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The Almighty Buck

The Rise of Corporate Global Power 505

tuxpenguin writes: "While playing around with GNutella the other day, I came across this PDF document (HTML Here). It gives figures on the Top 200 businesses in terms of net/gross profits and employees. It also compares this information to the GDP of different countries, campaign contributions, government lobbying etc. I found it to be an interesting read. I also found it interesting, that being a rather contriversial document for big businesses, I came accross it first on a p2p network. Something most major corporations would be thrilled to see disbanded."
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The Rise of Corporate Global Power

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  • The only solution to corrupt politicians is for us -- that means you and I -- to tell our politicians that we don't want them to interfere in the marketplace.

    Why should the politician listen to you and I, when they can use the money they get from the businesses to buy a political ad that will result in a hundred votes for them, compared to our two votes against?

  • Sure it is. It's harder to wage war on a corporation. Also, governments exist to give something to citizens (even if only controlledness!). Corporations only exist to take. Period. You can't maintain an economy if some of the players are seizing the resources and squirrelling them away, hoarding the money. It's got to be in circulation. Corporations get in the way of that- the money flow is strictly one-way.
  • What's wrong with general partnerships, limited partnerships, and sole proprietorships with the astonishing new concept of *tadah!* employees?

    Sorry, but there is NO justification for corporations on those grounds. If I get a mob together to storm Redmond, this does not legally make us a composite entity with legal rights and exempt from individual responsibility. _Why_ does Redmond deserve legal rights and exemption from personal responsibility to storm _us_ and deprive me of my free market choices?

  • Your historical perspective is, ah, a little off. Corporations have _always_ had the capacity to raise private armies and go out and kill people they don't like. One of the best ways to make them not like you has been to try and organise a union, but there is no reason it need stop there. The only thing, the ONLY thing that stops a corporation is the law that it is made out of, its sole weakness and defining structure.

    Once corporations become so much more powerful than governments that they have no such restrictions, they will war on each other in all the ways of governments. Rather than nVidia warring on 3dfx in the courts, it will simply hire mercs and shoot the 3dfx engineers. Rather than Microsoft releasing lots of PR nonsense to fight open source, it will simply have RMS shot. There's loads of historical precedent. To think otherwise is hopelessly naive and requires wilful refusal to face known historical fact. The only difference is in magnitude. The corporate rulers of the future you suggest will be _worse_ than the atrocities of the Industrial Age. For one, they'll be infinitely more able to spy on you, and will have total access to all your resources, which will be electronic and stored on servers that they own.

  • No no no, you're not getting the spirit of the thing! Africa _should_ be killed, and the bodies sold to the five largest american companies to make soap with, which can then be sold in Wal-Mart! You're not properly appreciating the Darwinism of it all, Mike. What's your body fat content? Maybe you'd be more profitable to the economy as soap ;)
  • "However, I don't understand when Slashdot went communist."

    Easy. It happened when news article after news article illustrated the practical result of modern corporate capitalism and how it interferes with a choice-rich, thriving market.

    The fact that many/most Slashdot readers are users of Linux, which is targeted for destruction by Microsoft (a trend-setting corporation that is much imitated), surely helped. Those slashdot readers have had many chances to consider the ways in which corporations can attack and damage the social infrastructure to benefit only themselves.

    Finally, many Slashdot readers are young, traditionally a time for liberal and radical views and a desire for egalatarianism- when you're young you are shall we say LESS in favor of having a few old white haired geezers running the world. When you're old, mysteriously it starts to seem more suitable for those like you to rule ;)

    To top all this off, many Slashdot readers are intelligent and capable of pursuing logical thought. Forced to practice this thinking just to maintain their computer systems (largely self-maintained), they tend to apply it to all problems they see. When faced with problems of power dynamics in the world, they are capable of putting together the implications of laissez-fair free-market capitalism, the ability of third world countries to produce sweatshops and out-produce more civilised countries (civil liberties are a LOCAL ordinance), and the requirements of fiduciary duty on intellectual systems defined entirely by rules and regulations, and they come out with an answer that stuns them: government is on the way out, corporate totalitarianism is on the way in. Decentralised Stalin. Global electronic 'Kristallnacht'.

    THAT is why so many Slashdotters have seemingly gone Communist. Of course, you should also remember that many have gone Socialist, or Social Anarchist, and that some have decided to side with where the power's going to be, and have gone Anarcho-Capitalist or Randite. (Not to be confused with social libertarian!)

    Got it? And which side are _you_ on? >:)

  • Nonsense. The way to get a lot of money is to club somebody and take it. Producing something that people want is _much_ less efficient- social Darwinism is as real as we make it, and you can be quite confident that the people 'producing something that people want' WILL lose, because that takes a lot of work.

    I don't know how to better explain this- it's so basic that if you won't accept it, there's no communication. Crime pays. Theft works. If you knock someone down and take their money, you have their money and they don't. The way to make lots of money is to take it from people. Producing something people want is a really inefficient way of doing that, and will ALWAYS lose to any competitor with more willingness to use the cosh.

    Oh, you cite law? There is no law. It was part of governments and justice and all that stuff. It's not what it used to be.

  • Because what makes us humans is the ability to cooperate, to communicate, to take care of the whole tribe and the old ladies and the little kids. A little kid is the weakest thing out there, but it's also the future. Granny sucks at hunting, but she was probably the one who invented sticking seeds under ground and growing cultivated plants for food- the hunters were busy hunting.

    Our needs as a culture, as a _global_ and wildly diverse species, depend on our keeping the diversity to be able to adapt to whatever the upcoming millenia will throw at us. That means we don't have the option to just cull the herd until only the best survival strategies for THIS year (or decade, or century) are left alive. We've got to do what we can for the whole tribe because to narrow and evolve ourselves into one little niche is species suicide. And doing this can also be described as 'making the world a better place', and often is.

    And why exactly are you impressed by UINs? Because they identify people who were quick to take notice of something that became very important? If that is so, you might want to look again at what Ian is saying- and the reasons I'm backing him up here.

    Because he is taking notice of something that IS becoming increasingly important. So am I. Are you going to be quick to understand this too- or really, really slow?

  • "You'll never work in this town again!"

    If the statement is true, where is your difference now?

  • It's also a really good way to overspecialise and powerdive for extinction.

    The sabertooth tiger could clobber _any_ human, one on one. What the sabretooth tiger could _not_ do was be omnivorous, develop societies to protect the weaker members of the species so they could sit around inventing things like spears and guns and anarchocapitalism.

    Note how there aren't any sabretooth tigers around anymore. Now, why would you want to emulate their markedly inferior capacity for tribal defense and protection? Human civilisation is _based_ on the tribe, a system of trading status for obligation. The head of the tribe takes on the responsibility of protecting the weakest members. This is a winning evolutionary strategy.

    Any political system that depends on the winner getting to eat up the losers may be a very simple system, and it may look great to winners and would-be winners (whee, no obligation! I can spell 'Darwin'!) but it's a recipe for overspecialisation and extinction. Don't go there. Study Desmond Morris, not just Darwin. Think tribes, not individuals.

  • And if you define 'State' pragmatically rather than using some sort of shell-game political definition, you may be off the chart entirely, or social Anarchist :)

    If a corporation can see to it that I never work in this town again (because it owns the town and controls all commerce), then it counts as The State. If a corporation can seize the tollbooths of the information superhighway and take the ability to communicate globally _away_ from me because I won't pay tribute, I can still choose to not pay tribute, but I'll be awful lonely- and again, that counts as The State.

    I have to agree with Deskpoet that Slashdot tends to veer wildly to the right. It's just _radical_ right, which is why it's not always seen as such. Wishing to turn over the reins of world power to corporations and cartels with blind faith in some sort of magical market forces based on people being smart, well-informed, and loaded with foresight and the ability to put off instant gratification for longterm goals... is so wildly Right-wing that it's almost a self-parody. Normal people do not cultivate this sort of faith in economic theories.

    • "The average life expectancy in 1900 was 47 years. Today it is 77, and rising." This is simply the advance of medical technology and old-age care, owing nothing to your political system. And average life expectancy of what- inner-city blacks? Or wealthy white upper-class senior citizens?
    • "The infant-mortality rate has dropped from 1 in 10 to 1 in 150." Again, technology. And clearly you're not measuring it in Santiago, Chile, where laissez-faire freemarket capitalism led to pollution levels that made hospitals keep tons of oxygen masks ready, to put on asphixiating babies- dozens brought in each day, at the point of death from breathing air. I don't think you're measuring _those_ infants. Perhaps you're measuring the infant mortality of Beverly Hills.
    • ""Poor" Americans today have routine access to a quality of housing, food, health care, consumer products, entertainment, communications and transportation that even the Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Rockefellers could only dream of." Yeah, poor americans can drop everything and fly to Paris to sip wine. What the _hell_ are you thinking? Hung up on the fact that Andrew Carnegie couldn't have a Palm Pilot? This is an _obscene_ suggestion.
    • "A farmer a century ago could produce only one-hundredth of what his counterpart is capable of growing and harvesting today." The farmer a century ago _owned_ his farm and supported himself by it. His counterpart is an employee, probably doesn't own the land he works, or his equipment- if he is not an outright employee, then the bank owns the stuff and he's paying it off. Hell, man, the modern farmer doesn't own the SEED he plants. He has no capacity for subsistence at all. I'm sorry, this is a _major_ gaffe on your part. It's as bad as the 'Vanderbilt' nonsense.
    • "In the 19th century, almost all teenagers toiled in factories or fields. Now, 9 in 10 attend high school." ...where they are taught to drink Pepsi(tm), work at Wal-Mart, and on the whole have less collective bargaining power than the factory workers had- which is why they are so easily discarded when the teenagers of _Korea_ prove to be able to do the same work, at a quarter the cost. Oh, and they stand a better chance of being shot, blown up, spied on, beat up or having bad things put on their permanent record than the factory workers had.
    • "Today's Americans have three times more leisure time than their great-grandparents did." And barely comprehend what the concept 'leisure' even means anymore because they're running so hard on the treadmill. I'm sorry, this sounds like someone made it up whole cloth.
    • "The price of food relative to wages has plummeted: In the early part of this century the average American had to work two hours to earn enough to purchase a chicken, compared with 20 minutes today." In the early part of this century, a fair number of average Americans _raised_ fscking chickens! You're counting the self-sufficient ones as consumers! You're out of your mind if you think that makes sense. The consumer class was a product of the 50s and kicked off the horrible dependence modern Americans are stuck with. If nobody sold food, those early Americans would be _fine_. If nobody sold food, your modern consumer would _starve_. And you are arguing that the very dependency that's made what was once a luxury item (a store-bought chicken) a staple (at a corresponding price drop) shows that the modern consumer is wealthier! That's obscene.
    Cato-quoting fantasizer... >:(
  • You're assuming a society in which people are interacting with others familiar to them.

    Human society outgrew that LONG ago.

