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Three Aspects Of Corporations That Will Surprise You

The Corporation: The Real American Idol. Chapter 3 Part 1

Is a thunderstorm evil?  You might think it is if you don’t understand how it works.  The noise, the lighting, the destructive power can be frightening and dangerous.  Is a thunderstorm good?  You might think so, given the life-giving rain.  When faced with the unknown, the mind naturally creates a story to explain what is happening.  And when we don’t have all of the information, our imagination fills in the blanks. Of course a thunderstorm is neither good nor evil, it just is.

And so it goes with corporations, they are neither good nor evil.   A corporation can do “good” things like donating money to flood victims, or “bad” things like polluting a river.  But good and bad are labels added by people, and are not drivers of the company decisions.  For example, the oil company Texaco donated money for 63 years to allow radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera (a good thing), but the sponsorship started to help repair its reputation that damaged by its support for Nazi Germany (a bad thing)[1].

So what is a corporation?

In the words of Chief Justice Marshall of the United States Supreme court, “a corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of the law.[2]”  It is striking to me how this definition of the corporation resembles following definition of a pagan idol.

Reverend Carlton Wynne of the Westminster Theological Seminary writes that idols in the Bible have personhood, are thought to have power, and have the ability to both accept sacrifices and bless supplicants[3].  Corporations meet all three of these criteria, except of course that corporations actually do have power.  And as for the third criteria, employees regularly make sacrifices for the company, and receive bonuses, promotions, and recognition as rewards.

Of course the primary definition of idolatry that I gave has to do with the adoption of a relative value system.  Do you think this definition fits corporations as well?

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[1] Corporate Social Strategy: Stakeholder Engagement and Competitive Advantage

By Bryan W. Husted, David Bruce Allen Cambridge University Press (2010)  p 141-142.  Google eBook.

[2] Dartmouth College v. Woodward, Retrieved July 29, 2012

[3]   Is Idolatry the New Sin? By Carlton Wynne Reformation  November 2009. Retrieved most recently July 29, 2012