Question for Robert

A question for Robert: when you were working for large multinational corporations, did you have any inkling, deep within your heart of hearts, that the corporate model you were a part of might be broken, or at the very least harmful to you and the planet?

My reaction to seeing The Corporation was “tell me something I don’t know” while yours appears to have been rather more profound. I’m trying to figure out why this is.


Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on March 23, 2004 - 08:11 Permalink

Haven’t seen The Corporation, but have had a few things to say on the subject. Nobody listens.

Thread at, January 2002. post, April 2002 (plus comments).
(Audio take of same.)

Corporations are a nightmarish, unnatural construct. Note that they’re not evil, they’re what we’ve built them to be: channels of capital liquidity and risk diffusion. Then we personified them in the eyes of the law, and the whole thing blew up in ways that Jefferson and Adams and even Hamilton wouldn’t be surprised by for an instant. America was forged in a revolution against corporations operating under charter of a foreign king — not against Britain as such. American kids are taught that British regulars were augmented by German mercenaries from Hesse and elsewhere, as though George III himself made the arrangements. That’s nuts. It was a business deal, as was all of North American colonization, carried out by business fictions authorized and shielded from liability by European crowns. Nobody had the kind of money the North American project would take. We fought the king’s corporations. Everybody knew it.

Over 100 years we forgot. Then one day, through baldly corrupt U.S. Supreme Court fiat, they were back. But now they could charter themselves, need serve no demonstrably public purpose and could live forever — morphing and litigating as super-human people.

We invented corporations and we can snuff them. A company is real, a company traces to actual humans with something to lose. Corporations are effectively unaccountable, since their ownership shifts in an instant: there is no feedback loop of accountability. Sue a corporation and you’re not suing me as a stockholder, because I just sold. I was never a real owner anyhow, my livelihood and house weren’t ever at risk from corporate malfeasance. Indeed, nobody’s was. Nobody’s was.

And if transitory ownership (stockholdership) weren’t enough insulation, what happens if a corporation takes a black-eye? It’s merged or worked-out or some such nonsense, and whatever it “was” shows up somewhere else. Or doesn’t, or who knows? It was never real, can never die because it never lived. But in the eyes of the law, it’s real when it wants to be and gone when it doesn’t.

Don’t tell me there’s no other way to do capital liquidity. The modern corporation was born as a vessel for corruption. Nobody should be surprised that it worked, and nobody should waste another breath on how it might be “fixed.” That whole discussion is wildly childish or as endemically corrupt as the fiction it sponsors.

If we make no other improvements to this world, we must end private corporations. There’s no middle ground.


Robert  Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on March 23, 2004 - 10:51 Permalink

Hi Peter
You are right. I did start to feel a disquiet. In the late 1980’s I began to work in HR. While I was doing things to the “little people” I was still OK and felt Ok. But when I started to look at health in the workplace I began to see the issue of health and control. As I investigated professionally, I started to feel shifts in myself. When I was given the job of looking at the executive world, not only did the scales fall from my eyes but I became very radical.

This was a very hard time for me as I had so believed in this way of life. In effect I had a breakdown as I had been one of the boys, and CIBC were very generous and quite compassionate. As I had recognized a couple of years before that I could not stay I had also done the homework and had been working for free for Fraser Mustard at the CIAR who hired me the next day

So for me the film stirred up powerful memories of the most painful time in my life when corporate Rob died