    Read some Desmond Morris with particular attention to the way in which human society grew from 'tribe' status, in which humans knew the vast majority of other humans they interacted with, to 'super-tribe' status, in which it's more often the case that you deal with people totally unknown to you.

    This is hardly novel information- you're just not applying it, or choosing not to see it.

    In the modern world (already!) and in the world of the future, most of your interactions are with strangers, and this is where your default assumptions break down, and why the original poster's theories do not hold in the real world.

    They are based on a 'village' model in which people customarily have familiarity with, and free information about, those with which they do business.

    That doesn't happen anymore- indeed, we have some parts of UCITA that would prohibit true information even being exchanged. Even if UCITA is struck down, the basic social reality is that the vast majority of people do business with strangers. Do you KNOW the waitress to whom you hand your credit card? The programmer who codes the back-end of your favorite website?

    Please lose the naivete. The world is bigger than you know- and that's a reality that won't go away no matter how much you pretend you can be aware of everyone you interact with. It's basic sociology as applied to super-populations such as human beings.

    If you really believe what you say- move to a small town NOW.

    I did! *G*

  • This issue, maximizing profits to run up stock prices, is only true for publically traded companies, a SMALL portion of corporations.
    Most (all?) of the top 200 corporations are publically traded. If anyone knows of a non-public corporation on that list, please respond. These top 200 are obviously very important. As noted, they account for 27.5% of the total sales in the world. There's a lot of non-publically traded businesses, but that doesn't change the fact that big, publically-traded, profit-oriented institutions exist and are able to exert far more focused power than the small businesses.

    And while shareholders could vote for something that does not imply greatest profit, it is nearly absurd to think that the institutional investor would do such a thing, and they account for significant amount of stock ownership.

  • In 1999, they employed a combined total of 22,682,166 workers, which is 0.78% of the world's workforce.

    Great, we are getting better productivity than ever.

    Umm... that's not the point at all. The point is that not only is the control of the economy in the hands of small elite, but even the benefits these corporations give to their employees only goes to a tiny portion of the population. The point is that these corporations are huge and powerful, and yet only represent the interests of an elite few. IMHO (and not necessarily the authors of the paper) this isn't a "damn them for succeding", but a "oh my God, what sort of monsters have we created?"
    Is this me or seems like Slashdot seems to be completely dominated by leftists and liberals. When was a last time you saw any story presented from conservative point of view?
    Well, Slashdot has always had an anti-establishment perspective. This is very representative of its readership.

    There is almost no interesting conservative anti-establishment material to report on. Perhaps militia groups had some -- but they would agree with this report, and they actually share a lot of ideals and beliefs with leftists.

    And even if we didn't limit ourself to anti-establishment material, there is little of interest from the conservative perspective at all. That's the pathetic thing to it... I mean, who's a better read, Sartre or Rand? Dostoevsky or... damn... I ran out of conservative authors after Rand. I suppose fundamentalists and Neo-Nazis have, well, at least novel things to say, but I doubt those are the conservatives you were thinking of. Did you want more articles on how we really need mroe study on this whole "Global Warming" thing? Articles that talk about how dumb those protesters are? That's about sums up the argument against protesters these days -- not, mind you, any material backing up the general proposition that they are a bunch of naive idiots, that would be pandering to them. At least that's how it seems, reading the Conservative Response.

    Do you have new statistics to show everything is hunky-dory and we should leave things as they are? Exciting. Or an editorial on how the government is stealing our money? How insightful. I haven't heard that idea anywhere. Maybe how technology is helping catch Bad Guys? I love the term "bad guys"... certainly the sign of a media that wants to keep us thinking deeply on the issues.

    I mean, if you want to hear conservative points of view intermingled with fluff, go watch TV news. Read CNN. Whatever. Don't ask to bring that drivel here. If you have a good source of insightful conservative news and opinion stories, post it. I'll give it a gander, and maybe some people more sympathetic to that perspective will read it instead of /.

  • The persuit of wealth is NOT evil. Being a bad person is evil. Do not confuse the two.
    All that is necessary for evil to succede is for good men to do nothing. Corporations tie up a lot of people in doing nothing.

    The problem with the view that just making lots of money is okay, is that it isn't okay. We each have a duty to help make the world a better place. Fuck the libertarians, being selfish is not okay.

  • Your entire post about conservative thought could be summarized, as "this stuff is boring so we will not read it." Exciting and insightful is NOT the same thing.
    Not just boring, but the conservative ideas aren't novel. They don't add anything interesting to the discussion. They aren't compelling. And they are boring to top it all off. IMHO that's why mainstream press becomes more inane and trivial -- the strong conservative bend to the news means no news (typically) or boring news, and they fill in the increasingly large gaps with fluff.

    Again, if you have some material to show me wrong, post it. Right here, right now, you don't need an editor to approve it. I still probably won't agree with you, but I promise you I'll read it, and if nothing else at least I'll see where you are coming from.

  • What are you talking about? When you were young and wanted all the toys for yourself, did your mother reward you? Or maybe she took the toys from you to keep for herself -- teaching by example.

    God, I hope not. But if not, when did you learn that being selfish was okay? Capitalist rhetoric has made people forget the most basic moral lessons. Well, not really -- most people still act decently in their private lives. But somehow people change the standard when they move into public life.

    I'm an atheist, but this is the sort of thing that makes me want to preach religion. In a society where the strongest voices speak for materialism and selfishness, religion seems to be the one place where basic moral standards are applied to the public sphere.

    Making things people want is fine. Hell, it's good. But being selfish is not good.

    You have a moral imperative to be thoughtful and conscious of the effects of your actions. You have a moral imperative to help others and make your world a better place. I don't say this because I have a direct line from God telling me this -- I say it because this is how people have lived their lives and continue to live their lives, everywhere. You will live up to your moral imperative if you let yourself, and if the world doesn't hold you down.

    (and making you unaware of the effect of your actions holds you down)

    So I'll say it once again: selfishness is not okay.

  • The free market system is based on the trust of people in general, the concept that most people are basically decent human beings and are capable of solving problems.
    This is why I don't like corporations either. Drawing the line that governments and planned economies are bad, but corporations aren't -- I don't think that's fair. Governments at least try to have some accountability, some representation. Sometimes it works. Planned economies are reasonable if they really do derive from the willful consent of their members. Sometimes that works too. And limited liability can be helpful to encourage progress by limiting risk. Sometimes that works too.

    But what I really don't like is when people are divorced from the results of their actions. Corporations do that this people. The US foreign policy reflects this abstraction. Militaries cultivate such automation every way possible. Those are the enemies of freedom.

  • Corporations can't run your life. Only the government can do that. Corporations have no legal power to tell you what to do.

    They can't order you to do anything, but they can exert great influence on the government and use their own resources to curtail your options pretty severely if they feel it's in their interests. You're deluding yourself if you think that larger and larger corporations can't exert significant control over what you can or cannot do.

  • by crayz ( 1056 )
    wow, great point. "stop talking...convince others of your position" - hear it all the time
  • My ancestors were white, came to the US in the 1860's from Northern Europe.

    They came in a deal with a mining company in Northern Michigan, who paid their passage in return for their availability to work off the debt in the copper mines.

    Unfortunately, once they got there, they found out that the copper mines were in a town where everything else was also owned by the mining company. The stores, the housing. Everything. And there were no other towns for hundreds of miles.

    They were free, but virtually slaves. The longer they lived there, the deeper they got in debt, because wages did not cover the living expenses, let alone begin to pay back the debt.

    Plus, the local law enforcement and judiciary were also "owned" by the mining company.

    I've heard all the arguments FOR unrestrained capitalism, and none of them override the fact that people can and will be exploited as slaves, by those in power, as long as those in power can get away with it. In the latter part of the 19th century, and the early part of th 20th, the US began to recognize this problem, and act to prevent it, passing numerous laws restricting business from unfairly exploiting people.

    The problem with that is, you're on a slippery slope to communism. But if you do nothing, you're on a slippery slope to slavery.

    My ancestors were lucky; they were "rescued" by a rich relative, who had come to America, and got rich as a farmer in Iowa (not actually related, but from the same part of Norway). They eventually paid their debts, bought land of their own, and became wealthy successful farmers themselves. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a rich successful benefactor.

    It shows that the system can work to benefit the down and out, even under terrible conditions. The philanthropy of the rich is critical, when there is no societal regulation. But a human should still feel compelled to look at a situation like those copper mines, and be disgusted by it.
  • well, that's because in reality, there is only ONE law. The law of the jungle. Survival of the fittest.

    This is how society works today. We have our structures of law and order, presumably to benefit society as a whole, but in fact, this structure of law and order serves to benefit mainly those already in power, and to preserve their status. The battlefield has been altered from tooth and claw to money and power. The victor becomes stronger, and the loser becomes homeless, economically destroyed, and as good as physically dead. The threat is neutralized.

    But when it comes down to it, all of those laws and regulations can be brushed aside, and when survival becomes a question, the answer is at the business-end of a gun. Step out of line, and it becomes a physical struggle for life-and-death. The whole thing is based on the law of the jungle folks.

    Isn't murder illegal? A crime? It's one of the most basic laws of human civilization. Pretty much all human civilizations share a prohibition against wanton killing of other humans.
    What if a cop thinks you were going for a gun when you were getting your ID? What if a very rich and powerful person is threatened by you and can afford a discreet hit? What if your nation will not give access to a critical resource to a much more powerful nation. In all cases, the fact that murder is a crime falls by the wayside, and the stronger animal kills the weaker animal.
  • by Squid ( 3420 )
    Slashdot tends to self-select a somewhat left-leaning readership. Ones who tire of constantly liberal bents to the headlines probably leave sooner rather than later - after all, there's PLENTY of places to get news that's been filtered by people with, if not a conservative bent, at least a desire to appeal to a conservative audience. Not like Slashdot's editors are unbiased or anything, but most of us are comfortable with the political slant here. Especially where it pertains to big companies that want to take not just our money, but our rights.

    ...and replace it with what ? Until these people propose something better instead I think we are going to be better off with what we have now.

    Of course we would. Isn't that the simplest definition of a conservative - one who thinks status quo is Latin for "good enough"?

    Some of us don't buy it. Myself, I don't care much for socialism as an antidote to corporatism - someone needs to think of a NEW economic model that allows for personal advancement the way capitalism does, without requiring every company to strip the planet dry and burn out all its workers in the process. But the point is, corporatism (a cult, founded on the belief that one can't just make money, one must make ALL the money and one goes to Hell if one leaves a single dollar unmade somewhere) is a danger to the species, psychologically (as we sell more of our souls in exchange for whiter teeth and summer blockbusters), physically (corn syrup and Red 40 are hazardous to our health), and ecologically (no really, despite what certain radio hosts tell you, we really ARE ruining the planet). There is a desire among some people to see corporatism - not necessarily capitalism, mind you - burned down. Perhaps instead of condemning such ideas with the "L" word, you should actually THINK about what people have to gain from suggesting such things.
  • by Zigurd ( 3528 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @06:51AM (#179017) Homepage
    Comparing the sales of companies, or even their profits, with GNP is bogus. You can't even compare Cisco's sales to Sysco's in any meaningful way. Market cap is more accurate: What would it cost to buy this thing called Exxon/Mobil? What would it cost to buy Peru? Which number is larger. You will find that even poor dinky countries would cost more to buy than the biggest oil company. Land, people, minerals, the power to tax, are all very very valuable.

