CORPORATIONS; PSYCHOPATHS OR SOCIAL INNOVATOR?
By Joseph Byron
As the world’s corporations get richer and gain more and more profits, we are left wondering whether their means of getting these profits are in fact signs of human psychopathy, or are they really benefitting the world and making their money in the process?
What is a corporation though? According to Investopedia a corporation is a “legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners.” Despite this, they are comparable to a person as they possess many of the same legal rights and responsibilities as a regular person, which leads to the question as to whether or not they can be labelled as psychopaths as an individual can. Corporations have been around since the late 1500s, with the British East India Company being an early example. They have always been controversial though and were later banned in 1720, due to the South Sea Bubble incident. This also changed when the beginning of the modern corporation was introduced, with ‘Limited Liability’ being passed in 1856. Over time, although corporations were only for specific purposes such as railways, restrictions placed upon them were eased and this was compounded in the Dodge vs Ford Case, in which the result meant that the priorities of the shareholders always had to come before anything else, including the consumer.
On the one hand, it would seem as though the corporation could certainly be defined as a psychopath. Canadian psychologist Robert Hare developed a twenty-part checklist that provided guidelines for what is and isn’t a psychopath. This checklist included definitions such as pathological lying, lack of empathy, irresponsibility, or lack of remorse and guilt. There are plenty of examples that link corporations to these examples. Seven years ago, Volkswagen were accused of cheating the car emissions tests, meaning they were pumping out far more emissions than they claimed. This was done on a huge scale too, with possibly 800,000 cars in Europe alone being affected. Volkswagen apologised for this however much of the damage to the environment had already been done. This case shows clear signs of pathological lying, as they had deliberately manufactured ‘defeat devices’ in diesel engines, which changed their output when tested so they could better heir results. This is pathological lying as it was done repeatedly and en masse. It also shows a lack of empathy and irresponsibility from Volkswagen, as irreversible damage had been done to the environment. Furthermore, another example to be used is Brent Spar, in which Royal Dutch Shell were forced to back down and use a more environmentally friendly way of disposing the oil storage unit. Without the intervention of Greenpeace, Shell would have simply disposed of it in the sea, causing unknown damage to the eco systems and the quality of the water wherever they disposed of it. This clearly showcases a lack of empathy and irresponsibility, as they would knowingly damage the world’s environment for the sake of their profit.
Conversely, many would argue that corporations can be social innovators rather than psychopaths. This means that often instead of just damaging the environment around them, they have goals in order to better the world in any way, shape or form. An example of this could be a benefit corporation, such as Ben and Jerry’s. A benefit corporation is a company that while making a profit, has set goals to achieve, contributing to issues like lessening inequality and creating a healthier environment. who for decades have tried to make a positive impact with their stances on social issues. For example, in May 2017, they stopped selling two scoops of the same ice cream flavour in Australia, as a political statement opposing the illegality of same sex marriage in the country. It caused a stir and later that year, same sex marriage was legalised, showcasing how corporations can be social innovators in today’s world and have the capacity to make a positive impact.
Overall, I believe more often than not that corporations choose to exploit people and the environment, with little regard for the effect they are causing. The short-term gain is more important to these corporations and to me, they show clear signs of lack of empathy, irresponsibility and many of the signs that indicate psychopathy, with countless examples over the years to show for it.