Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lessig on Reich and Supercapitalism

Lessig on Supercapitalism

" . . . we need to understand the nature of the corporation -- to make money -- and come to love it, and yet, to keep it in its proper place, just as you can love a tiger, but know that it's not the sort of thing that should play with your kid. . . . Corporations are not more efficient governments. They are instead increasingly efficient money making machines. And while there's nothing at all wrong with money making machines -- indeed, wealth and growth depends upon them -- there is something fundamentally wrong with trusting these machines to restrain the drive for profits in the name of doing the right thing.. . .

Recognizing this point forces you to recognize how important it is that we make government work. It is government's job to set the appropriate limits on corporations (and individuals) so that when corporations and individuals pursue their self-interest, they will not harm a public interest.

No question corporations have devised methods of reliably producing surplus capital that are more efficient than, say, certain Viking methods of old. When figuring out what to do with them -- to keep that money flowing at the same time that one reduces the collateral damage that they inflict -- it is important to weigh one's metaphors carefully. They are, in part, machines, and, in part, enormous aggregations of workers, not tigers, often reduced to savage ignorance by the myths required to perpetuate the operations.

Corporations have tremendous gravitational force -- so much so that they can bend the mediated representation of value, of time, of history, of understanding and of what life is -- to suit their objectives.

As such, they are not quite as mindless or as docile as machines. A machine can be beyond persuasion -- it's a tool designed for something else. But it does sit passive while someone modifies, manipulates, tweaks to suit.

Corporations are not primarily machines -- and the whole matter of what it is that is required to bring them to heel might need a fresh approach -- not (merely) regulation, nor merely tweaking, nor bullying.

Perhaps some civilizing -- educative, pragmatic mix of honey and wormwood -- as the Tutor has been offering to the philanthropists and their retinue in the marketplace.

We are beginning to know the impact of corporate ideology upon humanistic education. Until we try, we don't know whether and to what extent corporate entities can be educated humanistically.

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