Sunday 1 August 2004 11.09am
> This is the film / documentary that I'm really
> keen to see. Should be released here later in the
Hi Harriet (and others),
I managed to see The Corporation during the Wellington Film Festival, which has just ended. It was very interesting (especially as a new student of economics), in parts quite moving, and well worth going to see. As the review in the Economist points out, early on it describes the history of the legal notion of the company/corporation as a legal entity, which I hadn't known before stemmed from the right to liberty given to slaves in America after the civil war.
It's not really surprising that a magazine such as The Economist should end it's review by criticising the state, and the fact that the filmmakers don't cover the alternate viewpoint, but they go a little far when they say:
"Infinitely more powerful than firms and far less accountable for its actions, the modern state has the capacity to behave even in evolved western democracies as a more dangerous psychopath than any corporation can ever hope to become"
This is pretty disputable (I'd say plain rubbish), since we can vote out governments (albeit through imperfect electoral systems), and attempt to hold them accountable in the courts too - and in the US there's obviously the role the Supreme Court can play regarding the constitutionality of new legislation. The citing at the end of the review of North Korea is disingenuous since the form of state ownership there is hardly the same as a western democracy. In any case the film didn't come over to me (at least) as saying that everything should be nationalised and that trade is 'a bad thing', but that maybe we need to look at reforming the law on companies, so that returning value to shareholders is not the sole legal motivation for companies. Interestingly, during the film, Milton Friedman appears to say that Corporate Social Responsibility activities by firms are undemocratic since they start bringing the company into the proper realm of the state....
Anyway, until the film comes out in London, you can check out the website that the filmakers have created: http://www.thecorporation.com/
If you're interested in this sort of film, and haven't already seen it, The Fog of War, which has Robert McNamara setting out what he learnt in 5 decades of working in and around public policy making, is also fascinating. In this case there are two websites. First is an above average one from thefilm studio
and then there's a site with lots of extra material
for students produced by Brown University in Rhode Island.
And finally, I've just finished reading a relatively lightweight, but still funny and slightly provoking novel called Jennifer Government, about a world in which multinationals run the show and governments have lost the power of taxation. Amazon details here
. The author has even created a website based on the novel called Nation States
which lets you create and run a nation according to your own political philosophy. A bit like SimCity but with politics involved... The author's blog says that the novel is 'in development' with George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's production company, so at some point a film may emerge.
Anyway... The Corporation is well worth going to see when it arrives in London.
"There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice, which does not live by secrecy. Get these things out in the open, describe them, attack them, ridicule them in the press, and sooner or later public opinion will sweep them away." - Pulitzer, 1978