponsability. In practice it's the limited responsability making the most significant difference.

nixerman:
Corporate strategy is essentially never dictated by shareholders. All shareholders get to do--maybe--is vote on management.

You're talking about technocracy. Not all shares have voting rights and not in every situation, but few strong concetration of stock can still decide which technocrat is going to be the next one. Obviously ordinary joe's can but give their vote (if they have any) to some other technocrat, but that creates potential for power conflict.

Nobody lives their whole life for a pay check
Yeah in your dreams.

Individual behavior is largely guided by extra-market forces and the result is the largely moral, docile populations of Western democracies.

Well then so why should any government be bothered by all this market force thing ? Let's get rid of it already and satisfy that vociferous minority claiming markets have significant influence on how people behaves.

The corporate parameters for success are completely determined by market forces.
Again with the "invisible" hand thing ? Few still believe "market forces" aren't some people decision. Also if market forces were the market equivalent of ocean trade winds (constant but predictable only up to a certain detail) then we should have absolutely no influence over them, yet we have a lot. How comes ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:15 PM on August 3, 2005


That obligation never extends to a necessity for donating resources anonymously though.

First, if the donation were anonymous we'd never know -- that's the whole thrust of anonymous donations. Second, if the firm gets something out of it as well -- even if that something is less than what it costs them to make the donation -- does that make it wrong?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 6:16 PM on August 3, 2005


Did I say that recognition made donations wrong? Hardly. However it's also clear that those donations aren't entirely altrustic, nor do they invalidate anything else that's been said in this thread so far.
posted by clevershark at 6:19 PM on August 3, 2005


If it's good enough for Mother Nature, it's good enough for me.
posted by nightchrome at 6:32 PM on August 3, 2005


Few still believe "market forces" aren't some people decision.

elpapacito, I don't know where you got this but it's just wrong. Yes, the market is nothing but a collection of many decisions made by independent agents. No, we have little control over long term economic trends. When people say the government can 'control' the market all what they mean is that the government can regulate market and thus shift various cost/benefit ratios. So no, they're not the equivalent of trade winds--not even sure where that analogy came from--but the market, even if it's regulated to death, will always find efficiency. If we could control the market in any meaningful manner you can be sure Bush wouldn't be pulling down the economical numbers he does. Again, corporate behavior is completely determined by market forces and it's the markets that are 'amoral.' If you want moral corporations you will need moral markets, period. Focusing on corporations in themselves, outside of the environment they participate in, is a non-starter.
posted by nixerman at 6:42 PM on August 3, 2005


Clay201: I made the comment about non-profits to point out that the legal entity known as a corporation isn't really what has you upset. You have a problem with the profit motive. A non-profit corporation is no different than a for-profit except that it is guided by some principle other than "to maximize shareholder value."
posted by mullacc at 6:50 PM on August 3, 2005


"all-seeing eye dog, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to compete with that"


Nixerman: Sure there is. As Sangermaine points out:

"They exist because they are a more efficient means of producing and distributing goods, and raising and organizing capital. They provide a good mix of legal and tax protections with the ability to pool resources among a group of investors."


Corporations are more efficient than I could ever be. The only way for me to compete fairly is to become an LLC so that I can enjoy the same degree of "limited responsibility" corporations do, in order to attract investors (in the process, basically becoming a corporate entity, myself). So in other words, the only way to compete with corporations is to become some form of corporation (some form of collective entity). My hunch is that's why upwards of 90 percent of privately-owned small businesses fail within their first year. I think the market for resources is overheated by the collective bargaining power of corporate entities, making the raw materials used to produce goods prohibitively expensive in smaller quantities (we all know the benefits of economies of scale), and in general, having a distorting effect on the distribution of wealth and resources.

However: I don't think that means corporations are evil. I just think it means we somehow need to provide a more level playing field that provides protections and opportunities for smaller-scale, less aggressively growth-oriented enterprises. Realistically, most small-business owners don't want to compete with the big boys: They just want to be able to be their own boss, and to make a good living.

