The Christmas Season has been hectic, as usual, and I haven’t had much of a chance to sit down and work through some of my more recent Earworms. I wanted to take this opportunity though to let you know what has been on my mind even if I can’t give it the thorough analysis it deserves. That will just have to wait a bit longer.
First off, a story that has been largely ignored by main stream media but exploded in the blogosphere lately has been the Canadian Government’s defunding of Kairos, a Christian Ecumenical Aid Organization that has been running development projects throughout the world for decades. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has been providing tax-payer funding to Kairos for 35 years and up until November 30 all indications were that the funding would continue. Reasons given for pulling the funds (CDN $7.1 million dollars over 4 years, amounting to nearly half of the organization’s budget) are a bit suspect and seem to be more politically motivated than anyone is willing to admit.
The Earworm that has been settling in my head however has very little to do with the politics of the situation. My main question centers more around what happens when so called non-partisan organizations accept huge amounts of money for one source, be it a specific individual, other organization or government. Should they not then accept the risk that their benefactor my change their mind? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, he who pays the piper calls the tune and all that.
The other thought that I’ve been working on centers around Corporate Responsibility. Around the time of the UN Climate Change Conference last month, one of my friends told me that he believes the world economy is increasingly being controlled by a handful of the wealthiest individuals. If that were expressly true I’m sure we would know who they are but when people talk about this idea it’s presented as some vast conspiracy with shadowy puppet masters pulling strings far from the public eye. “The Company” in the Fox television show “Prison Break” is a good example of what this might look like but the theory just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Corporations are in business for one reason, to make money for their shareholders. In fact under US, and similar laws in almost every territory of the world, if the board of directors of a corporation makes a decision that they know will cause the company to lose money they can be sent to prison. It’s called “violation of fiduciary responsibility”.
In most cases the shareholders of the world’s largest corporations are not small numbers of the super rich but an army of individuals with their mutual funds and other forms of retirement savings. Thomas Friedman in his book “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” termed these people The Electronic Herd. If the herd decides a corporation, or country for that matter, is making bad financial decisions they pull their money out in droves and literally bankrupt them in a matter of hours. In recent memory that is exactly what happened to Enron, Bear Stearns, Hollinger and the country of Malaysia.
So the bottom line is that changing the way corporations or countries behave in the world is more a function of influencing individual consumers like you and me than a handful of super rich untouchables. If we stop buying their products or trusting our retirement to their stability they will be forced to change the way they do business. Even if my friend is right those shadowy overlords of industry want to keep getting richer and they can’t do that if we stop buying their products. We cast ballots for corporate boards and the economies of entire countries every time we go to the mall.
May this be the decade when the world finally gets it.