11/28/2005

“Don’t Be Evil”


The New York Times’ Dan Mitchell reports,
IN 2001, about a dozen of Google's founding employees sat in a conference room trying to come up with a set of corporate values. After a while, one of them, an engineer, Paul Buchheit, said everything they were saying could be summed up by a simple phrase: "Don't Be Evil."
The phrase stuck, and it became Google's informal motto.
Creating one is easy, of course. Living up to it is a little harder, especially when your company becomes as large and ubiquitous as Google. For most of its short history, all was well, but recently complaints have piled up, reaching a peak this month as Google unveiled yet more products. Long considered the David to Microsoft's Goliath, Google is increasingly being thought of as a Goliath itself…
All over the Web, anti-Google sentiment is on the rise.”


This raises some questions for Christians in an increasingly globalized capitalistic world.

  • Is it simply a matter of course that all corporations become evil?
  • If not, how can we help corporations not be evil?
  • If so, how can we limit the evil that corporations inflict upon society?
  • And if corporations naturally have this struggle with being evil, then should Christians do all they can to limit corporations’ rights to “personhood” that they have been granted under the 14th Amendment?

See the debate on corporate rights at PBS’ NOW from earlier this year.


technorati: , technorati:

6 comments:

burttd said...

* Is it simply a matter of course that all corporations become evil?

It is simply a matter of course that *all human institutions* become evil, because they are composed of... sinners.

* If not, how can we help corporations not be evil?

Be in them, and make conscious decisions in our small spheres of influence to NOT be evil.

* And if corporations naturally have this struggle with being evil, then should Christians do all they can to limit corporations’ rights to “personhood” that they have been granted under the 14th Amendment?

That power will simply concentrate on some other place - like, say the government. And the 20th century proved that governments (even your own) will kill you quicker and more painfully than any corporation can.

I think the best we can hope for is to work for some kind of "balance of power" between governments, corporations, etc. Put too much power in one party, and, well, Dark Lords tend to appear in the Barad-durs of the world...

DLW said...

I believe the Acton's dictum is that power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I like Saul Alinsky's idea of activists infiltrating Corporations by winning over stock-holders to influence the Corporations to be more socially responsible.

I mean there is a serious problem with absentee ownership right in the monitoring of how corporate executives act.

Well, if activist groups become monitors for investors, they can in return get the investors to support less "evil" on behalf of the corporations.

If only Alinsky's idea had caught on with leftist groups...

dlw

lyricano said...

you cannot tear down the master's house with the master's tools.

burttd said...

you cannot tear down the master's house with the master's tools.

Can you elaborate on that?

lyricano said...

It is a critique of the idea of trying to "reform" an institution from the inside. For instance, if you want to fix capitalism by being a moral capitalist, the result will be twofold: you tacitly are supporting the institution that supposedly is "evil" or whatever; and, you will be coopted by the institution. The act of using "masters tools" (in the current example, joining the corporation as a moral shareholder), fundamentally and ultimately supports the master. The conclusion is then, if you want to build a better whatever, you have to start fresh. Revolution is necessary.

burttd said...

Well, I think that *all* human institutions are evil to one degree or another. The only real choice we have in most circumstances is "reform from within". Is captialism, with all its flaws, really so evil that participation in it is to be shunned? Has not capitalism slain its thousands, and socialism its tens of thousands? Even the Amish are connected to and dependent on the capitalist society of the US, even though they are much less connected than most.

Evil is not ultimately to be found in any one system of government or economics, but in the hearts of the men and women within them. Solzhenitsyn understood this - and he was in a better position to know than any of us.