In practice it's the limited responsability making the most significant difference.

I agree, completely.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 7:00 PM on August 3, 2005


thedevildancedlightly: In other words, nobody (even the most fundamentalist Christian) denies that within a species the more "fit" (able to compete for resources and mates) members are more likely to reproduce. That's been shown time and time again in the lab, in the field, in computer experiments, etc.

Don't you think it is more the other way around. That which survives must, by proof of its existance, be most fit. There are lots of examples of seemingly unfit adaptations that in fact turn out to be more succesful.

In the strict legal sense, corporate "citizenship" refers to where it can be sued and very little else.

That is a gross distortion and I think you know it. Here is the first link I found to the Nike free speech case, for example.

Can I just make one observation -- when companies do start to act according to a moral code that tends to enrage far more people than acting amorally

Yes indeed. I think the point being made is that corporations must be tightly regulated, not that they should become moral.
posted by Chuckles at 7:05 PM on August 3, 2005


(it might be worth noting that the limited liability corporation was originally hatched as (among other things) a humane institution. prior to its invention, if an individual wished to quit a mutual business venture, or just passed away, it was commonly an occasion for knives to be drawn. - that said, The Corporation was terrific.)


posted by ~ at 7:22 PM on August 3, 2005


elpapacito: Because the true-and-tested proven techniques to produce something (service or good) are limited and those who yeld the most profit for the longest period of time are even less numerous. That's to say two superficially different cars are produced in some place with almost exactly the same steps they're built anywhere else..the materials are going to be roughly the same, the methodoloy of assembly may change, the logistic may change but they all converge toward the most profiteable/less expensive method avaiable at a moment in time and space.

That is all unprovable theory. The problem is that markets are inherently non-linear, and there are lots of local extrema. You can make moderately good guesses at where you are on the local portion of the curve, but you can never know with any certainty at all what the rest of the curve looks like.
posted by Chuckles at 7:28 PM on August 3, 2005


elpapacito:

corporation don't end when they cease to produce monetary profit, they end when there's no outlook for profit.

realistically, there's not much difference between the two. More to the point, if this statement is true (and I think it is), then clearly it doesn't support your contention that "Profits aren't the exclusive goal of a corporation." Rather, it supports the opposite conclusion, that profits are the exclusive goal of the corporation.

I said: If the corporation merely reflects the morality of the people who run it, then why do corporations all act alike? No matter the country, culture, time or place, they all do more or less the same stuff and they do it repeatedly.

You responded: Because the true-and-tested proven techniques to produce something (service or good) are limited and those who yield the most profit for the longest period of time are even less numerous... Why reinvent the wheel if that's not profitable ?

Exactly. Corporations pursue profit. This dictates their behavior. The ideology or morality of their board of directors and/or stockholders is of very little consequence. The company could be run by the Dali Llama or by Nazis, it wouldn't make much difference. They'd still behave the same way.


mullac wrote: You have a problem with the profit motive. A non-profit corporation is no different than a for-profit except that it is guided by some principle other than "to maximize shareholder value."

Correct. Of course, there in lies (potentially) all the difference in the world.

the only way to compete with corporations is to become some form of corporation (some form of collective entity).

But there are a thousand different forms that such entities could take. They don't have to be for-profit.
posted by Clay201 at 7:59 PM on August 3, 2005


Ironically, it can be posited that a sociopath is the best, the most effective, and respected *leader*.

It is incorrect to assume that subordinates prefer a supervisor who wants to deeply interact with them at a personal level. In fact, having a mission-oriented boss who is indifferent to you as a person, but rewards or punishes based upon your performance is far more desireable.

Human interaction can be difficult, fickle, and unfair. But evaluation based on results and performance is much more honest. You know where you stand.

Having worked for a sociopath, it was a positive joy. Because if you did well, you knew it and were rewarded, and if you screwed up, you also knew it, and soon, so you could either fix the problem or expect punishment for your screw-up. There was no apprehension or doubt.