    Another more useful measure is employment: how many people work for Wal-Mart vs. how many people work for the government of a nation? Again you will find even tiny countries have far bigger government workforces than the largest multinationals.

    This is not to defend corporations vs. governments. Both can be really bad. But the measurement being used is as bad as confusing mass with weight. It's just bad science.

  • the profits of the five largest american companies FOR ONE YEAR would feed the starving in africa for decades

    Unfortunately, their shareholders probably want to keep the money for their 401K's.

    If all the socialist Slashdotter's sold their computers and sent the money to Africa, you could probably feed all the poor in one country for a year. So go ahead, do it!
  • there is little of interest from the conservative perspective at all.

    Of course, conservatives are just another brand of government-conquers-all-except-my-pet-concern-like -drugs. Go read stuff from the libertarian Cato Insititute [cato.org], for example, I Love Global Capitalism--and I'm Under 30 [cato.org]

    Do you have new statistics to show everything is hunky-dory and we should leave things as they are?

    It's Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years [cato.org]
    • The average life expectancy in 1900 was 47 years. Today it is 77, and rising.
    • The infant-mortality rate has dropped from 1 in 10 to 1 in 150.
    • "Poor" Americans today have routine access to a quality of housing, food, health care, consumer products, entertainment, communications and transportation that even the Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Rockefellers could only dream of.
    • A farmer a century ago could produce only one-hundredth of what his counterpart is capable of growing and harvesting today.
    • In the 19th century, almost all teenagers toiled in factories or fields. Now, 9 in 10 attend high school.
    • Today's Americans have three times more leisure time than their great-grandparents did.
    • The price of food relative to wages has plummeted: In the early part of this century the average American had to work two hours to earn enough to purchase a chicken, compared with 20 minutes today.

    If that isn't enough, the percentage of Americans holding shares in those "evil corporations" has skyrocketed to over 43%, a 126% increase in the last 15 years, and has increased for all income levels (workers are becoming capitalists). Our houses are getting larger and larger, despite price per square foot going down. In the 1950's, 50% of Americans did not have indoor plumbing. Now even those in poverty do, along with a refrigerator, VCR, and one or two televisions.
  • Yes, the Cato Institute [cato.org] is so Republican...that's why they sponsored Beyond Prohibition: An Adult Approach to Drug Policies [cato.org], Are Republicans Locked in a Cold-War Mindset? [cato.org], and Republicans and Democrats Are in It for the Money, the Power, the Prestige [cato.org].

    Cato regularly speaks out against Republican attacks on liberty as well as Democratic ones. The Democrats do tend to be overachievers in this department, but the Republicans sure can do it as well.

    Cato is a bit more realistic than, say, the Libertarian Party [lp.org]. It is my impression that the Cato folks assume that there is little chance of an effective third-party in the US, and that working to provide facts to the two existing parties and the public is the best way to move forward.
  • If that was the case then there would have to be a gradual increase in prices as the supply started getting shorter. That did not happen. The prices all of a sudden spiked up tenfold despite the fact that CA used seven percent less energy this year and then last year.

    They spiked for a bunch of reasons. First of all, user rates were capped by the government, so there was no "run up" for ratepayers, and utilities could not pass on higher wholesale electricity prices to ratepayers. And under the market rules, PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E were required to buy all of their power through the CalPX. They could not enter into forward long-term contracts for energy. When spot market wholesale prices increased because of power shortages and increasing generation costs, the utilities had no option but to purchase the high-priced power. Many independent power generators were reluctant to sell power to PG&E, and SCE because of their resulting financial troubles, and the uncertainty of receiving payment for the power sold.

    Add on top of this an increase in natural gas prices.

    Also, electricity does not have a linear demand curve, people are willing to pay whatever they have to in order to have the lights on, so as demand nears supply, the prices go up quickly. With a cap on rates, there was no "warning" to ratepayers.

    The Cato Institute predicted the result of California "deregulation" in 1997! [cato.org]. It was not the creation of a free market in energy, but an attempt to look like doing so while maintaining a regulatory structure that eventually stuck it to the ratepayers.

    I'll have to believe you about California using 7% less energy this year than last year, but the pricing of California electricity is about peak demand, not average demand. California's generation capability decreased 2 percent from 1990 through 1999, while retail sales increased by 11 percent. To meet its demand for power, California relies on about 7 to 11 gigawatts of out-of-state generation capability, of which a significant portion is produced by hydroelectric power in the northwestern United States. Reduced hydroelectric power generation caused by unusually low water levels in the northwest resulted in a reduction of imports to northern California. Path 15, the high voltage transmission line connecting southern California to northern California, became congested at times, reducing the flow of surplus electricity capacity in southern California to meet shortages in northern California. So I'll bet that power demand peaks were higher then supply more often this year than last.
  • More than half the prisoners are due to our insane war on drugs.

    Q: Did you vote for a Presidential candidate that was for the insane War on Drugs, or against it?

    If you voted for a Presidential candidate that was for the War on Drugs, maybe you are INSANE!
  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:08AM (#179024) Journal
    There is not an infinite amount of money in some other dimension where it magically appears on this planet whenever we want it. It comes from turning natural resources into products.

    That is true to some extent. There are two caveats. First, every exchange in a free market is an increase in wealth to both the buyer and the seller. This is a basic rule of economics, buyers pay less than they value an item at, and sellers ask for more than they value an item at. So we could all become billionaires...

    But more on your point, humanity increases the availability of natural resources through the use of human intelligence. Your comment about "hitting a brick wall" will not happen as long as humans are free to come up with new ideas to solve problems, and there is an existing free market to properly value resources.

    I highly suggest a reading of Julian Simone's work The Ultimate Resource [umd.edu] which discusses how natural resource "shortages" have always been predicted, yet never actually happen because increasing value of scarce resources motivate people to think of new ways of obtaining those resources.

    Of course, there are market externalities, such as global atmospheric resources, that cannot be represented in our existing law as private resources. So this doesn't mean that all environmental laws are bad. But we should be very careful that the costs of an environmental law is not larger than the benefit (e.g., millions dead each year because of malaria due to DDT ban [spiked-online.com], etc.)
  • Why does the typical slashdot poster always whine about being a victim of corporate America?

    First you complain about how evil big corporations are using your Dell(tm) computer as you sip away on your Mountain Dew(tm), while wearing your Abercrombie and Fitch(tm) t-shirt and Nike(tm) sneakers.

    Then you climb into your General Motors(tm) Aztek(tm) to grab a Big Mac(tm) from the nearest McDonalds(tm).

    Instead of endlessly complaining about corporate greed, why don't you take a stand? Support the little guy. Speak out against advertising and abuse by corporate America. Turn around the terrible trend of consumerism, and convince others to help. Corporations, just like the government, get their power from you, me, and everyone else. And if enough people get fed up with the abuse, the support for those companies will dry up.

    This post is mostly just an idealistic rant. But instead of whining about how evil big corporations are, why don't you try doing something to make a difference? You aren't completely powerless, you know.
  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @10:55PM (#179033) Homepage
    And expect the companies, guided by the hidden hand, to simply come up with nice environmental, safety, fair conduct and labor regulation all by their little selves? That has worked where?
  • ...since Bush got elected.
  • Hey, how about if I extend this a bit:

    P1: Seeking to maximize profits at any cost is evil;
    P2: Businesses seek to maximize profits at any cost;
    C1: Therefore, businesses are evil.

    P3: All those who knowingly collaborate in an evil enterprise are themselves evil;
    P4: Employees of a business knowingly collaborate in maximizing profits at any cost;
    P5: QuantumG is an employee of a business;
    C2: Therefore, QuantumG knowingly collaborates in maximizing profits at any cost;
    C3: Therefore, QuantumG is evil.

    P6: A person who is self-employed is a business;
    P7: Businesses are evil;
    P8: QuantumG is self-employed;
    C4: Therefore, QuantumG is a business;
    C5: Therefore, QuantumG is evil.

    GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!

    ;)
  • These idiots have littered this so called "report" numerous times with comparisons of gross figures to net figures. How much money did these corporations push back into the economy while operating? Then they align these comparisons with fair, logical comparisons, then they make their -- suprise! -- startling conspiricy theory style conclusion that they were shooting for all along!!!

    Compare apples to apples -- please - I've had enough comparing them to x86's today.

    ~GoRK
  • Someone mod this up. Not a practical solution, but something worth thinking about.

    This hits especially close to home now that I finished working a contract where the pimp agency was siphening off $54/hour of my wages. A fellow I worked with (H1B visa) was actually getting a paltry 45K/year salary, no overtime, while the pimp agency billed him to clients at $95/hour for 40-60 hours a week.

    At any rate, never before have I felt this kind of exploitation so close to home, but now I see it many places I look in the business world.
  • by mjj12 ( 10449 ) <mjj12@@@btopenworld...com> on Sunday June 03, 2001 @11:33PM (#179042) Homepage
    This study compares GDP (The total amount of money spent in an economy) with the sales of specific companies. This isn't a terribly useful thing to do.

    When I buy a widget, some of the money I spend goes to the shop that sold me the widget, some to the company that transported the widget to the shop, some to the company that made the widget, some to the company that mined the raw materials that the widget was made from etc. In the GDP number, the total cost of the widget is only counted once , and contributions to it come from all the companies in the supply chain.

    If we want to compare the economic size of a country with the total economic size of a particular company, we should only use that portion of the sales number that the company is responsible for . If Wal-Mart buys a widget for $10 and sells it for $15, then the net revenue (gross profit) received by Wal-Mart is only $5. The other $10 goes to companies lower in the supply chain.

    This study has (for instance) included the sales of Unilever and the sales of Wal-Mart separately. Unilever produces lots of products that Wal-Mart sells, and the production of these products is thus counted twice in this study.

    As a concrete example, Wal-Mart is listed in this document as the second largest company in the world. By meaningful measures, this is ridiculous. As a volume retailer, it is in a low margin business. The goods it sells cost it perhaps 80% of the cost it sells them for, and therefore its sales number is 5 times its contribution to the economy. Compare this with Intel, which is in an extremely high margin business (it turns sand, which doesn't cost much, into high value electronic products, which do) and has a sales number which is much closer to its economic contribution. So this report both makes companies appear much more important than they really are relative to countries and makes some types of businesses (retailers and financial institutions, most notably) appear much more important than they are relative to other companies

    What is a better way of doing this? Compare gross profit with GDP. (Some would argue that I am still being too generous). I have never seen anyone present a table of this for companies versus countries (it is easy to do for companies based in countries with rigorous accounting standards, at least), but it would paint a completely different picture this one

    (Okay, just as a quick test. Using financial information readily available on company websites, we find that Wal-Mart in 1999 had sales of $167bn, cost of goods sold of $130bn and had gross profits of only $37bn. Intel had sales of $29bn, cost of goods sold of $12bn and gross profits of $17bn).

