Excellent article and even better discussion over at World Changing. An excerpt:
The seed of the idea is that the limited liability corporation is a government subsidy to risky investments and as such may be partly what drives the reckless attitude of corporations towards the environment. Read on for more details.
He’s got a good point, but I think he takes it and runs in the wrong direction with it. Taxing 1% of a shareholder’s net worth is not going to cut it. I think the problem is that land is parceled out in little squares, which is such a old-school dumb-human way of thinking about it. The earth is not just a bunch of squares of land stuck together. It’s an ecosystem where in each overlapping part interacts with and affects all of the other pieces (directly or indirectly). If you dump toxic waste on your land it also affects me over on my land. That waste seeps into the water supply and affects all of us. Pretending we can isolate land via concepts of private land-ownership is insanely stupid. It’s clearly a relic of 18th century thinking.
Unlimited limited liability may, in fact, be a perverse insentive encouraging the economy to continue high risk activities such as unregulated release of GMOs into the environment by subsidising shareholders who assume these risks in their investment strategies.
I can see where the author is coming from here. But the problem is much larger than how he’s framed it. And in some ways it’s much simpler; corporations can simply bribe (er, “contribute to the re-elections funds of”) politicians and make the problem go away…at least for the shareholders and execs. But the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces.
If we want to end corporate corruption/pollution we’re going to have to make massive systemic changes. The author says he’s not anti-corporate. Well, I am. I think the current system is out of hand completely. Commenter Lorenzo makes some great points about late-stage capitalism, which basically boils down to this: We took out a loan and used Planet Earth as collateral so we could live like kings. Well now the bill is coming due and we don’t have another planet to exploit. What do we do?
Hell if I know, but continuing on the same course is not only insane, it’s incredibly dangerous.