The sociopath is an emotional blank. They do not read emotions, and emotions they express are contrived. But in that way, even, if they force an emotion, you have no doubt what they are trying to communicate. They don't bluff.

You can never know from a "normal" boss if you are being evaluated solely on your work, or for some extraneous reason. Perhaps their spouse doesn't like you, or they think you are cute or ugly, smart or stupid, just anything. All of your hard work may be for nothing, as the office bimbo is always going to get a better evaluation than you.
posted by kablam at 8:08 PM on August 3, 2005


But there are a thousand different forms that such entities could take. They don't have to be for-profit.

True, but I'm kind of partial to personal responsibility...

Besides, I thought the whole point of anti-trust laws were to prevent individuals from getting squeezed out of the marketplace by collective entities? I mean, I know it's not quite that simple, but wasn't that sort of the spirit of anti-trust legislation?

And honestly, there's just something deeply depressing to me about contemplating a world that doesn't have any more village shoemakers (or some modern equivalent) in its future. There's a lot of satisfaction and pride to be taken in being your own boss, and small, but healthy, non-growth oriented businesses seem to have a stabilizing effect on communities. Why do we seem to privilege collective enterprises over individual ones so much these days?

America (at least in its mythos) has always valued the ideal of rugged individualism and private enterprise--and yet, somehow, our entire cultural and economic landscape is dominated more and more by various kinds of collectives. It's like communism snuck up on us while we weren't looking, by-passing the normal channels of governmental power all together, and going straight for the real juice: economic power.

Kablam: The sociopath is an emotional blank. They do not read emotions, and emotions they express are contrived.

Sociopaths are a little worse than what you describe, actually. Sociopaths actually enjoy inflicting suffering on others. They have feelings, just no sense of remorse. What you're describing sounds more like autism.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 8:25 PM on August 3, 2005


I like it when people attack "corporate personhood" because it puts me on notice they can safely be ignored on all matters of commerce and economics.

Serious people actually can only wish that corporations were all relentless and effective shareholder-profit-optimizing machines. We'd have a much richer society if that were so, because in an economy full of such corporations profits would be optimized only when a firm generates the best product or service at the best price, and thus all corporate behavior would be oriented towards such outputs.

Unfortunately, corporations are managed by highly fallible individuals, who are too often incompetent, or competent and self-serving, in both cases leading the corporation to behaviors which fail to optimize profits, or permit competitors to optimize their profits with inferior products and services and/or excessive prices.
posted by MattD at 8:52 PM on August 3, 2005


Kablam, your idea of what a sociopath is totally incorrect. Sociopaths don't bluff? No my friend, that is pretty much all a sociopaths does. They spend their whole lives tricking people into thinking they are normal concientious people, and are usually desperate nobody find out the truth: they are emotionally stunted they have no concience. People are no different from a vending machine to them; press the right buttons to get what you want, smash the glass if it doesnt work.
posted by Osmanthus at 9:00 PM on August 3, 2005


Serious people actually can only wish that corporations were all relentless and effective shareholder-profit-optimizing machines.

That's actually a good point, MattD. I tend to agree. I think a whole lot of little shop owners might do the job more efficiently and cost-effectively (especially if they really love their chosen enterprise). But assuming that's true, then what's your answer to this previous question that Clay201 brought up:

The question is, do corporations do anything at all that justifies their existence?
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 9:00 PM on August 3, 2005


All-Seeing Eye Dog, you're right that we'd be impoverished were collectives and bureaucracies to take over the economy, but fortunately they're farther than they ever were from doing that.

The kinds of small-shop production which have faded away have faded away precisely because the economic value of the unit output of one person has diminished. When the village cobbler made shoes by hand, a decently-made pair of shoes might cause the average worker a week's wages and a low-wage worker a month's wage (if he would buy such a pair, which he wouldn't.) Today a decently-made pair of shoes costs an average worker a couple of hours wages and a low paid worker a day's wages.

