The average Jane Six-Pack out there would be rightly confused by the idea that Dow Chemical Co. is just as much of a person as she is. It makes a little more sense when you consider that “corporate personhood”-related Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United were decided by a bunch of lawyers, pretty much the furthest thing from a Jane Six-Pack — unless you mean a six-pack of Coke. Sure, corporations are people to a bunch of lawyers, because it’s the shortest possible contortion of logic that gets us to a point where we can grant corporations legal rights, describe their liability or lack thereof, and allow them to own things.
But when corporations assert that they believe things, corporate personhood gets sketchy. At best, corporations’ expressions of “belief” place them among the worst hypocrites out there, and at worst, their glaring inconsistencies threaten to break apart any notion of their personhood altogether.
Hobby Lobby – “Contraception is abortion when we think it is, because of our beliefs, except in cases where we temporarily didn’t believe our beliefs for the purpose of a sound investment.”
To sum up the Supreme Court Case, It is the “sincerely held belief” of the person known as Hobby Lobby that certain kinds of contraception, such as the IUD, qualify as “abortifacients,” agents that terminate a pregnancy. IUD’s in particular simply aren’t abortifacients, by any scientific assessment, but the court is only concerned with the “fact” that Hobby Lobby believes they are. Conventional wisdom says Hobby Lobby is going to win this one, and they won’t be compelled under Obamacare to include the types of contraception they dislike in their employees’ insurance plans.
But earlier this week Mother Jones, digging around in their investment history, found that employee 401-k’s are heavily invested — to the tune of $73 Million — in the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs they consider to be abortifacients. So they’re profiting from the products these companies manufacture, but they still, I guess, sincerely hold beliefs that they are disgraceful.
401-k plans are generally vast collections of relatively small investments, pre-packaged for the consumption of companies looking for a safe place to put retirement funds. But of course they’re loaded with companies who are doing well by being jerks. I won’t name names, but let’s just say the real life versions of companies like Luthorcorp and The Tyrell Corporation would be considered pretty safe. That’s why there are now pre-packaged investments to fit your principles, be they (ahem) environmental, or faith-based.
Hobby Lobby didn’t invest to fit its principles, and now Hobby Lobby has egg on its corporate face. Too bad The Supreme Court Justices won’t take this revelation into account when their decision is made.
And speaking of sticking to your environmental guns…
Caterpillar – “Environmental sustainability is a cornerstone of our business model, except when we’re actively opposing action on climate change.”
It would be one thing to be a company that makes gas powered heavy machinery, and then to do what Exxon did this past week and literally say (paraphrasing), “We’re destroying the earth, but we really don’t think environmentalists have the power to stop us.”
Instead of taking the honest, Ayn Rand-ian, middle finger-flipping approach, Caterpillar preaches environmentalism. Here’s an excerpt from their website:
“Sustainable Development for Caterpillar means leveraging technology and innovation to increase efficiency and productivity with less impact on the environment and helping our customers do the same — enabling their businesses to become more productive by providing products, services and solutions that use resources more efficiently. Of course, it starts with our own operations, with our customers in mind.”
Then they sit on the board of The US Chamber of Commerce, which may sound like a nice organization if you think it’s anything like your town’s chamber of commerce, but the US Chamber is notorious for its radical and vehement opposition to climate change-focused policies. Corporations like Apple have left the chamber because it has become so focused on this issue. Speaking of which…
Apple – “Packaging a product loaded with previously existing features in a new way is a form of invention. Just look at the original Mac! Oh, but if you run with any of the ideas in our operating system we will sue you back to the stone age.”
It’s not a secret that in 1979, Steve Jobs visited PARC, Xerox’s research hub in Silicon Valley, and walked away with a headful of ideas lifted straight from the products they were developing, including the first functioning graphical user interface. The Lisa, released four years later, featured Lisa OS, a modified version of that system, and is considered the first personal computer with a graphical user interface. The computers Apple produced in the 1980s may not have been exceptional for their individual innovations, but they were revolutionary in terms of repackaging them in a way that users could embrace.
Why then would Apple be so angry at one of its most dedicated imitators: Samsung. To this day, Apple just continues filing a seemingly endless series of lawsuits aimed at, well, cashing in every time they win, of course. So far they’ve earned a billion dollars this way, so can you blame them?
But in an age when Flappy Bird is followed by Clumsy Bird, Flappy City, Desert Bird, Flying Flea, and Happy Poo Flap, all without anyone suing anyone, it seems obvious that Apple has lost sight of the “culture” it once considered so critical.
Aaron’s – “We may be horrible, but we’re not hypocrites.”
If you look at my favorite whipping boy, Aaron’s, Inc., you can see an example of a corporate person that sticks to its guns. How do they do it? But not having any guns. Aaron’s doesn’t consider itself to be “leading the world in compassionate business that helps the working class,” or “an environmental leader, helping communities go green,” or any such pleasant sounding nonsense. The Aaron’s mission is as follows:
“There are two operating divisions of Aaron’s: sales and lease ownership and manufacturing. The Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership division is the largest and fastest growing division, serving credit-constrained consumers in need of basic home furnishings, appliances and electronics.”
To their credit, they’re being more-or-less honest. That’s my favorite thing about them.