    Michael

  • So you see friends, just because you make money it does mean you are taking money. Making money is business, taking money is stealing.

    You're essentially correct, but the sad fact is that businesses prefer stealing money instead of making money, because it is easier. As corporations gain more power, they are able to change the rules (hire lobbyists to pass laws like DMCA, bribe attourney generals into not prosecuting them for fraud, etc) so that stealing becomes easier and then they don't have to deal with the expense and effort of creating wealth. And once you get into that territory, it really is zero-sum. Eliminating corporate influence is the only way to break your dreaded Archimedes Idea of Wealth.


    ---

  • Either you are being facetious or do you not realize you are the one with the nick GPLwhore? Talk about leftists...



    Just thought I would point that out,



    -AP

  • by Hangtime ( 19526 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @01:53AM (#179062) Homepage
    Here is a little clue for you buddy. Quite frankly I have been fighting this board for the past few hours and I should be sleeping so you get the brunt.

    First: Your right we sell our labor. Very good Toto here's a bisquit. Now for the bad news. I do not consider myself slave labor. I own equity in my company, get paid very well, and sit in a nice cushy chair and talk to users each day. Much better then $8.00 running CAT 5 behind a ventilation shaft with 1 inch thick dust that hasn't moved since the Ford administration. You are only slave labor if you choose to be, or you have a chain around your neck. Myself I choose my work environment by the education and the continuing education I have.

    Second: Just because you saw the trailer for AI, does not mean that will happen. On the contrary, young children have been the most adept and acutally "predicting" what the future might hold, not a 50-year old director who has made some fine films but has spent his entire adult life in Hollywood. Things do not happen in a vaccuum. There are thousands who events happening in parrallel that shape the future in untold ways. No one predicted the impact of the telephone, the Internet, commerical airline travel, EDI, fiber, etc, etc, etc.

    Third: Listen, I do not want everyone to have equal things. You know why, BECAUSE I WORK MY BUTT OFF! It pisses me off when individuals think that we should all have the same thing and we would be free from want and desire. Guess what buddy, want and desire drive innovation, change, invention, discovery, mass production, commidization, so you can go down to Signature Kroger and buy your imported Tofu!

    If you wanna stop all that, make us all equal. Nothing good, new, or exciting will happen ever again because there is no way to increase my position in life. I am working my butt off while the jack ass next to me is sitting on his butt reading, if that happens I won't work anymore.

    Go out and farm the land, I grew up on a farm. See what happens when you sweat all your days and nights to have your crop get blown away by a storm or suffer during a drought. Make your life as an HTML jockey sitting in your Aeron chair, bitching about the republicans, and wondering if Webvan will deliver all my order on time a dream.

    Light me up I got Karma to BURN!
  • So.. governments should 'own' the world?
    Money & Power should be in the hands of the people, not of a government or a corporation.
  • It's fun to gloat... this doesn't make the US 'evil'.
    Yes, it's nto the glistening crystal land of the free that some Americans seem to believe it is.... but can you blame them? They've never seen anywhere else.

    I'm Canadian. I always said I never wanted to live in the US, because I don't like a lot of their policies.. however.....
    After travelling overseas for a while, I'd say that, although Canada is my first choice, the US is definately my second choice compared to the rest of the world. And if I'd grown up as an American, I'm sure it'd be my first.

    Yes, the war on drugs is a losing battle. Yes, there are too many guns. Yes, you have to be 21 to consume alcohol. Yes, prior to 1974, you weren't allowed to own gold bullion. Yes, you have to report any significant cash transactions and/or money carried into the country to the government.

    But police don't execute people on the spot (generally). You can expect a trial. You are free to travel and move and leave the country if you don't like it. As north americans, we are in the top 5% of the worlds standard of living. Nothing to whine about.
  • GDP is not a measure of economic progress, it is only one number to consider; only part of the whole picture.

    As you said, if we mow each other's lawn, the GDP goes up. GDP only shows how much money is exchanging hands; it does not reflect qualitatively on what's actually going on.

  • that statistically, birth rate is inversely proportional to standard of living? If these people weren't starving and in chaos, but instead had nice, organized lives, birth rates would plummet. It's a natural survival tactic... life expectancy goes down, birth rates go up to cover it.
  • That's where I got it from too.
  • This document is typical, short-sighted, anti-capitalist droning. It is clearly the work of those ignorant, unemployed by choice, know-nothings who have nothing better to do than trash and loot business to "protest" global free trade.

    "Global liberalization", known to the rest of us as free trade, is a good thing. Freer markets, as proven time and time again, increase the standard of living on both sides of a free trade agreement by fostering production and consumption without the capital drag of duties and hidden taxes (usually in the form of trade concessions). Short-term job loss in specific areas are SWIFTLY offset by job growth in others, when true free trade is implemented. It amazes me that people ignore the obvious at their own peril. When trade barriers fall, standards of living rise.

    Try to consider what it would be like if there were high taxes imposed on goods flowing from Long Island to Harlem or from Orange County to East LA. Do you think for a moment this wouldn't have a negative impact on those poor communities? Then why don't these people think this is the case between, say, Latin America and the US (and no, the argument of macro over micro here doesn't hold any weight).

    Low taxes on corporations is a good thing. Yes, you read that right, A GOOD THING. Don't be fooled: NO corporation pays taxes, only CONSUMERS. The cost of corporate taxes are passed on to the consumers. All consumers, all the time. This HURTS the lower income families MUCH more than higher income families. Essential goods are taxed when the company that makes those goods are taxed, even when they are exempt from sales tax. Corporate taxes hurt low-income people, the poor, and it makes me sick to know that some college kids "pretend to defend" the poor by advocating high corporate taxes either in the form of direct taxes or trade barriers, when often they are just blindly following a group of jerks with their own hidden agenda.

    Get the truth: www.cato.org [cato.org]

  • It's not fair to represent this as "the conservative position" on drugs. I consider myself a conservative (but not a Republican, since the GOP has completely abandoned the priciples of limited government), but this is one area where Buckley and his crew are just plain flat WRONG. (That's worth remarking for the simple reason that Buckley is so seldom wrong that many of his backers look the other way when his logic becomes terribly fallacious, as in this case.)

    Buckley & Co. are only right on this issue in that they recognize that prohibition never works well - a sad fact of life. But they fail to acknowledge that legalizing drugs *requires* writing off an entire generation to the newly "OK" drugs - a horrendous human misery cost that we could never afford, especially now. Further, there is the continuing cost of ongoing hordes of people that will continue to destroy themsleves even once the dangers of even really destructive drugs have been amply demonstrated. The Netherlands is a good example - there are many reasons that the nation that was once the most powerful trading nation of the face of the earth has become nearly irrelevant in the modern world, but recent drug policy is certainly one reason to expect it will never reclaim that lost glory.

    The simple fact is that it *is* reasonable to draw a line somewhere bewteen "soft drugs" like tobacco, alcohol, and *possibly* marijuana (all of which have a demonstrated ability to cause immense human suffering through their abuse) and "hard drugs" (LSD, herion, etc.) which have a much higher probability of destroying their users and inciting them to harm others. That line has to be drawn somewhere, and it should not be fluid. That said, it is far better to leave the line where it is now than to eliminate it entirely, something we could not do without the blood of drug victims on our hands.

    Although my conservatism (like Buckley's) is rooted in libertarian principles, this is one area where the libertarian argument fails to hold water, and always will.
  • Yr an anonymous coward, but you get extra points for being correct. Yes, you understand the problem fully. We're in a very sticky wicket here in the US. How do we peacefully regain the political power we have given away over the course of the previous century?
    -russ
  • 1. Once all competition has been destroyed, there isn't much reason to keep prices low.

    As long as nobody is prohibited from entering the market, there is no such thing as "no competition". There's nothing to stop someone from undercutting Wal*Mart on their higher-margin products.
    -russ
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Sunday June 03, 2001 @08:40PM (#179079) Homepage
    Hmmmm... There are conspiracy theories everywhere on the net. You think maybe that means something? How come you never see conspiracy theories anywhere else? Perhaps somebody wants to see Internet publications taken less seriously??
    -russ
  • Businesses are only interesting in influencing government because government is interested in controlling businesses. If we didn't let governments interfere with the marketplace, businesses wouldn't be able to make more money by buying legislators. So we'd have honest politicians again, because the dishonest ones wouldn't be able to make money and wouldn't be attracted to the job.

    No amount of campaign finance reform is going to change the fact that when something is for sale, somebody is going to buy it. The only solution to corrupt politicians is for us -- that means you and I -- to tell our politicians that we don't want them to interfere in the marketplace.
    -russ
  • Which is more fair? To force convicts to work to pay their keep? Or to force their victims to pay to keep their crime's perpetrator safe and in good health?

    More than half the prisoners are due to our insane war on drugs. The war on drugs cannot be won for a simple reason: when you put a drug dealer in jail, you haven't reduced the supply of drugs. All you've done is create a job opening. Obviously, all the people who learned that lesson the first time around (Prohibition) have died. So now we get to re-learn it. Painfully and at great cost.
    -russ
  • I'm in an cut-n-paste mood.

    Half of the citizen do not votes.

    Right, let's force everyone to vote! Then we'll see some democracy!

    Then he proceeded to pay back all the corporations who bought his elections with various laws that goes against the common good (poisonous water, etc...).

    No, he overturned some Executive Orders and administrative rules. Reading forward a bit, I kinda get the impression that you don't have a clue how the US gov't works, and aren't real clear on democracy, either. You do realize that people could, and have, voted for capital punishment, insane drug laws, persecution of $MINORITY, and so on? Very bad things can in true democracies, and usually do.

    The USA is not a democracy, it's a fascist country

    No, it isn't. I've never heard a definition of 'fascism' that would apply to the US. In fact, except for Italy, I've never seen the term 'fascism' correctly applied to any government. Real fascist gov'ts would probably just be called communist and ignored, anyway.

    Actually, you're partially right: we're a democratic republic. It's not my favorite form of gov't (I'm into ruthless, but highly benevolent dictators, myself), but it works fairly well.

    where you can get jailled because publishing your research (SDMI cracking for example) goes against some cartels interest.

    Oh? Did someone go to jail for that, and we all missed it? There was a threat that, in the end, played into the hands of the Good Guys, and which may contribute to that law be thrown out.