Consider what kinds of "small shop production" is thriving today. A an assistant professor and his two 24 year old grad students in their lab might invent a billion-dollar molecule. J.K. Rowling can create the DNA (as it were) of billions of dollars of intellectual property with no more capital than the subsistence and spare time afforded by the British dole. Three guys and three Bloombergs can generate tens of millions of dollars in profits (and billions of dollars of market efficiencies) with one hedge fund strategy.
posted by MattD at 9:01 PM on August 3, 2005


MattD, I'm not sure if I understand your dismissal of my intellectual competence. If we look at the Nike free speech case for a second, you seem to be saying that the problem isn't that Nike tries to lie, it is that they don't lie well. Is that correct?
posted by Chuckles at 9:03 PM on August 3, 2005


it takes a brute to get things done, i've found. it takes a brute to know the limits of language. and i say this as one who suffers daily at the hands of a brute. sociopaths can have a fantastic talent for decisiveness. the only drawback is that i'm quitting in two weeks cuz i can't stand dealing with this prick anymore. but then that only means he hires someone younger, someone who can more plausibly play ignorant and impressionable. nature may select for the survival of brutes, but brutes select for underlings who are young and silly enough, and desperate enough for favor, to go along with the show.

Is it really true that no one has mentioned The Office yet?
posted by Hobbacocka at 9:06 PM on August 3, 2005


MattD: I'm American. The outlook isn't quite so good here at the moment...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 9:12 PM on August 3, 2005


An important justification of the corporation is that all real improvement in national wealth stem from the commercialization of innovation, but that the inherent costs and risks of failure in such commercialization combine to require limited liability for investors and employees and a means to appoint and motivate professional management.

Corporations are and ought to be permitted to continue to reap profits from intellectual property once fully commercialized because the prospects of such continued profits are the incentive which motivates future risky investments in new innovations.

Because it is impossible to determine ab initio which innovations are going to be additive to national wealth, regulators (construed broadly to mean any group or entity which is not itself a profit-maximizing corporation) ought not attempt to second guess which corporations are meritorious and which aren't, but the same determination be left to the market to the extent reasonably possible.

on preview: Chuckles, there are some very smart people who misunderstand corporate personhood (including how it differs in terms of Constitutional rights from natural personhood), and there are even some very smart people who understand it perfectly well but nevertheless oppose it. Those people, notwithstanding their intelligence, are simply not to be taken seriously on the subjects of commerce and economics, much as, notwithstanding my own intelligence (supposing, for the sake of argument that I'm intelligent), and no matter how strongly I may feel about the matter, I'm not to be taken seriously on the subject of how to free climb a sheer cliff-face or how one says, "where's the bathroom" in Arabic.
posted by MattD at 9:17 PM on August 3, 2005


MattD, i take issue with the postulate that it is impossible to determine ab initio which innovations are going to be additive to national wealth -- wait, let me back up: to start with, what do you mean by national wealth? seems to me it's the breezy acceptance of exactly those sorts of abstractions that make aforesaid-type postulates (reckless, in my view) possible.

yeah, corporations are darn good at what they do, but let's leave a little room for checks and balances, here. don't you think that'd be a good idea? a little room for thoughtfulness.
posted by Hobbacocka at 9:26 PM on August 3, 2005


MattD: Consider what kinds of "small shop production" is thriving today. A an assistant professor and his two 24 year old grad students in their lab might invent a billion-dollar molecule. J.K. Rowling can create the DNA (as it were) of billions of dollars of intellectual property with no more capital than the subsistence and spare time afforded by the British dole. Three guys and three Bloombergs can generate tens of millions of dollars in profits (and billions of dollars of market efficiencies) with one hedge fund strategy.

Obviously the professor + graduate student example is inappropriate. It takes the infrastructure of the university, as well as bending down to ridiculous IP and ND agreements to get corporate funding for the research. I am not that familiar with J.K. Rowling's experience, but obviously it took a publisher with a powerful marketing machine to latch on to her to make her a mega star.

