For the last few years, perhaps as much as over a decade, we have been hearing about how companies are polluting our environment. From BigPharma who, if their business was to cure you would be out of business, to Too Big To Fail banks who are demonized for the sorry state of our economy, and many others. Perhaps no company has been more demonized than Monsanto. But is it the company we should demonize? After a company is simply a piece of paper. Perhaps when we refer to “Monsanto” doing this or that, it would be wise instead to refer to their executives. After all, it is the executives who come up with the strategic plan of a company and implement, mostly for their financial benefit. The question then arises whether Monsanto’s executives, who have professed to wanting to control the world’s food supply, are psychopaths. For the record, Monsanto’s executives are:
- Hugh Grant, Chairman and CEO
- Brett Begemann, President & CCO
- Pierre Courduroux, Sr. VP and CFO
- Dr. Robert Fraley, EVP and CTO
Others, including the Board of Directors can be found at: http://www.monsanto.com/whoweare/ Pages/monsanto-leadership.aspx.
Well, what is a “psychopath”?
Dr. Robert Hare created the Psychopathy Checklist, a standard tool for making clinical diagnoses of psychopaths. According to Dr. Hare, a psychopath is a person who isn’t burdened by conscience. Psychopaths are thought to represent 1% of the population.
a psychopath is a person who isn’t burdened by conscience
Dr. Hare states that: “Psychopaths have a profound lack of empathy. They use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends. They seduce victims with a hypnotic charm that masks their true nature as pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life “games” they can win – and take pleasure from their power over other people.”
In August 2002, Hare was giving a presentation about Mafia hit men and sex offenders, whose photos were projected on a large screen behind him. Eventually, Hare replaced those pictures with those of top executives from WorldCom, which had just declared bankruptcy, and Enron, which had imploded only months earlier.
Again, according to Dr. Hare, these corporate scandals, and presumably future ones, could have been prevented if CEOs were screened for psychopathic behavior. Hare appeared in the 2003 documentary “The Corporation” (www.thecorporation.com/), giving authority to the premise that corporations are “sociopathic” (a synonym for “psychopathic”) because they ruthlessly seek their own selfish interests (i.e., “shareholder value”) without regard for the harms they cause to others, such as environmental damage.
Maximizing Shareholder Value
While Dr. Hare may have a valid test, and while Monsanto’s executives - indeed most executives, if not all executives of mega-corporations - may be sociopaths, I cannot help but wonder whether they are alone.
While I do not condone the actions of Monsanto’s executives, or that of a multitude of other executives, beginning with those "in charge" of our financial institutions - and let's not bring into the discussion the politicians "in charge" of our well-being - I believe that they were acting as they are required to do. Indeed, as they are legally obligated to do. That is, they acted, and continue to act, to maximize shareholder value.
A CEO does not maximize shareholder value, at least in the short term, by spending money taking care of the environment
A CEO does not maximize shareholder value, at least in the short term, by spending money taking care of the environment. A CEO does not maximize shareholder value by paying employees above-living, or even living, wages. A CEO does not maximize shareholder value by spending money on energy-saving devices which cost money upfront and may save money in the long run. A CEO does not maximize shareholder value by taking care of the planet. And the Board of Directors to whom the CEO allegedly reports (remember, most of the time, the Chairman is also the CEO) would quickly terminate a CEO that made such proposals. Of course, that can be quite lucrative with termination packages running into the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars, but that’s a story for another time.
Maximizing shareholder value is accomplished by minimizing "unnecessary" expenses. Most companies' largest expense is manpower. Solution: downsize, even if it means burning out your employees, destroying the family nucleus, etc. Solution: outsource everything you can, and some things you shouldn't, to countries with lax or non-existent regulations where you can minimize your labor costs regardless of whether workers are under-aged, work 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, under quasi-Middle Age conditions. Solution: sell as much as you can regardless of whether it is needed or wanted, or destroys the planet in the process. After all scientists will find a solution and global warming is not a man-made problem. Lie, cheat and exert any pressure you can to sell as much as you can at the highest profit margin possible (not the same as the highest price possible). A CEO doesn't maximize shareholder value by spending money on environmentally-friendly processes. Solution: spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby governments to lower regulations and safety standards regardless of the ultimate cost (i.e., annihilation of all living things on the planet). Solution: become a mega-monolith that controls distribution and prices. In fact, the most profitable company of all, theoretically, is a monopoly. Think about it, as a monopoly, the company – pardon me, the executives of the company - can decide what you can and will buy and at what price…there is no competition! And isn’t that what Monsanto is after? They are simply completing their mission.