    The USA is fascist because problems are solved by force (SWAT raiding your house)

    Oh shit, not Elian again. And what's wrong with solving problems by force? That's the only way to solve some problems, and often the not-quite-only-but-probably-best way.

    executing underage criminal

    Are you kidding? I wish we could execute some of them, but they're in their sixties by the time the appeals are over with. I've never heard a really good, convincing argument that we shouldn't treat underage (aside: what's underage?) people like adults if they act like adults. This works both ways: there are some kids I've known who would make far more responsible voters than most adults.

    people with a 65 point IQ

    Sorry, I've never understood why the handicapped should be treated differently for capital offenses. A murderer with a 50 IQ (which doesn't mean anything anyway, but that's another subject) is still a murderer, and still dangerous. Perhaps more so if he actually can't comprehend what he's done. It reminds me of that case in Florida with the kid who shot his teacher (he wasn't retarded, though). The defense claimed it was an accident, and that he was just trying to scare his victim. Legal merit aside, I'd be far more worried about someone who didn't realize that pointing loaded guns at people's heads and waving them about is dangerous, than someone who committed murder for predictable, if not entirely rational, reasons. Evil is reliable and goal-oriented, it's Stupidity that's the real problem.

    by forcing down religion onto other people

    Oh please, there was a city that lost its appeal to keep the 10 Commandments up in the paper a few days ago. For everyone trying to force their religion on you there's someone else trying to stop them, even if only because they want their religion forced down everyone's throats. I think it's quite entertaining, actually. Not at all offensive, either, and I'm certainly not much of a Christian.

    governement funding religious groups

    I don't see any inherent problem with that. As long as there are reasonable, non-religious, criteria regarding what groups receive funding, and they are fairly applied, there isn't much to object to that I can see.

    It's putting the strong (physically or financialy) above the weak (and the majority).

    No, that would some sort of social Darwinism. Language only works when everyone uses the same definitions (to be fair, 'social Darwinism' is a loser in the regard, too). I do find it funny that you believe that the majority of people are weak.

    Absolutely true - so if USA was a democracy there wouldn't be any ambargo because a small minority (cuban expat) wouldn't be capable of taking the dicision for the majority.

    Absolute majority rule is precisely the reason we aren't a democracy.

    I'm going to work now, so don't expect any flames to be answered before 0000 UTC.

  • Yes there is more money today then there was 15 years ago but where did it come from? It did not appear out of nowhere.

    You might be surprised to learn that yes, in fact, money does appear out of nowhere. The Central Banker of an economy declares that there is more money, and poof, it materializes out of nothingness. Money is an abstract concept in a modern economy that manifests itself mostly as numbers in computers.

    It came out of the earth. The earth was pillaged in order to create wealth. The reason there is more money now then there was 15 years ago is because there are now less trees, less oil, less coal, less clean air, less clean water.

    While there is little doubt that the Earth is the worse for the wear over the past 15 years, your notion that all wealth comes directly from the Earth is misguided. In most modern economies have about 75% of the GDP (economic activity) is based on Services. Natural resources weighs in at a paltry 6%. Manufacturing & construction is most of the balance.
  • "I'm glad you asked. Is there more money or less wealth in the world then say 15 years ago? If you said, well it depends; you would be lucridiously wrong. "

    It is you who is profoundly mistaken. Yes there is more money today then there was 15 years ago but where did it come from? It did not appear out of nowhere. It came out of the earth. The earth was pillaged in order to create wealth. The reason there is more money now then there was 15 years ago is because there are now less trees, less oil, less coal, less clean air, less clean water.

    The economy is not some piece of fiction. There is not an infinite amount of money in some other dimension where it magically appears on this planet whenever we want it. It comes from turning natural resources into products. Even those magical "productivity" gains come at the expense of nature because productivity increases require machines (which require minerals and energy) and humans (which require food, water, shelter and energy). The earth somehow has to clothe, feed, shelter and keep warm all those human beings who shuffle the papers or program the internet infrasturcture. As a result we have massive deforestation, water shortages all over the world, depletion of soils and pollution in every square foot of this planet.

    Only by carefully adjusting the use of natural resources to sustainable levels can the economy sustain itself. Anything more then that will eventually hit a brick wall collapse.

    You make seem like the economy is some fantasy where there is an infinate amount of money and everybody can become billionaires. This is not true. Nothing in this universe exists in an infinate amount. Nothing.
  • As opposed to all those liberterians who are really republicans. Like the cato institute which is nothing more then a fund rasing arm of the republican party and has never met a democrat they likes and never met a republican they didn't like?
  • Yes. Now you get it. Nothing in this world is as black and white. Sorry to tax your brain but it's true!. Even evil people have done some good things and Mother Theresa probably did one bad thing in her lifetime.
  • Hey wait a minute you are asking a republican to think.
  • "dog liberal communist anti-capitalist pro-government anti-achievement idiot scum."

    My dog is a superior being then you in every way imaginable.
  • "Lord No! Let's not give tax breaks to oil drilling, lets drive up California utility prices a little higher."

    I don't know why this misperception keeps persisting. The problem in california is not one of supply. California used less energy this year then it did last year yet they pay 10 times more in energy prices this year then they did last year. In order for this to happen it would have mean that the supply in california should be less then one tenth of what it was last year. What heppened between last year and this one? Point to one or two or three events that cause the supply in california to drop by tenfold (or fivefold for that matter). I know I can point at one event deregulation that caused higher prices but I am looking forward to you explaining how is it that CA has so much less power this year then they did last year and how drilling for oil is going to ease that problem.
  • We used to feel superior to nations who used prison labor now of course we are amongst them. Consider this.

    The reason why there is a war on drugs (or for that matter there are a billion laws in the books) is so that we can jail people at will. By increasing the prison population we are providing a source fo cheap labor for the major corporations of the world who are in turn giving money to politicians who pass more laws.

    I will guarantee you this. Every day you break a law the only reason you are not in jail is because a cop let you skate.
  • "your notion that all wealth comes directly from the Earth is misguided. In most modern economies have about 75% of the GDP (economic activity) is based on Services. Natural resources weighs in at a paltry 6%. Manufacturing & construction is most of the balance."

    As I stated in my original post. Services require human beings who have to eat, drink, shit, wear clothes, drive cars, have a home to go to, have an office to work in. Humans consume a huge amount of natural resources. A huge percentage of the oil usage in the world is to move humans from one place to another or to heat their homes and offices, a good percentage of the wood used in the world to shelter humans (and of course to entertain them with the sunday times and to wipe their butts). Take away those natural resources and your human beings are no longer able to supply the services which constitute the 75% of economic activity.

    Yes all money comes from the earth. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Well I'll modify that a little. If and only if you use natural resources at the rate that they are being replenished then you are OK. We can sort of presume the sun will be here forever supplying the energy which makes it all possible. But of course this is not the case in any natural resource you can think of.

  • If that was the case then there would have to be a gradual increase in prices as the supply started getting shorter. That did not happen. The prices all of a sudden spiked up tenfold despite the fact that CA used seven percent less energy this year and then last year.

    Something had to have happened within the last year to cause a DRASTIC reduction of supply. Once again please point our what it was that caused the supply to drop so drastically that even though they are using less energy they are paying more for it.
  • Yeay. We are number two or three!
  • The economy may not be a zero sum game but nature is. What you are describing a money flowing around in a closed system. Somewhere down the line either somebody prints more money (leading to money being worth less) or somebody takes something out of the earth and sells it.

    Even some low impact product like a software license requires natural resources. Programmer has to eat, drink, clothe himself, live in a heated house, and perhap even an office. He need a computer and electricity which required mining and drilling. The economy only grows at the expense of natural resources. Maybe they did not teach you that in econ 101 but it's true nevertheless. There is no such thing as free lunch.

    As for corps VS the Govt I don't buy your dichotomy. Both are equally evil and neither is responsive to the common man. At least with the govt it's one man one vote with a corp it depends on wealth. In order to get heard in a corporation I would have to accumulate an inordinate amount of shares. It's possible to cripple both the corporations and the govt.
  • And how is any of that fixed by drilling for more oil?
  • You are not doing the math right. Not only that but you are making the classic mistake of putting monetary value on things which have no inherent dollar figures attached to them.

    First of all it's impossible for you to only to consume $20.00 worth of natural resources. All your life you have been suckling on the mother earths teats. You ate all your life to get to that stage where you were ready to program. You were educated, driven around, clothed, generated waste, heated, went to the movies, read papers, wiped your butt, drank beer, and wore shoes. NONE of that came for free and all of came from nature which was not able to replenish those things at the rate that you were consuming them. Not only that but all those products were mined, processed and transported which took immense amounts of energy. (BTW the results of all those hydrocarbons was the probable cause of a snow warning today in northwest US. Snow in june go figure).

    You also have to factor into that the resources the people who bought your software took out of the earth. Those people too ate, drank etc. It's all connected and when taken as a whole it all subtracts from the earth at a non renewable rate. The wealth generated by your program came from the buyers of your program so their consumption must be added into the equation too.

    I also want to mention that according to economists a yellow fin tuna has no worth until it's cut up and ends up in a sushi bar and a tree has no worth unless it's in your fireplace or your mantelpiece. This is plainly wrong and until you start measuring the worth of creatures not by what they provide to you but what they conribute to the ecosystem as a whole your math will always be wrong.

    So in your example above. You consumed ungodly amounts of food, air, water, energy to live long enough to learn enough to write a piece of software. Many other people also consumed ungodly amounts of stuff so that they could give you a thousand dollars for your software. The amount of natural resources you all used up is much much more then your software ever made. Not only that but in the process you (all of you) have caused several species to become endangered or extinct which no amount of money can bring back.
  • " Most natural resources are not scarce. In fact, they have become more plentiful and cheaper over time."

    Wow your view of reality is truly warped. Take a look at any natural resource and tell me which ones have gone down in price over the last 50 or 100 years. Sure there are fluctuations in price in the short term depending on the yields harvested but in the long run the price of clean water, electricity, coal, wood etc has gone way up. In fact certain woods like teak which were once used on giant ships are worth their weight in gold now.

    In the short term the president can order the massive harvesting of federal lands and flood the market with wood(thereby reducing the price of wood) but even a child knows those trees are being used up faster then they are growing. In the long run once the short term supply runs out the prices will shoot up again and even worse. Can you honestly claim that there is more oil being created by nature then is being used by mankind? Please go take a look at worldwide statistics on forests and also look at what the US is doing.
  • " Nature is a zero-sum game? In what sense? A programmer has to eat, yes, but there is not a fixed amount of food; it is created anew all the time. A computer is made from raw materials, but none of them are limited in any meaningful sense."

    Nature is a zero sum game. Forst of all food can be regrown but at the expense of soil depletion. Soils need to be replenished by manufacturing fertilizers which use up inordinate amounts of energy. Also due to incresed demand for food whole host of chemicals must be manufactured to fight insects and hostile plants. You are looking only in the short term and in a limited view. Taken as a whole nature is being depleted faster then it can be replenished. The seafood industry is beginning to reach it's limits and now has to cut back on their yields due to overfishing for centuries to site just one example.

