Thursday, January 12, 2006

Those Evil Corporations

There is a very interesting program on cable TV called “Fox News Watch.” At my house it is scheduled for Saturdays at 3:30 P.M. On the show, two fairly liberal folks and two fairly conservative folks give their views about the way news was handled in the previous week. There are usually four different “takes” on each event.

When the show was in its early stages, one of the Liberal pundits often began his comments with the observation, in effect, that the news media were owned by corporations and corporations were bad so they corrupted the news. His response was simplistic and monotonous. That may be the reason that he is no longer on the show.

But his argument lingers. I often hear arguments that begin with some connection to “evil corporations.” Proponents sound a bit like the early Rousseau, with a twist.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was a French philosopher who argued early in his career that man is essentially good, a "noble savage" when in the "state of nature" (before the creation of civilization and society), and that good people are made unhappy and corrupted by their experiences in society. He viewed society as corrupt and thought that the furthering of society results in the continuing unhappiness of man. In other words, people are all right, but institutions are evil. Especially the Government.

These days, some folks agree with Rousseau without realizing it. But to them it is the corporations that are evil; but Government? Big Government is good.

But there is problem with this line of thought. Corporations are things—arrangements of people. Things are neither good nor evil. It is people in corporations who are either good or evil (or indifferent). So despite Rousseau, the argument goes back to people as it did in his day.

Rousseau’s evil “Society” was an arrangement of people. So are corporations. It seems to blame a mindless “arrangement” for today’s problems is somewhat like blaming the god Mars for a belligerent nature, or the god Bacchus for the hangover you get after a night of drinking.

But, some people are more religious than I am.

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