Price is King
Forgotten, or perhaps ignored, by executives is the fact that they may lower the price of their product from, say, $5/unit, to $1/unit. However, if the people who wish to buy such a product are unemployed, under-employed, or employed but unable to make ends meet, they won't be able to afford the product at any price as people literally struggle for the bare necessities. Or the fact that if they are no people to sell to because your product has depopulated the planet, then there is no one to sell to.
it serves corporatocracy to destroy the middle class
Forgotten, or perhaps ignored, is the fact that, ultimately, an ever-expanding spiral of demand is unsustainable. In the meantime and in the very short term, it serves corporatocracy to destroy the middle class and create conditions where workers toil to barely make ends meet; to create conditions which create high unemployment...after all, the higher the unemployment rate, the more people will "fight" over a job, driving down labor costs. As an aside, perhaps it is time to stop blaming illegal immigrants, or immigrants in general, for driving down wages. They don't! Employers drive down wages by offering jobs at ever-decreasing wages. There would be no problem if wages stayed the same regardless of the employee's immigration status. Of course, that would mean that each of us needs to take personal responsibility for purchasing goods at less than lowest-price possible.
In then End the Responsibility is Ours
Blaming CEOs, Boards of Directors, the government, and a multitude of other players, serves only to absolve each of us of our personal responsibility. Perhaps the better question is whether each of us is a sociopath. After all, we are the ones who accept this state of affairs, who fail to sell all of our shares in Monsanto or whatever other business "rapes" the Earth and our future generations. We are the ones who buy goods manufactured in China, Bangladesh, or some other place, most of which we do not even need, while accepting low living standards which, in the end, lower our standards of living. We are the ones spending money on less than healthy food products. We are the ones who spend our hard money going to sports events to support millionaires throwing, kicking, slamming a puck, ball, or whatever else amuses us, while teachers have trouble making ends meet. We are the ones who continue to accept 29.99% interest rates on personal credit cards instead of paying cash for our goods, transferring money to local banks, or, better yet, credit unions (and let’s not get started on interest rates in excess of 450% per year for money lending institutions hawked by such luminaries as Mr. Montel Williams). We are the ones who sleep-walk through these crises hoping tomorrow will be a better and brighter day. Or perhaps that someday we will win the lottery and become part of the 1%.
your power is not at the voting booth, it is at the check-out counter
In then end the responsibility is ours. Failing to take personal responsibility makes us as "sociopathic" as the CEOs we so readily blame. Remember that your power is not at the voting booth, it is at the check-out counter. And, by the way, the promise of RoundUp ready GMO crops has failed to be fulfilled. Instead it has created “super weeds” resistant to RoundUp (glycophosphate). It is also responsible, in part or in whole, for the suicide of over 250,000 subsistence farmers in India who, having bought RoundUp ready seeds and not having a bumper crop as promised were unable to pay their bills and killed themselves. So what’s a Monsanto to do? Well, create a new GMO crop resistant to a more powerful weed killer. This one is known as 2,4-D and has a more ominous name: Agent Orange. For those who were born after the Vietnam war, or ignore history, Agent Orange was a deforestation chemical used in Vietnam to, well deforest the country which it did. Unfortunately, it also created a slew of severe health issues for anyone exposed which included Vietnamese and GIs. The effects of Agent Orange (i.e., 2.4-D) are still being felt some 3 generations later in the form of birth defects, amongst other issues. But Monsanto, and others, are hard at work lobbying the FDA to declare 2,4-D resistant GMO seeds perfectly safe. Let our farmers, and the farmers of the world, spray 2,4-D into soil which will lead into our lakes, rivers, the oceans and our drinking water…what could go wrong? Of course, perhaps we ought to stop and think that if RoundUp GMO seeds created RoundUp resistant “super weeds”, wouldn’t 2,4-D GMO seeds also create 2,4-D resistant “super weeds.”?
What will purchase next time you go to the store? Will you support Monsanto and other psychopaths, or will you make a sane choice? It is up to you, and to us.