As a new department on Era of Collaboration, I will be hosting different people involved in collaboration as featured authors. Today’s writing is a fictional story told in hopes of bringing out the bigger question of…
The Corporate Peoplehood Manifesto
Can a Corporation become the Embodiment of a People?
Imagine, if you will, that the year is 1768. You are John Ware, the 4th son of a minor English noble family, and you were sent to the Colonies as a young man to make your way – for you will inherit none of your families’ wealth.
You have built a fine business for yourself trading tea in Boston that you get from the Dutch. You are in a tavern talking with your cousin Thomas Newman, an administrative representative of the crown, and Samuel Adams, another prosperous merchant friend with strong anti-royalist beliefs.
The three of you are discussing the newly enacted Townshend Acts, which firmly establishes the Crown’s authority over the economic life of the colonies and is broadly believed to be the start of a period of increasing tyranny and domination. On a personal level, the new laws have destroyed your profitable business. You can no longer buy tea from the Dutch at a competitive price, but must now buy it directly from the East India Trading Company. This powerful, well-connected company has a complete monopoly and will squeeze out all of your profits for themselves, and give special deals to those more favored by the Crown than yourself.
Late into the evening, and after many glasses of ale, Mr. Adams puts forth an idea. This idea is simple in its construction, yet profound in how it would change the world. And the idea is this…
What if a nation could become the embodiment of a people, instead of its oppressor?
Your cousin, Mr. Newman, knows who writes his paycheck and immediately dismisses the idea. “We are loyal subjects of the crown, and the King is our nation. He loves his loyal subjects.”, he states with conviction. He knows where this thinking will lead, but he has become accustomed to these uncomfortable discussions. And, as the idea is abstract and not an actual call to arms, he chooses not to report the conversation to his superiors, however, he will keep a closer eye on Mr. Adams. He gets up and takes his leave to show his disdain for this line of talk and encourages you to join him. You let him know that you will follow him shortly, as something in this line of thinking has stirred your hopes and doubts.
Now the conversation gets quieter and more interesting. You are skeptical. You have grown up watching the palace intrigues that your family engaged in to just hold onto even its minor position in the court. You have seen unexceptional men like your cousin chosen for promotion based on loyalty and conformity, where hardworking and intelligent men like yourself were passed over for being too independent of mind.
For you, this is all a nation is, and can ever be. You have seen the devastating effects of the “royal prerogative” where the “lion’s share” of the nation’s wealth is seized by the most powerful few and mere survival requires complete submission to all more powerful than yourself. When the King is done cutting the prime meat off the bones of your sustenance, then the vulturous nobility sweeps in to pick things clean. Holding on to enough to provide for your family is a constant challenge that requires soul twisting compromises on a daily basis. This mechanism of tyranny as the salvation of hope and prosperity? It seems mad.
Mr. Adams tells you of the governmental structure of the fierce Iroquois Confederacy. He challenges you that if these savages can conceive of a powerful, effective nation without a King, then surely we white men can figure it out? You know the Iroquois to be one of the most respected and feared of the indigenous nations and you wonder if their organizing structure might have something to do with their effectiveness as a people. Mr. Adams goes on to explain about the governing principals that protects against tyranny for the Iroquois. They have different branches of government with a separation of powers so that each branch can “check” possible abuses of the other, he tells you. What he doesn’t tell you is that women hold a powerful place in this confederacy having the veto power over war and the right to pick the leaders, as they have known them from boyhood.
So, coming back to reality…the question is this…
What side would you pick in this great debate?
Would you join your cousin, Mr. Newman and the Tories and the Loyalists — not enthusiastically, but out of a practical calculation of the outside odds involved in changing such a powerful system, a system that has no second thought about using its power brutally to enforce complete submission?
Or, would you begin quietly supporting Mr. Adams and his friends, perhaps taking a leadership position in moving forward this simple, abstract idea. Spreading the idea to those you would think open, risking exposure. Would you pledge your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor to this great cause of liberty?
What side of history would you have been on?
Well today is 1768. The new monarchy is the multi-national corporation. We are in the age of the Corporate State. But the good news is that we have things so much easier than our fore-bearers did.
We have the rusty, misused levers of political democracy.
We have groundbreaking technologies at our disposal. We have the powerful economic trend of the efficiency of the collaboration over the organization, as demonstrated by the victory of Wikipedia over Encarta, and Craigslist.org over classified ads.
We do not need to defeat a standing army, but must simply organize ourselves to sell a better mousetrap, create a better market, organize economically as a people. And it is the corporation that will be the vessel to carry us to a more peaceful, prosperous, and compassionate future.
In the marketplace of labor, we will draw the best and brightest to this next great cause. If successful, the great collaborators and cooperators will flock to these new incorporations, leaving behind the economic structures of the past, the dinosaurs of old capitalisms, peopled only with the flatterers and the cronies, the ideologues and the dictators.
This great cause is not the cause of independence, for it is independence that has created the problems we face. This new cause of liberty is the struggle for interdependence.