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Sunday, November 10, 2002

From the prologue to The Post-Corporate World by David Korten:

In the Post-Corporate World I refine the analysis to argue that the problem is not the market as such but more specifically capitalism, which is to a healthy market economy what cancer is to a healthy body. Cancer occurs when genetic damage causes a cell to forget that it is part of a larger body, the healthy function of which is essential to its own survival. The cell begins to seek its own growth without regard to the consequences for the whole, and ultimately destroys the body that feeds it. As I learned more about the course of cancer's development within the body, I came to realize that the reference to capitalism as a cancer is less a metaphor than a clinical diagnosis of a pathology to which market economies are prone in the absence of adequate citizen and governmental oversight. Our hope for the future is to restore the health of our democracies and market economies by purging them of the pathology.

When dealing with a cancer of the body, containment is rarely an adequate strategy. To become healthy, one needs a curative regime designed to remove or kill the defective cells. Some combination of surgical removal with measures to weaken the cancer cells and strengthen the body's natural defenses is likely to be appropriate. There is a strong parallel to the task now before us. Curing the capitalist cancer to restore democracy, the market, and our human rights and freedoms will require virtually eliminating the institution of the limited-liability for-profit public corporation as we know it to create a post-corporate world through actions such as the following:

  • End the legal fiction that corporations are entitled to the rights of persons and exclude corporations from political participation;
  • Implement serious political campaign reform to reduce the influence of money on politics;
  • Eliminate corporate welfare by eliminating direct subsidies and recovering other externalized costs through fees and taxes;
  • Implement mechanisms to regulate international corporations and finance; and
  • Use fiscal and regulatory policy to make financial speculation unprofitable and to give an economic advantage to human-scale, stakeholder-owned enterprises.

I have no illusions that removal of the capitalist cancer will be easily accomplished. Rarely is cancer in any of its manifestations easily cured.
On the other hand, I see no realistic prospect for the amicable coexistence of life and capitalism. They represent ways of being and valuing as antithetical to one another as the coexistence of cancer cells and healthy cells. Any seeming accomodation between them is inherently unstable and most likely to be resolved in favor of the cancer. On a small and crowded planet with a finite life-support system, our choice as a species is basically between life after capitalism and severe global-scale social and environmental collapse.