    You can close your eyes and pretend that there is an inifnate amount of nutrients in the soil, fish in the sea, oil in the land, water in the world but it just isn't true. Even using the energy that the earth has stored up over the last few million years has side effects in emissions.

    Why is it that the conservatives believe that there is no such thing as free lunch in every endevour except natural resources. How can you possibly claim that there will never be food, water, or energy shortages when recent history is full of examples of these very things.
  • " I grew up hunting and working on land and being out in nature. Respecting animals and the land is not mutually exclusive with harvesting those same animals and that same land for use. "

    Only if it's done in a responsible and sustainable manner. Unfortunately due to the amound of energy and resources required by the humans on this planet this is not possible. The demand for wood, paper etc far outstrips the ability of nature to grow trees fast enough.

    As far as saving the earth is concerned I don't think anybody thinks that's actually possible. The best anybody can hope is to stave off disaster for a few more years. A massive catalysm occured and killed off all the dinasaours and plants on this planet a while back. For centuries afterwards the dominant species on this planet was the fern. Today we know this because there is a three inch layer of dirt which has nothing but ferns in it sandwiched between dinos and mamals. The destruction of the human species will not destroy the earth it may mean another quarter inch of dirt with nothing in it but ferns or roaches. The earth does not need saving we do.
  • "This is extremely doubtful, as the most valuable thing in a knowledge-based society are knowledge-based products, worth much more than the natural resources that were indirectly consumed in their production. "

    Well it's obvious tome we are using a different costing system. I think this is due to the fact that the cost of natural resources are dependent on the rate of extraction rather then the rate of replenishment. If I decide to log yellowstone national park in one year then the price of wood will drop like a rock because of oversupply. An economist will look at this and say. "I have used up only ten dollars worth of wood to build this house" or he might say "there must be an inifinate amount of wood in the world because wood is so cheap" or more likely "the amount of wood in the world must be increasing because the price is going down". In his world using his criterea, his unwillingness to consider the long term and the big picture he is probably right. I tend to look at things in the long view.

    Nowhere in your calculations did you probably consider the cost of soil depletion, air pollution, increased cancer rates, disease, allergies, extinctions etc which are byproducts of this modern society.
    I submit to you that your equations look good to you because you have not added up all the costs.
  • by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @11:45PM (#179118)
    Regardless. The plight of the earth goes beyond petty political considerations. As the Budha once said "Man looks at the sky and says 'This is east and that is west' but the sky knows no such difference". To the forests that are disappearing it makes no difference if the chainsaws that are wielded are by a communist or a capitalist. It also makes no difference to the rest of the ecosystem which collapses along with the forest. It all comes back to bite you in the end.

    The fact is that the capitalist nations where private ownership is worshipped as a religion use a HUGE percentage of the worlds resources. The reason those forests are being cut down is to supply the United States with coffee, sugar, beef, cocaine, and marijuana (amongst other things).
    It's smart for us to destroy other peoples forests first but eventually they will run out and we will have to start in on our own lands.
  • widespread corruption due to poverty

    You've got is bass ackwards -- the corrpution causes the poverty, because there's no point in building wealth if El Presidente's second cousin can put the squeeze on you (er, "require some additional permit fees") or just plain steal (er, "confiscate") your business.
    /.

  • "If you wanna stop all that, make us all equal. Nothing good, new, or exciting will happen ever again because there is no way to increase my position in life. I am working my butt off while the jack ass next to me is sitting on his butt reading, if that happens I won't work anymore."

    Yeah, that's just ca-razzzzy! I mean, I write software for money. I can't imagine anybody writing software for the heck of it, without getting paid, and distributing to others to freely share. I mean, that's INSANE man.
  • by Louis Savain ( 65843 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:21PM (#179167) Homepage
    The Top 200s' combined sales are 18 times the size of the combined annual income of the 1.2 billion people (24 percent of the total world population) living in "severe" poverty.

    We are all being exploited for the only thing we can barter with, our slave labor. Governments and corporations are the slave masters. Both capitalism and communism are systems of slave labor.

    Freedom comes from owning a piece of the earth. Unless you control a piece of income property, you are a slave. Communism confiscates all property and enslaves everybody. Capitalism gives property to a few and enslaves the vast majority. They fool you into thinking you are free but you are not. You are made to compete against your fellow slaves for a living. There is nothing more pathetic than a slave who thinks he is free. It's sad.

    As technology progresses, the system will eventually die a horrible death. What will happen to a slave economy when robots and advanced artificial intelligences replace all the slaves, i. e., when human labor, knowledge and expertise become worthless? It will colapse, that's what.

    And don't think for a minute this won't happen in your lifetime. The internet is the latest giant leap in human communication. Before that came mass telecommunication technologies and before that was the movable press. If history is any indication, we can expect a giant leap in technological progress and scientific knowledge. In fact, it is happening before our very eyes.

    The wealth of the earth is the earth. We should all demand a system where everybody is guaranteed an estate, a piece of the pie. There is plenty for everybody. Even animals are wise enough to set territories for themselves. What we do with our piece is up to us. No more slavery, no more exploitation! Down with the slave masters!

    Demand liberty! Nothing less.
  • by Alpha State ( 89105 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:18PM (#179180) Homepage

    The thing that amazes me is that more emphasis is being put upon services and intangible businesses. A service increases sales / GNP but does not produce anything - if I mow my neighbour's lawn and he mows mine and we charge each other, our sales have increased compared to if we stick to our own turf.

    This being the case, it has to be asked if the world is really still advancing in standard of living (as measured by material wealth). Are we really getting more efficient, or just looking good by shuffling money around?

    It should also be pointed out that this is not necessarily all bad. This appears to be a case of the rich getting richer, but a lot of not-so-rich people own shares in these companies, so it does not necessarily indicate this. And, while many of the companies on the list are notorious for their lack of ethics (looking at no. 28 in particular), there are also many there who I do consider to be generally well behaved. Is a huge corporation which has reasonable ethical standards and does its best to please its customers still evil?

    However, I doubt many of those 1.2 billion poorest people have shares in General Motors.

    Lastly, what happened to Microsoft? I'm sure they should be on this list somewhere, but I can't find them.

  • by Alpha State ( 89105 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @11:24PM (#179181) Homepage

    I disagree completely. You say "Freedom comes from owning a piece of the earth", in Capitalism this simply means money. My decision power depends on my wealth both by the proxy of owning shares and by purchasing or investment decisions. Thus each person is as free as they can afford to be, and competes for "freedom" in the form of wealth.

    Of course there are those who get their freedom through other means - usually spiritual, but we are discussing the poor money-obsessed slobs here.

    As technology progresses, the system will eventually die a horrible death. What will happen to a slave economy when robots and advanced artificial intelligences replace all the slaves, i. e., when human labor, knowledge and expertise become worthless? It will colapse, that's what.

    Only once all human functions are exceeded. Before that, intelligence and creativity will become more valuable compared to physical things (as has been happening over the past decades). In your fictional world where we can replace humans with robots (which presumably cost less money to maintain than humans), all non-owner humans would die out as they are not worth paying upkeep on while owners remain to make decisions (or not, their exponentially-increasing wealth must sustain them). I find this completely implausible because of the huge leap into the unknown this represents, the effects of such a huge serious of changes cannot be forseen so simply.

    And don't think for a minute this won't happen in your lifetime. The internet is the latest giant leap in human communication. Before that came mass telecommunication technologies and before that was the movable press. If history is any indication, we can expect a giant leap in technological progress and scientific knowledge. In fact, it is happening before our very eyes.

    Are you suggesting that technology will produce AI better than humans, cheaper than humans and more accessable than humans before any other world-changing discoveries are made? What makes you think that people even want to do this, simply the history of the industrial revolution? What makes you think that truly creative machines are even possible? If anything the internet is evidence of human stupidity, not machine intelligence.

    The wealth of the earth is the earth. We should all demand a system where everybody is guaranteed an estate, a piece of the pie. There is plenty for everybody. Even animals are wise enough to set territories for themselves. What we do with our piece is up to us. No more slavery, no more exploitation! Down with the slave masters!

    There is not plenty for everyone. Our level of society is supported by continually increasing levels of extraction of non-renewable resources, supported by extraordinarily complex management and distribution structures. These structures function through central control, thus a small number of rich, controlling people. If you can propose a distributed-control system that guarantees petrol, fertiliser, food and power will be available everywhere I would be interested to hear it. However your current proposal of revolution is likely to cause more death and suffering than all previous wars put together, as our society disintegrates due to the lack of the huge inputs it needs.

    The real collapse will occur when these resources start to run out. This appears to be starting to happen to both oil and natural gas right now. Once demand exceeds all possible supply, the shit's gonna hit the fan and it's going to be a lot sooner than your AIs.

  • "Movie producers are probably okay. They survived without money from video rentals before and will again if need be. As long as they can provide a compelling experience in the theater, they will be fine. The VCR gave them additional revenue. If they lose it, they'll come up with another one. Bitch all you want about the MPAA, they're much better behaved than the RIAA. The DVD region encoding annoys me (I still haven't bought a DVD player), but it isn't as bad as the RIAA's actions towards artists."

    I would have to argue that, with the current media hype surrounding various music-file sharing services, many people involved with the making of many movies or music would be very interested in the added attention of a lawsuit concerning these services. We musn't forget that people are people and will always want more of what they have now or don't yet have. Movie producers are just the same as you and me: they would like greater revenue from their movies. Keep in mind, too, that greater revenues often rates the degree success.

    p.s. I would have to agree with you on your comments about Slashdot.


  • by gargle ( 97883 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @02:22AM (#179194) Homepage
    The part that scared me, was that the top 200 had more money then the world's govt. combined. Makes the notion of big business influencing govt. much more pleusable.

    That's logically impossible since the GDP of a country includes the revenue of companies operating within the country.
  • by gargle ( 97883 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @02:29AM (#179195) Homepage
    I thought the idea was the bigger the corporation, the slower moving and more like a dinosaur it was ?

    I thought the small, agile, companies were going to rule in this era of increasing change ?


    The size of a company is limited primarily by the ability of its management to manage complexity - operations that span across continents and industries.

    Advances in transportation, information networks and information technology have made this task easier than before. Therefore it is not surprising that the big are getting bigger.
  • by Steeltoe ( 98226 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @03:00AM (#179196) Homepage
    Your solution is the opposite of a good solution. To stay alive and well we have to cooperate, educate and help eachother. With the many number of people living today, we have to maintain high technology and efficient infrastructure to support society with all its needs. No revolution is going to save us from ourselves.

