Saturday, December 27, 2008
Death Penalty for Corporate Wrongdoers
In our capitalistic society, corporations are given the benefits of citizens in that they are treated legally as if they are persons. I am thinking about this quirkiness, that is what it is, in the law that allows a corporation to do things to other people that any live, breathing human being would be imprisoned forever or executed for doing. The first example that comes to mind is the damage that is caused to individuals (damage= death) by various drug companies that market products indiscriminately with inadequate and sometimes fraudulent testing which results in the deaths of users. A company that does such things should be put to death. A court should be empowered to dismantle a corporation that has done things that, if done by an individual, would result in the death penalty. The current means of inflicting punishment, the assessment of fines, allows a company to continue doing business in a manner akin to an elephant brushing a fly off its back. Another example: This Bernard Madoff business. While the story that he has been permitted to circulate is that he, alone, created and managed the Ponzi scheme and that no one, including his two sons, knew of the arrangement. When he was near to being caught, he apparently spilled his guts to his sons and they turned him in. It is a good story, but I don't think it's true. I think he arranged this so that they could continue in business and make their millions of dollars even after he is gone. While such familial loyalty is to be admired, think of how Mr. Madoff may have adjusted his conduct if he knew beforehand that his scheme would result not only in his imprisonment, but the total destruction of his company and the removal of all assets from the people who owned that company including his own family, rather than business as usual. The examples could go on and on, but the net observation is the same. We let corporations get away with murder and acts that ruin the lives of others. Unlike the individual human being, a corporation has no soul or conscience. We should not reward this amorality.