Musings of the Great Eric

Archive for June 2007

The Death Penalty for Corporations

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The venerable Dave Winer had some interesting comments this morning:

And today, If there were a death penalty for corporations, AT&T may have just earned it.

Imagine, they have designs of selling access to movies and stuff over the Internet, so they decide to join with the MPAA and the RIAA to spy on and prosecute their customers.

What a lack of awareness of their relationship with customers. They should do things to reward customers for being smart enough to have chosen AT&T as their Internet service provider. Instead, they would make their customers the stupidest people on the planet, choosing the only ISP that will send you to jail to create a new business model for them. Instead of competing to provide great service at the lowest possible price, they want to drive their customers to financial ruin, for having made the mistake of choosing AT&T.

AT&T — a company that doesn’t deserve to live.

I believe it’s one of the fundamental flaws in our modern society that we extend the rights of personhood to corporations – an abstract legal entity that exists to shield shareholders from liability and personal responsibility. The results are kind of predictable, given that purpose.

Originally, corporate law was focused on protection of the public interest. This changed over the course of the 20th century, until we reached the rather sorry state we’re in today – where the public interest is lucky to be an afterthought to shareholder value and the never ending growth demanded by Wall Street. If you haven’t seen the fantastic film The Corporation, it’s really worth a viewing. It was released for free on bittorrent some time ago, and perfectly legal to download.

Personally, I think the “death penalty” for corporations is a great idea – I’d love to see the revocation of corporate charters hung over the heads of shareholders who allow their corporation to act in ways contrary to the public interest, such as AT&T is doing here. Sadly, it’ll never happen though.

Written by Eric

June 14, 2007 at 11:48 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with

Grocery Bags

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A couple of weeks ago, my mom (the loving mother that she is) bought me a bunch of groceries and delivered them in a reusable grocery bag, which she let me keep. This was actually a novel concept to me; I’d never given much thought at all to the question of grocery bags before, and the idea of a reusable one had honestly never occurred to me. It piqued my interest enough though that I brought it with my on my next trip to the supermarket, and have since acquired a few more to meet all my grocery bagging needs.

In retrospect, it seems an idea that’s both obvious and genius. The bags I now use hold many more groceries that the disposable bags found at the supermarket. They have strong handles or shoulder straps, and are thick enough that they don’t break even if I fill one of them to the brink with soda bottles. The most difficult part of using them is convincing the bagging clerk to use them, as the request. When I’m done, I stash them under the sink and pull them out again for my next trip to the supermarket – I’ve yet to feel this is an inconvenience.

This idea underscores something far more profound than mere grocery bags though. I feel almost humiliated that I’ve lived for nearly a quarter century before an idea like this even occurred to me. I just took the disposable bags offered at the checklist line, and threw them out after I’d gotten home and unpacked them. We live in the most wasteful society in the history of mankind, and it’s clear that I’m a part of it.

I think it’s a great thing that our civilization is finally getting its head together with regards to resource management, recycling, global warming, and other environmental issues, but now I can’t help but feel these efforts are misguided. Recycling paper bags is nothing compared to not using them in the first place – in trying to minimize our environmental impact, we’re concentrating our efforts on the wrong side of the equation.

And it seems to me that these kinds of changes would be much easier to implement than recycling programs and other technological solutions. Imagine if the grocery store simply didn’t offer paper or plastic, but instead sold reusable bags at the checkout? Supermarkets would be happy; it would turn an expense into one more thing they could sell. People would likely bitch at first, but then get used to it and even come to appreciate them as I have. And we’d be that much less wasteful as a society.

Written by Eric

June 11, 2007 at 3:38 pm