    Take a moments pause. Just think over your own life. Don't pity yourself. Realize how well you really are, how much you have and how many choices you really do have. Mostly, it's yourself that is limiting your choices - your so-called freedom that you think others can hand over to you. It's yourself that is doing what other people expect of you, or blaming yourself when you fail to meet them. It's yourself that is pitying yourself, even though on the other side of the globe, or even a few blocks away, many people have a really shitty life. Have you ever said "Thank you" for everything you have? If other people around you had abundance of wealth and goods, wouldn't you wish they would share with you? Especially if you were dying of hunger while eating garbage?

    Take another moment. A deep breath. Think about what really matters in your life. What you would really miss if it were to go away FOR EVER. Don't stop at material things. Think friends, education, health, community, cleanliness, food, family and pets for instance. Find your own answers, you can even try to rate what is most important and what is not on a scale. Writing it down helps focus, and if you find the paper after a few years you will always discover something important about yourself.

    The problem you seek to right, is not in others, but within yourself. In all of us, but noone can force an involuntary positive change in others. That would be pointless; without any meaning. Some would say it would even be a crime. Aside from that, fact is that we in the western world, as a population, are better off than most people ever were in known history. But we aren't grateful, because we want MORE. That is the whole problem. We're like a black hole, our biggest fear being ourselves.

    - Steeltoe
  • by PaxTech ( 103481 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:48PM (#179201) Homepage
    Milhouse : "Let's put it on the Internet!"

    Bart: "No, we have to reach people whose opinions actually matter."

    --
    PaxTech
  • by alexhmit01 ( 104757 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:35PM (#179204)
    Acting in shareholder interests is. If the board takes actions to hurt the company, they can get hit by a shareholder lawsuit. However, the shareholders can adopt whatever goals they want. If there was a shareholder vote, and they voted to give 20% of the profits to charity, the board would comply.

    This notion that the law requires corporations to rape and pillage is taken as fact on Slashdot, but is absurd.

    1) Most corporations are NOT publically traded. This issue, maximizing profits to run up stock prices, is only true for publically traded companies, a SMALL portion of corporations.

    2) The board of directors acts on behalf of the shareholders. When the CEO and other bigshots hold large portions of the voting stock, than the board and management become one in the same. If you are uncomfortable with being the small owner with no say, don't invest in these companies. It isn't hard to find out the share of the company controlled by management. Note that most investors WANT their management to have a STRONG interest in owning the stock, normally having ownership requirements.

    We have less freedom, because the government has asserted power. We have brainwashing, because our school system has stopped teaching anything. People think less because we put our kids in front of the television instead of books.

    The unwashed masses were always undereducated and swung by demagaugery. It is only now that the television has put them in charge of the country. When we got direct election of senators and the primary system, we wanted to take control from the power brokers that ran the country. Terrific, we took power from professionals and gave it to amateurs, and assumed that nobody would figure out how to control the amateurs?

    Those pushing for more democracy should consider replacing medical accreditation with a thumbs up/thumbs down vote at the local pub... That dumbs down the country.
  • by alexhmit01 ( 104757 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:23PM (#179205)
    Most intellectual property (copyright) companies would like to see Gnutella die... most companies couldn't give a rats ass about Gnutella. Even companies that deal in intellectual property don't give a damn.

    Software companies have had easy piracy to deal with for years, Gnutella and ilk aren't their problem.

    Movie producers are probably okay. They survived without money from video rentals before and will again if need be. As long as they can provide a compelling experience in the theater, they will be fine. The VCR gave them additional revenue. If they lose it, they'll come up with another one. Bitch all you want about the MPAA, they're much better behaved than the RIAA. The DVD region encoding annoys me (I still haven't bought a DVD player), but it isn't as bad as the RIAA's actions towards artists.

    However, I don't understand when Slashdot went communist. I've only been a user for about two years, but this has really gotten weird over the past 6-12 months. Corporations aren't evil. Some of the large companies, where the shareholders and boards are too separated and management isn't overseen, may have done some bad things. But you guys treat all corporations as these evil entities. If you want to criticize multinationals, pick some out and go, many are disgusting. But lashing out at all corporations are childish. This article is attacking the top 50-200 companies... They aren't even hitting the Fortune 500/Global 2000 range. What about us small companies? Are we all evil too? The 5 person Linux consulting shop, are they doing the devil's work? Lash out at irresponsible multinations, not all corporations.

    Now, the comparison of corporations to countries (sales vs. GDP) isn't fair. GDP measures value added. Sales measures value. Value added isn't necessarily profit, but it is the gross margin of sorts. If I buy lumber for $100, and turn it into $200 desks, I contribute $100 to the GDP, but $200 to my sales. This disparity helps get their "scary" figure of 51 corporations being larger than the countries... I'd guess that with fair numbers, the number of companies drops to 20 or so in the top 100. With less than 200 (last I checked) nations recognized by the UN, large multinationals participating isn't so strange.

    Additional example of how to lie with statistics... 6. Between 1983 and 1999, the profits of the Top 200 firms grew 362.4 percent, while the number of people they employ grew by only 14.4 percent.

    Well, that is a useless statistic, how many companies were in the top 200 both times?

    Think about it, darwinian selection allows us to pick the top 200 companies now and compare it to the top 200 from 20 years ago. The companies that make more money per man-hour rise up, those that make less sink. Obviously the top 200 will be more efficient than 20 years ago. Compare the same companies. Also, IT reduces layers of management, so companies are flatter now. The top 200 companies are smaller for the same amount of productivity. That's been the goal, reduce costs. Those people get redeployed through the economy. We create more widgets/person, and consumers benefit. Our unemployment number is less than 5%, that isn't massive people thrown out of work. Those losing jobs are finding new ones.

    Also, it doesn't mention if 362.4% is in real dollars or not? Given that this is a anti-multinational piece, I would assume not. Keep in mind that if we assumed NO increased efficiency and no substitution of more effective, the firms would have increased about 250% just because of inflation. Factoring in the 14.4% employment increase that they refer to, and we are up to 285% increase. Given productivity of 1%/year (we've been at 2% for the past few years), we're over 300%.

    So, based on raw size and productivity gains, we expected the top 200 firms to increase in the 300% to 305% range. When you consider the timing of these years, 1983 a recession year to 1999 a boom year, we also get more warped numbers. Profits would be way down in a recession depressed economy. You took a valley and a peak and measured the change. Let's put another 30% into the profit numbers to compensate... assuming 15% lower in recession or 15% higher in boom (in reality, I'd put the swing higher than that), we're up to a 335% increase.

    I think that our ability to subsitute and pick and choose the top 200 firms explains the remaining 27.4%, in fact, I would suggest it explains more than that.

    There are REAL problems with some of the multinationals. The ability of governments to interfere in the economy gives companies an incentive to lobby. There is a mess. However, let's not use bogus statistics to invent this nonsense. Let's be a little more reasonable.

    The persuit of wealth is NOT evil. Being a bad person is evil. Do not confuse the two.

    Alex
  • by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:23PM (#179249)
    http://www.nationalreview.com/12feb96/drug.html

    Which features the drug war from a truly conservative point of view.

    ...note that the prime movers in keeping drugs illegal are:

    1) the religious whackos (who don't want us to see God on our own time);

    2) The corporations (it was business owners in southern california that originally outlawed marijuana; primarly because Mexican labor was "difficult to control" while high.

    3) the police state, which expends massive amounts of money in and out of the USA attempting to stop illicit drugs, then bills the taxpayer accordingly;

    4) the countries producing illegal drugs, since the black market allows them to create a bindle of powder for $0.25 and sell it to the end user for $100, but only if it's kept illegal.

    Try to realize that the Corporate point of view is not republican, democrat, liberal or conservative.

    Corporations are legally bound to put shareholder profits ahead of quality or value to the end user/buyer, which is devastating to the free market.

    George Orwell was right, we now live in a dystopia where Corporations control the media and are brainwashing us into thinking things are getting better, when we clearly have fewer rights and liberties than our parents/grandparents, and less choice.




    Treatment, not tyranny. End the drug war and free our American POWs.
  • Come on, this sounds pretty blatant...

    This "tuxpenguin" doesn't sound like the most astute of guys. The PDF clearly mentions that it was made by the Institute of Policy Studies. What's that nonsense about "I don't know where it came from"?

    Well, in any case it sounds like the IPS, which as has been pointed out already is a leftist think-tank out of DC, has wised up to how to get ./ers to read anything -- present it as some kind of a so-called "secret document" distributed (possibly) on a P2P network. I'd expect a little more street cred on this forum, but evidently we're all begging to be "had" by that sort of tactic.

    Also a little odd is that M$ is nowhere to be seen, as several have pointed out.

  • by podom ( 139468 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:44PM (#179259) Homepage
    Preface: IAAL (Libertarian)

    There are several things that disturb me about this report, but I am particularly disturbed by its falacious logic. Many of the issues raised seem unrelated and should be examined seperately.

    The ascendancy of international business: it is my opinion that we would not have the current situation without collusion by world governments. Though many people feel that libertarians support big business vis-a-vis their advocacy of limited government regulation, its just the opposite in some cases. It is my opinion that the current situation has arisen as a result of government intervention in the economy. To quote the report:

    "Of the U.S. corporations on the list, 44 did not pay the full standard 35 percent federal corporate tax rate during the period 1996-1998. Seven of the firms actually paid less than zero in
    federal income taxes in 1998 (because of rebates). These include: Texaco, Chevron, PepsiCo, Enron, Worldcom, McKesson and the world's biggest corporation--General Motors."

    Obviously, these companies have clout, and they get what they want. Whatever the case may be today, they achieved their current status with the help of a lot of governments, especially that of the US. Tax breaks, foreign policy decisions and US neocolonialism have helped big business become what it is today. More government regulation hardly seems to be the answer; more like reform corporate law to limit the US government's ability to help corporations get what they want.

    Comparison to GDP: GDP is defined, roughly, as the total value of goods and services produced by a nation within that nation. These companies are part of countries' economies and contribute -- to a greater or lesser extent -- to the GDPs of a lot of countries. They are not seperable concepts.

    When IPS says "General Motors is now bigger than Denmark", I would have to say, "So what?" Their report also says that less than 20% of US companies' sales are made outside of the US. Isn't it more meaningful, then, to compare GM's income to the US GDP overall and -- seperately -- look at the per capita US GDP vs. that of Denmark? Denmark is not that big a country. Its population is far smaller than that of the US (july 2000 est. population 5,336,394); I'm sure the GDP of Monaco is smaller than the income of an awful lot of companies, but this is meaningless because Monaco has a population of about 30,000!

    This report makes some interesting points, but I for one, don't think it does so very well. Take this paragraph, for instance:

    "Still, Americans may be less concerned about the growing gap between profits and employees
    because of the country's record low unemployment rate. What is often ignored in the mainstream
    media is the fact that unemployment problems remain prevalent elsewhere in the world...Joblessness around the world hurts the United States because it reduces the capacity of consumers in other countries to purchase U.S. products..."

