Trans-National Corporatism

Both Adam Smith and David Ricardo, though they differed regarding the “invisible hand” vs. the statist or “visible hand” capitalism, had the benefit of England in mind -- arguing that, working within the framework of production advantage, absolute or comparative, that what would be good for England could be good for its trading partners.

But since the '70s the nation-based comparative advantage theory of international trade has been supplanted by the view that the mission of corporate America is to make profits for its shareholders. As presented in a recent WaPo article, the consequences have not been altogether happy:

What began in the 1970s and ’80s as a useful corrective to self-satisfied managerial mediocrity has become a corrupting, self-interested dogma peddled by finance professors, money managers and over-compensated corporate executives… and business schools that indoctrinate students with the shareholder-first ideology and equip them with tools to manipulate quarterly earnings and short-term share prices.

The effect in the long run has been pernicious.

In the recent history of management ideas, few have had a more profound -- or pernicious -- effect than the one that says corporations should be run in a manner that “maximizes shareholder value.” … Indeed, you could argue that much of what Americans perceive to be wrong with the economy these days — the slow growth and rising inequality; the recurring scandals; the wild swings from boom to bust; the inadequate investment in R&D, worker training and public goods -- has its roots in this ideology.

The result is outsourcing, relocation of assets, and an employees-be-damned attitude that has destroyed the middle class and increased economic inequality. And, slowly but surely, it has led corporate executives down the path of transnational trading schemes with corporations of other nations -- NAFTA and now TPP. The promise was and now is that such corporate-based trading treaties, touted as working within the framework of comparative advantage, would result in a win-win situation for all nations involved. But it has become apparent, as this article in Global Research points out, the promises of NAFTA were a complete hoax. And working under the same pretexts TPP, it is argued, will be worse. NAFTA on steroids.

“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C.

“It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”

These… agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements -- filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing -- can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement. [emphasis added]

The net result of the “maximize shareholder value” theology has indeed been pernicious -- unintended perhaps but pernicious. But there are rumblings on the horizon to the effect that the “maximize shareholder value” corporate mission statement should be replaced by “maximize employee satisfaction” mission statement promoted by, among others, the founder of Virgin Airlines, Richard Branson:

Surprisingly, Branson recently revealed that Virgin does not put the customer first. In fact, Virgin employees are the company's top priority. That may sound counter to decades-old business wisdom, but it has worked so well for Virgin that Branson says he's surprised more companies haven't adopted an employee-centric management strategy.

"If the person who works at your company is not appreciated, they are not going to do things with a smile," Branson says. By not treating employees well, companies risk losing customers over bad service. To this end, Branson says he has made sure that Virgin prioritizes employees first, customers second, and shareholders third.

"Effectively, in the end shareholders do well, the customers do better, and your staff remains happy." [emphais added]

This is not a pie in the sky idea. Here is a quote from an article in the Harvard Business Review arguing for a return to the retain-and-reinvest long-term approach to national prosperity focusing on employees:

[the] retain-and-reinvest approach to resource allocation [once] prevailed at major U.S. corporations. They retained earnings and reinvested them in increasing their capabilities, first and foremost in the employees who helped make firms more competitive. They provided workers with higher incomes and greater job security, thus contributing to equitable, stable economic growth—what I call “sustainable prosperity.” {emphasis added]

Transnational corporatism and the banner under which it flies, maximizing shareholder value, involves outsourcing comparative advantage thereby impoverishing our nation and is a betrayal of the “blood, sweat, and tears” of past generations that made this country the bastion of individual rights and economic success. The road to serfdom, indeed.

Both Adam Smith and David Ricardo, though they differed regarding the “invisible hand” vs. the statist or “visible hand” capitalism, had the benefit of England in mind -- arguing that, working within the framework of production advantage, absolute or comparative, that what would be good for England could be good for its trading partners.

But since the '70s the nation-based comparative advantage theory of international trade has been supplanted by the view that the mission of corporate America is to make profits for its shareholders. As presented in a recent WaPo article, the consequences have not been altogether happy:

What began in the 1970s and ’80s as a useful corrective to self-satisfied managerial mediocrity has become a corrupting, self-interested dogma peddled by finance professors, money managers and over-compensated corporate executives… and business schools that indoctrinate students with the shareholder-first ideology and equip them with tools to manipulate quarterly earnings and short-term share prices.

The effect in the long run has been pernicious.

In the recent history of management ideas, few have had a more profound -- or pernicious -- effect than the one that says corporations should be run in a manner that “maximizes shareholder value.” … Indeed, you could argue that much of what Americans perceive to be wrong with the economy these days — the slow growth and rising inequality; the recurring scandals; the wild swings from boom to bust; the inadequate investment in R&D, worker training and public goods -- has its roots in this ideology.

The result is outsourcing, relocation of assets, and an employees-be-damned attitude that has destroyed the middle class and increased economic inequality. And, slowly but surely, it has led corporate executives down the path of transnational trading schemes with corporations of other nations -- NAFTA and now TPP. The promise was and now is that such corporate-based trading treaties, touted as working within the framework of comparative advantage, would result in a win-win situation for all nations involved. But it has become apparent, as this article in Global Research points out, the promises of NAFTA were a complete hoax. And working under the same pretexts TPP, it is argued, will be worse. NAFTA on steroids.

“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C.

“It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”

These… agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements -- filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing -- can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement. [emphasis added]

The net result of the “maximize shareholder value” theology has indeed been pernicious -- unintended perhaps but pernicious. But there are rumblings on the horizon to the effect that the “maximize shareholder value” corporate mission statement should be replaced by “maximize employee satisfaction” mission statement promoted by, among others, the founder of Virgin Airlines, Richard Branson:

Surprisingly, Branson recently revealed that Virgin does not put the customer first. In fact, Virgin employees are the company's top priority. That may sound counter to decades-old business wisdom, but it has worked so well for Virgin that Branson says he's surprised more companies haven't adopted an employee-centric management strategy.

"If the person who works at your company is not appreciated, they are not going to do things with a smile," Branson says. By not treating employees well, companies risk losing customers over bad service. To this end, Branson says he has made sure that Virgin prioritizes employees first, customers second, and shareholders third.

"Effectively, in the end shareholders do well, the customers do better, and your staff remains happy." [emphais added]

This is not a pie in the sky idea. Here is a quote from an article in the Harvard Business Review arguing for a return to the retain-and-reinvest long-term approach to national prosperity focusing on employees:

[the] retain-and-reinvest approach to resource allocation [once] prevailed at major U.S. corporations. They retained earnings and reinvested them in increasing their capabilities, first and foremost in the employees who helped make firms more competitive. They provided workers with higher incomes and greater job security, thus contributing to equitable, stable economic growth—what I call “sustainable prosperity.” {emphasis added]

Transnational corporatism and the banner under which it flies, maximizing shareholder value, involves outsourcing comparative advantage thereby impoverishing our nation and is a betrayal of the “blood, sweat, and tears” of past generations that made this country the bastion of individual rights and economic success. The road to serfdom, indeed.