Not that I think the idea is completely wrong. We are seeing lots of people trying to create modern small shop businesses and technology aids that in many ways. Home recording studios, desktop publishing, ever cheaper CNC machining equipment...

It would be very nice if we could encourage small business at the expense of big business, rather than encourage big business at the expense of small business and social programs.
posted by Chuckles at 9:29 PM on August 3, 2005


kablam writes "having a mission-oriented boss who is indifferent to you as a person, but rewards or punishes based upon your performance is far more desireable."

Sure it is... in a perfect world. In the real world people want someone who will take a liking to them and give them preferement over others, not necessarily for the right reasons.
posted by clevershark at 10:03 PM on August 3, 2005


"...partial to personal responsibility..."
"... individuals... getting squeezed out of the marketplace..."
"... a world that doesn't have any more village shoemakers (or some modern equivalent) in its future..."

Why would these necessarily be problems in a world without corporations? I mean, sure, they could be (just as they could in a world with corporations). But you seem to be assuming that they're unavoidable.
posted by Clay201 at 10:27 PM on August 3, 2005



An important justification of the corporation is that all real improvement in national wealth stem from the commercialization of innovation, but that the inherent costs and risks of failure in such commercialization combine to require limited liability for investors and employees and a means to appoint and motivate professional management.

This is based on some incorrect assumptions. But first, let's start with the correct assumptions.

I agree that we're better off with plenty of innovation. I think we'll all have to agree on that. It's also true that there are a lot of risks involved in innovation; you might spend ten years trying to create a bacteria that washes clothes. It doesn't work and, oops, there's a hundred million dollars down the drain.

Where I think you're incorrect is in assuming that corporations are good at dealing with this problem. They're not. They really, really suck at it. And the reason is... they have to generate profits. Or, as another poster pointed out, they have to at least look like they're going to generate profits at some point in the foreseeable future. Sure, they can pay for some of this research, but what they can't afford, taxpayers fund. The defense department props up the arms merchants and the aircraft companies which, in turn, fuel the technology sector. The university system and various government agencies fund most scientific research. And so forth.

So if you want to study cancer cells or work with a supercollider, you'll have to get into some university program or find some government grant (or private grant subsidized through a government tax break) that will allow you to do so. You probably won't take a job at Dow Chemicals or Exxon.
posted by Clay201 at 10:29 PM on August 3, 2005


Why would these necessarily be problems in a world without corporations?...But you seem to be assuming that they're unavoidable.

Clarification: I don't think these things would be problems in a world without corporations--that's my whole point. But it's not an all or nothing proposition for me: I don't think we have to have a world w/out any corporations--just one where there are lots of thriving, long-term individually-held concerns, too. Think of small-scale businesses as like the underbrush in a forest: They make the soil more fertile and contribute to the overall health of the forest.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 8:36 AM on August 4, 2005


but that doesn't mean the forest doesn't need some big trees, too...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 8:37 AM on August 4, 2005


and we're descended from the cavemen that most effectively used their clubs
posted by dreamsign at 11:46 PM on August 4, 2005


You're all talking about slightly the wrong thing, I think. The point of the book (I haven't seen the movie) was not really whether the corporation was sociopathic - it was more about the fact that corporations are essentially entities that succeed by externalising costs.

When the regulatory environment is such that polluting (for example) is more profitable than operating in a sustainable manner, all corporations are compelled (by following the shareholders' best interest) to pollute. Essentially, corporations use political leverage to ensure that the particular commons they exploit won't be regulated more strictly.

Right-wing think tanks are always talking about the fact that regulation of a market makes it inefficient, but what they really mean is that when the market is deregulated, the corporations in the market no longer have to pay those costs. Someone still has to, though, and it's the tragedy of the commons all over again.
posted by wilberforce at 6:57 AM on August 5, 2005



Is it really true that no one has mentioned The Office yet?


Yes but now you did. :)

If your boss is getting you down, look at him through the prongs of a fork and imagine him in jail.
posted by funambulist at 8:38 AM on August 5, 2005


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