Corporations today are run as if their employees are members of a military at war. Obedience to hierarchy is prized above every other consideration. Loyalty to the corporation comes before loyalty to the laws of the country. Like the ‘thin blue line’ employees are expected to never go outside the chain of command no matter how illegal or dangerous is the behavior they see. Like the ‘thin blue line’ the culture dictates that all matters are best handled internally.
Any deviation from going along to get along is punished with a severity that destroys lives. Those few whose conscience cannot be sedated by alcohol and entertainment and/or pacified by the vulnerability inherent in marriage, mortgage and family are fired and not so subtly blacklisted from their entire industry.
To this military adherence to authority is added the very frightening reality of a life with little or no money. Divorce, homelessness, physical and mental health collapse, suicide. The great ‘liberal’ President Obama made very clear to whistleblowers what they could expect for following their conscience. Prosecuting more of them than every other President combined.
The glaring discrepancy between these two outcomes ensures that the cutting of safety corners and the crossing of ethical lines goes unreported. Over time this lack of accountability becomes implicitly encouraged for the money it puts in the company’s pocket.
To this has been added the frenzied mania of deregulation fostered by a utopian faith in the “corrective forces of the market”. Alan Greenspan’s career reached stratospheric heights on the basis of nothing more than his willingness to cut regulation and turn a blind eye to massive fraud. The result was the vaporization of $50 trillion worldwide one of the effects of which was the addition of almost a billion human beings to the list of those not getting enough calories daily. In addition causing millions more to become divorced, homeless, hopeless. The resulting decline in their life expectancy will never be known because as President Trump has it, “They are losers.”, and so no longer fully human.
This culture of ‘Company uber alles’ combined with deregulation led to the disasters of Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Global Crossing et al. Leading to the crushing of families and lives. When this same culture of loyalty and secrecy is combined with nuclear generated power the results are seen in Fukushima. This disaster may be ‘the big one’. May be the final nail in the coffin of our oceans. It is impossible to tell as our governments refuse to empower the agencies needed to study the problem. They have instead deliberately gone in the opposite direction shutting down the collection of data. Trump is not alone in preferring corporate profit over public safety.
The future if there is to be one worthy of the name demands two immediate actions on the part of those who are supposed to represent the will and welfare of we the people. First they must abandon their neglect of regulation. The U.S. built the greatest electrical power grid in the history of the world as a result of F.D.R’s passing of the Public Utilities Holding Corporation Act. This strict regulation of both the safety and the finances of the power industry was studied and emulated around the world. Deregulation brought only catastrophe. Unfortunately as this was an American innovation with financial benefits for those at the top it too has been widely studied and emulated.
Second our governments must put into place programs that reward whistleblowers financially. For today and the foreseeable future blowing the whistle on a corporation must be treated as dangerous to ones health and welfare as blowing the whistle on the mob. Both will end your life as you know it. In not a few cases the mob’s way being the less painful. Employees must not be left solely with the minimal rewards to self that come from doing the right thing. They must instead know that following the laws of the land and their ethical and moral obligation to their fellow citizens will not be punished financially.
By this means and this means alone can we enlist the eyes and ears required to ensure that our corporations no longer prove such an eminent danger to us both physically and financially. Such steps will become even more important when we finally turn the corner and begin a full throttle effort to decarbonize our economies.
Power responds only to a demand. What we must demand is that our corporations respect our laws and our lands. We must demand our citizens first loyalty be to our laws, our health and our safety. We must demand that this loyalty be rewarded and these citizens applauded.
Jeff Berg is a founding member of Post Carbon Toronto. His writing focuses on Energy & Emissions and their micro and macro implications ecologically, economically and socially.