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Essay/Term paper: David korten's "when corporations rule the world"

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Political Science

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David Korten's "When Corporations Rule The World"

The book "When corporations Rule the World" by David Korten describes
the way things will be in the future with multi-national corporations. These
large corporations are found all over the world. There are many different
problems that are appearing and many of them can be seen to be connected to
corporations. We need to look at what is occurring with corporations and see if
they are causing more problems or are helping to solve problems of the world.
David Korten addresses this question in his book. He points out many of the
problems that are being caused by multi-national corporations in the world today.
He points out the effects to communities, families, the individual and the
environment that are being forgotten about in the ever expanding process of
economic globalization. Korten states " the process of economic globalization
are not only spreading mass poverty, environmental devastation and social
disintegration, they are also weakening our capacity for constructive social and
cultural innovation at a time when such innovation is needed as never before"
Corporations have not always been as big and powerful as the are today.
Through economic globalization they have become very powerful. "Corporations
have emerged as the dominant governance institutions on the planet, with the
largest among them reaching into virtually every country of the world and
exceeding most governments in size and power" (54). Prior to the Civil War,
owners were personally responsible for any liabilities or debts the company
incurred, including wages owed to workers. Early Americans feared corporations
as a threat to democracy and freedom. After the Civil War, owners and managers
of corporations pressed relentlessly to expand their powers, and the courts gave
them what they wanted. Perhaps the most important change occurred when the U.S.
Supreme Court granted corporations the full constitutional protections of
individual citizens. By the early 20th century, courts had limited the
liability of share holders; corporations had been given perpetual life times;
othe numb er of owners was no longer restricted; the capital they could control
was infinite. Some corporations were even given the power of eminent domain.
In effect, the U.S. Supreme Court bestowed natural rights on unnatural creatures,
amoral beasts that were created to serve selfish men. Now corporations had life
and liberty, but no morals, and the fears of the early Americans were soon
There are many problems that can be seen being caused by the multi-
national corporations that have spread all over the world. One of these
problems is the thoughtlessness of these large corporations to abuse the
environment that we all have to live in. Corporations have been destroying both
the renewable and non-renewable resources of the world. Many of the
nonrenewable resources are being used at very excessive rates for profit to the
few and nothing for the people where the natural resources are being taken from.
"When industrialization caused countries to exceed their national resource
limits, they simply reached out to obtain what was needed from beyond their own
borders, generally by colonizing the resources of non-industrial people" (27).

