[permaculture] Big Ag, Oil and Tobacco Will Kill You For a Profit, By Jane Smiley, HuffingtonPost.com. Posted August 23, 2006.

dwoodard at becon.org dwoodard at becon.org
Fri Sep 1 01:08:45 EDT 2006

Gregory Bateson put it well in his book "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" (1972).

He remarked that a corporation was not a group of people but a group of
parts of people; that is (Economic Man #1) plus (Economic Man #2) plus
(Economic Man #3) etc.

The directors of a business corporation operate to fulfill their legal
duty to *the shareholders* (in practice including themselves and senior
management), which is to make *the shareholders* as much money as
possible. They have no other duties except those imposed by specific laws
made effective because disobedience will cost the corporation more money
than compliance.

The United States is one of the countries in which business is most
efficient in fulfilling its stated single purpose, and in which the
non-business elements of society are weakest in imposing extraneous
purposes on business corporations. This results in high efficiency and
yield measured in money.

Neo-classical economic theory holds that all values can be expressed in
terms of a single exchange value in money. Systems theory and economic
experiment disagree.

Neo-classical economic theory relies on certain assumptions such as that
information is costless, that both parties to market transactions are
fully informed about all aspects of the transaction, and that the costs
and benefits of the transaction to both participants, buyer and seller,
are fully expressed in the price paid by the one and received by the
other. All these assumptions are false. For certain limited purposes they
are close enough approximations but for some purposes they cannot be
relied on.

It's not in the least surprising that business and the market economy have
limitations. For sustainability they have to be made to operate wihtin a
disciplined social framework through the political process. The United
States and to a slightly lesser extent Canada have serious problems in
constructing that disciplined social framework.

It is not so much a problem of private capitalism. The Soviet Union and
other states operating under the Marxist-Leninist version of "socialism"
otherwise known as state capitalism other suffered even more severely from
social accounting and results differeing sharply from the interests of
their peoples. It is a more general problem of power in human

Doug Woodard
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada


> http://www.alternet.org/envirohealth/40682/
> Pithy, penetrating, and barbed comment from Pulitzer prize winner Jane
> Smiley. Powerful and quotable.
> snip
> The ag companies, however, preferred to remake the ecosystem so that
> farmers would use more chemicals rather than fewer; they genetically
> modified seed to make it resistant to an herbicide, Roundup, that when
> applied would destroy every living plant around it except the
> proprietary seed plants also owned by the corporation that formulated
> Roundup.
> This is exactly analogous to an act of war against the natural
> ecosystem. It produced acts of war against the farmers, too, because
> Monsanto aggressively pursued royalty payments from anyone and everyone
> who had those genetically modified plants in their fields, no matter how
> they got there, and even if the farmer didn't want them there. Let's say
> vandals invade your house, eat all your food, drink all your liquor, and
> make a terrible mess. After they burn the house down, they send you a
> bill, and sue you if you don't pay it. And the judge backs them up. That
> is what Monsanto has done to the farmer, and what it is doing to the
> ecosystem.
> snip
> Given what these big corporations routinely do, we have to ask, are they
> filled and peopled from top to bottom by ruthless monsters who care
> nothing about others, and also nothing about the world that we live in?
> Are these CEOs and CFOs and COOs and managers and researchers and
> stockholders so beyond human that, let's say, the deaths in Iraq and the
> destitution of the farmers and the tumors and allergies and obesities of
> children, and the melting of the Greenland ice cap and the shifting of
> the Gulf Stream are, to them, just the cost of doing business? Or are
> they just beyond stupid and blind, so that they, alone among humans,
> have no understanding of the interconnectedness of all natural systems?
> One thing you have to ask yourself, faced with American corporate
> culture, is, what is it about Americans, in particular, that makes them
> so indifferent to consequences, especially the consequence of doing harm
> to others, over and over and over? Why did those big tobacco folks
> persist, for fifty years, in poisoning their customers and attempting to
> get more customers? Was that what Jesus told them to do?
> I bring up Jesus because many, if not most of these companies are
> headquartered in red states, states proud of their Christian heritage.
> Big tobacco is (or used to be) located in the south, big oil in Texas,
> big ag in St. Louis, Minnesota, and Iowa. If Christianity abounds in
> these states, and people working in these corporations, and running
> them, are professing Christians, and these people give themselves a
> license to steal and destroy every day of the year, what does that say
> about Christianity? Let me tell you. It says that Christianity,
> especially American Christianity, is the religion of death.
> snip
> The war machine, as in Lebanon (epitomized by aerial destruction) is
> just as clumsy as it ever was. You cannot torment and injure and murder
> and disfigure people into liking or agreeing with you, only into going
> underground while they prepare their revenge. You cannot treat people,
> even people who don't speak your language or dress like you, as suckers
> and babies (as in, taking candy from a baby). The average person knows
> this, but CEOs and CEO Presidents apparently do not.
> snip
> By deregulating themselves, they made sure only that the consequences of
> their misguided policies would be bigger -- global climate change rather
> than higher gas prices, contaminated gene pools rather than lower
> profits from pesticides, global famine rather than localized corn
> blight, tens of thousands dead in Iraq rather than higher R and D costs,
> the death of the Ford motor company rather than a shift to less
> profitable, more fuel efficient cars.
> --
> Keith Johnson
> Permaculture Activist Magazine
> PO Box 5516
> Bloomington, IN 47408
> (812) 335-0383
> http://www.permacultureactivist.net
> also Patterns for Abundance Design & Consulting

More information about the permaculture mailing list