Many renewable resources are also being destroyed all over the world and
this is having very devastating effects to many people. One of these main
resources is the polluting of the fresh water and air in the world and the
ability to absorb our wastes. One example of this is the amount of damage that
has done by acid rain. "At the global level, each year deserts encroach on
another 6 billion hectares of once productive land, the area covered by tropical
forests is reduced by 11 million hectares, there is a net loss of 26 billion
tons of soil from oxidation and erosion, and 1.5 billion hectares of prime
agricultural land are abandoned due to salinization form irrigation projects"
Two of the most important aspects of good health are in the abundance
of clean water and proper sanitation. "Countries with high income levels are
experiencing increases in rates of cancer, respiratory illness is, stress and
cardiovascular disorders, and birth defects, as well as falling sperm counts"
(41). This is due mostly to what is left after economic growth, waste and
One of the other effects is that many of these multi-national
corporations have much more power than many governments of the world. "As
markets become freer and more global, the power to govern increasingly passes
from national governments to global corporations, and the interests of those
corporations, and the interests of those corporations diverge ever farther from
the human interests" (67). This means that these corporations have the power to
influence many decisions that are made by the governments of the world. This
can be done in two main ways. The first is in helping to get the people that
they feel will help make political decisions that will benefit them. This is
done through the many donations that are made to the campaign funds of those
individuals. The other way is in the nature of the corporation. This is
through the large amounts of capital that the success of the corporation of the
is dependent on. In democracies, a person gets one vote. "In the market one
dollar is one vote, and you get as many votes as you have dollars. No dollar,
no vote. Markets are inherently biased in favor of people of wealth" (66).
This means that the market only recognizes money, not people. It gives no voice
of the penniless, and when not balanced by constraining political forces can
become and instrument of oppression by which the wealthy monopolize society's
resources leaving the less fortunate with out land, jobs, technology or other
means of livelihood. "Money is its sole measure of value, and its practice is
advancing policies that are deepening social and environmental disintegration
every where" (69).
These huge corporations are also effecting and changing our lives in
another way. These corporations are able to manipulate the cultural values and
universal symbols of the societies of the world. "Our cultural symbols provide
an important source of identity and meaning; they affirm our worth, our place in
society….When control of our cultural symbols passes to corporations, we are
essentially yielding to them the power to define who we are…We become simply
members of the "Pepsi generation" detached from place and any meaning other than
those a corporation finds is profitable to confer on us" (158). The societies
of the world, are loosing their heritage and traditions that had separated each
of them and made them each unique. As the world grows smaller through
technology and we become more dependent on each other many of these important
traditions that united a community are being lost and forgotten. The
corporations are looking to just make a profit.
There are many other problems that are being caused by multinational
corporations that are being over looked because they can not be measured by
monetary means. These are the effects that the individual and society are
noticing more and are trying to have to deal with. The first of these is in the
feeling of job security. "Not so long ago, the firm which a person worked was
almost like family. It was primary support system in an otherwise impersonal
and transient world. A good job was far more than an income. It was a source
of identity and of valued and enduring relationships" (245). With these large
corporations we are getting away from this feeling of security. Many people are
learning that "no amount of money can buy peace of mind, a strong and loving
family, caring friends, and a feeling that one is meaningful and important work"
(243). This is becoming true for people with jobs on any level. There is no
longer any job security for virtually anyone at any level.
This feeling is also bring on many other problems. These are in the
family. With out security stress levels can become very high causing many
problems in the family. Is this why the divorce rate in America has climbed to
unbelievable heights? "High rates of deprivation, depression, divorce, teenage
pregnancy, violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, crime and suicide are among the
more evident consequences in both high and low income countries" (45).
One of the other main problems falls to the poor societies of the world.
They end up getting totally neglected by multinational corporations. This is
done on all levels. From the taking of natural non-renewable resources to the
poor not being able to make any impact on the decisions made because they do not
have the capital to make their "vote'. They are being excluded from land,
technology is eliminating jobs faster than it is creating new ones, and public
services that were placed there to help them are being dismantled because there
is not enough funds. This is all being done to increase the wealth of those who
really do not need any more. These large corporations do not have feelings or
think of the destructive things that are being caused by their practices.
There are many things that need to be done to turn all of these problems
around. Major changes will have to occur. One of these changes is trying to
get back to small businesses that this country was started on and still depends
on today. Locally owned small businesses are not only the foundation for strong
communities; they are the driving force of strong economies. Small businesses
are our engines of innovation and job creation. One example of this how small
business is better than large corporations, is in the court case where an 81
year old woman, sued the huge multinational corporation of McDonalds for serving
her a coffee heated to 180-190 degrees, far above the average temperature of 140
degrees. She was hospitalized for 8 days and had to undergo skin grafts for
third degree burns. She was awarded $2.9 million dollars in the case. The jury
was told that this had happened to 700 patrons over the past 10 years who had
burned themselves on the super heated coffee. Only after the verdict did any
fast food changes evaluate this unnecessary practice of subjecting their
customers to this potential injury.
If this had occurred at a local neighborhood coffee shop, think of the
consequences. How many customers would get burned until a customer talked to
the owner and demand that the temperature get turned down. Big corporations
require a legal system that allows the average citizen to force them to pay for
their mistakes and mend their ways. Local business are able to more easily hear
the voice of their customers and remedy the problems more quickly and easily.
Connected with this, since corporations can not be eliminated, they need
to at least change their ways. They need to "Think globally, act locally" (271).
This means that the need to help out the community. To set up programs for the
people of the community. To bring "community' back into the cities and towns
where these businesses are. They also need to make sure that these efforts are
working and reaching the people that really would benefit from them.
"We must decide whether the power to govern will be in the hands of
living people or will reside with corporate entities driven by a different
agenda. To regain control of our future and bring human societies into balance
with the planet, we must reclaim the power we have yielded to the corporation"
(48). This statement means to main things. That we as individuals must work
together to reclaim the power that was given to these corporations and that they
are abusing. It also states that societies need to come into balance with the
planet, mainly the environment.
Korten states the three main things that have to change in order to come
into balance with the environment. These are one the "Rates of use of
renewable resources do no exceed the rates at which the ecosystem is able to
regenerate them." Second, " Rates of consumption or irretrievable disposal of
nonrenewable resources do not exceed the rates at which nonrenewable substitutes
are developed and phased into use." Third, "Rates of pollution emission into
the environment do not exceed the rates of the ecosystem's natural assimilative
capacity." (272). With out more strict laws that effect corporations world
wide it is going to be very difficult to have an impact on improving the
In this book, Korten makes important points to opening the eyes of
society to making changes to the free market and the multinational corporations
that rule over it. He points out the effects of the threefold of human crisis,
the deepening of poverty, the social disintegration and environmental
destruction. At the heart of this destruction is the corporations. The are
unaccountable for the polluting and driven by an addiction to economic growth,
the serve the interests of a very small international elite and are harming the
rest of us. He hopes on the co-existence revolution that is bound to come. He
also looks to an awakening of civil society and the growth of more social


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