    What was this report about again? It's supposedly bad that big companies are making more profits utilizing fewer employees, and the reason that Americans should be concerned is...because that makes people in other countries less able to buy our goods? Something seems circular here...

    Yeah, maybe big US corporations don't like this report, but it's conclusions are mostly of the scare tactic variety. Still, the quality (or lack thereof) of IPS's report should not be construed as an endorsement of big business worldwide practices. I, too, feel that businesses wield too much political and societal influence. I just don't think IPS has any answers.

    Phil
  • by sane? ( 179855 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:08PM (#179285)
    I thought the idea was the bigger the corporation, the slower moving and more like a dinosaur it was ?

    I thought the small, agile, companies were going to rule in this era of increasing change ?

    What went wrong ?

    Some of those stats explain part of it; companies that are countries in all but name (you are now entering Walmartland). They have the size to weather a few years of storms, and the size to gobble up any smaller player they want.

    The smaller companies can nibble around the edges, but seldom do they want to take on a massive company head on - potential agility counts for nothing when you've a rampaging elephant bearing down on you and you've been hamstrung by their rules and regs.

    However, at heart those companies are just people. If you want to change the way the company acts, change the way the people act. If its socially unacceptable to drink and drive, make it socially unacceptable to profit from others misery, to act like sheep rather than citizens in the company setting.

    In short, how worried are you really ?

  • by Xaiver ( 193269 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @10:10PM (#179301) Homepage
    Whenever I see compilations of statistics like this, it always sets me off. Some things to consider when reading this:

    1) Countries, like businesses, are not homogeneous. All nations, like companies, are wide ranges in size. One fact they mention is that the 200 largest corporations are larger than all but the 10 largest economies in the world. That's great, except that the 10 largest economies in the world constitute 2/3 of the world's population. If we extend the list to the top 12 economies we get Mexico and Russia, which make the percent of the world's population even greater.

    To illustrate the non-homogeneity of nations, consider how many of the smallest countries it would take to equal the populations of India and China.

    http://www.polisci.com/almanac/economy/fifty.htm

    2) They are comparing the GDP of nations to sales of corporations. What is the majority of GDP made up of? Corporate revenue. It's a roundabout way of saying that large companies are bigger than smaller companies and rich nations are richer than poor nations.

    3) They fail to mention the number of shareholders that own and control the top 200 companies. Using a small number such as 200 creates the illusion of a boogeyman when saying there are millions of individual shareholders which own stock directly or through pension plans and mutual funds doesn't sound as scary. Granted, the ownership isn't distributed equaly across the world's population, but it still isn't lopsided as they try to make it appear.

    4) The Top 200s' combined sales are 18 times the size of the combined annual income of the 1.2 billion people (24 percent of the total world population) living in "severe" poverty. The implication here is that they are causing poverty. If Microsoft and GM disappeared tomorrow, would that benefit those who are poor? Yes. The poor are poor. Large companies are located in rich nations (as they mention). This is a roundabout way of saying that rich nations are richer than poor nations. Using corporations to illustrate the point isn't necessary and is done only to make a political statement.

    5) Of the U.S. corporations on the list, 44 did not pay the full standard 35 percent federal corpo-rate tax rate during the period 1996-1998. Seven of the firms actually paid less than zero in federal income taxes in 1998 (because of rebates). These include: Texaco, Chevron, PepsiCo, Enron, Worldcom, McKesson and the world's biggest corporation--General Motors. Yes. That is because most of those companies have loses in some years which offset profits from previous years. They only used a 2 year window. If you take a loss you don't pay taxes. If you make a profit, you may apply losses from previous years. You are only taxed on profit, not revenue. Also, distributed profits are taxed when they are passed on to shareholders. Also, note the type of companies listed. Most of them are in industries that require very large capital investments.

    Other explanations can be provided for each point. I'm not saying that there aren't valid points to be made here, but their use of stats and facts is very suspect. It seems that their whole argument can boil down to: Corporations are bad.

    Whenever you see stuff like this from anyone with a political ax to grind (from any side of the fence), read it carefully and do the math yourself.

  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @10:21PM (#179313) Journal
    I think slashdot is becoming mroe and more left-wing socialist everyday. Corporations make money. So what?

    That is the idea isn't it? LEts look with a different eye at this. Lets analyise the reports favorite enemy. Wallmart.
    Look at how much Wallmart actually employ's in the report? You will see that Wallmart has over a MILLION WORKERS. Now multiple a million times 25k for 25k/y salary. THats 25 billion a year not including the taxes for WALLMART! No wonder they hire them part-time and not offer medical benifeits. WAllmart would go broke considering they offer the lowest prices which equal less profits.

    America is great because you have the opppurtunity to become rich through hard work, idea's, and investing smartly. Should corporations use sleezy legal tactics to squash compitetion? No. %99 of them don't. I have found no realy abuse by most corporations expect maybe Microsoft, RIAA, AOLTime-warner, and perhaps a few sleezy electric companies in Texas and Oklohoma who have good conenctions wiht some politicians in California. sigh. Other then those half dozen I can't think of any other companies abusing their power.

    Its like all the crime statistics which show Americans think crime is going up when in actuality its going down. The reason is because of the media increases its coverage. Most slashdoters here keep reading anti corporate stories and anti napster stories and you think its us vs them.

    Its only a few companies. No big deal. I support conservative capitalism and like our system. We have new jobs being created thanks to the great wealth and you can invest in some of these companies and also experience their wealth and happiness. Its not just the CEO's enjoying everything. Did you know wiht only 34k a yeay you can become a millionaire in only 20 years? You just need to invest. Alot of the average workers do not invest in anything and executives do and this is why the gap is getting bigger. You need to stop using credit cards and put down 25 a month towards investments. I hope to make smart finicial discions in my life and hope this great wealth can continue under a new consrvative pro-bussiness government. I think we should give medals to the CEO's of all these companies instead of bashing them as evil bastards out to destory the will of the people. Its almost communism when you attack all those who try to beniefit themselves for being different.

  • by Preposterous Coward ( 211739 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @01:45AM (#179333)
    Pretty pathetic compared to what? The earnings of a college-educated techie with skills that are in demand? Come on, if you are a median American -- 100 IQ, mediocre high-school education, average level of motivation and no unusually valuable skills -- 35K is not that bad. It'll probably buy you a better lifestyle (at least in material terms) than your grandparents had, even if your grandparents were wealthy by the standards of the times. It'll certainly buy you a better lifestyle than enjoyed by the vast majority of people on the planet.
  • by Kultamarja ( 226210 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @11:07PM (#179349)
    ..Remember that the prime function of any corporation/business is to create wealth for its owners.

    Each one of those "evil" corporations slashdot is so eager to condemn is actually owned by regular people, and they are creating wealth for average jacks and joes.

    This also brings up another point of view: if I own a piece from a large corporation, that really do mean that I own it - it is my personal property, and I alone should be the judge of what I do with the things I own.

    I you blame corporations, you blame their owners, cause the corps do what the owners want them to do - and that usually is creating huge piles of green, with what ever they got.

    -km

  • For those who were there, remember the protests of Quebec, Prague, Seattle, etc. There were the little people trying to gget their voices heard. Remember, the profits of the five largest american companies FOR ONE YEAR would feed the starving in africa for decades.

    -MR
  • except HK has not been under embargo for decades by a nearby fascist country.

    What fascist country? Do you know what the word means? The only arguable fascist involved in the situation was Fulgencio Battista.

    The United States is a democratic country whose process in this domain has been somewhat perverted by a wealthy Cuban expat community, resulting in a poorly-conceived and ultimately pointless embargo.

    Keep your facts straight and your points will be much more convincing.

  • by imipak ( 254310 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @03:13AM (#179364) Journal
    Feed the troll! feed the troll!

    >Even animals are wise enough to set territories for themselves.

    Yeah, they do so fundamentally through pysical violence. How is that different from capitalism? Of course we're all slaves, but it's got nothing to do with politics - it's thermodynamics. At least nowadays we're starting to realise that religions, political dogma, ideologies etc are merely tired attempts to distract us from the nature of reality.

    Hope I don't sound to cynical... look, the truth might set you free, right? Well the truth is that freedom is an illusion resulting from our unusually highly-developed ability to communicate through speech and recorded culture. But we're at the mercy of unconscious forces - our genetic inheritance, plus the nature of causal reality, plus all the stuff we've experienced in our lives which "inform"(ha!) our points of view and opinions, so subtly that we get angry and defensive when this idea (that they are *our* unique ideas and insights) is refuted. Slashdot is a good example of a forum where everyone's competing to say "/I/ have an original / unique / insightful opinion or piece of knowledge". Why do we compete in this? So we can get status amongst our peers, so that we will be successful, get laid and reproduce ourselves more than our competitors.

    IOn summary then, IMHO capitalism is the least of all evils - it does keep much of the world in physical poverty and exploit them for the benefit of a very few, but graudually (slowly, over decades/centuries) the living standards of the rest rise... so we get padded cells and carbon fibre bars on the prison windows, and new DVD players and OSen to play with to keep our minds off it. Huge corporations are a force for evil AND good, they need to be controlled by legislation; in this , very corporate-friendly, environment, it's proper and best that those laws are Liberal (I speak as a proud Liberal, in the UK sense at least) and attempt to prevent the worst corporatae excesses (buying out the copyright laws, for instance...)

    Sorry this is rather rambling even by my standards, but it's Monday morning still and the **** who broke my code by committing conflicts on Friday pm still hasn't backed them out yet, causing this unfortunate tetchiness.

    Nurse, more coffee and nicotine...
    --
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"

  • by 6EQUJ5 ( 446008 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @08:49PM (#179399) Homepage
    {This was offtopic in another article - this time I'm on-target, so here's a reprint.}

    What better way for 3 evil powers to keep that power - by creating the illusion that they are keeping each other in check.

    AOL/TimeWarner (which owns CNN) will scold the government and Big Business. The government will scold Big Business and the media (for *ahem* sex and violence - which are polar opposites in a way, but demagogues like to put them together). As long as they appear to be fighting each other, the useful idiot on the street will be happy.

    Big Business needs only to keep government regulation down to maximize profits, so they can buy the cars, homes, and drugs that they love so much and throw extravegant parties on special occasions. Also they need to send their kids to the right schools so they can attain power in various secret societies that will ensure they secure high positions like their daddies.
  • by banshee2000 ( 454771 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @09:35PM (#179421)
    Absolutely it means something. Consider that the mass media is owned and operated by huge monopoly corporations like AOL/TimeWarner for example, who have directors sitting on the board of the largest of the corporations mentioned in the article .... General Motors. It is not in their best interests to have facts like those stated on the website get out to the masses. Most people in the industrial world get their news (propogranda) from the couch. It's *fast* and *easy* that way. This is referred to as ROTE LEARNING. These same people (the masses) don't even know what the WTO is even though its provisions will directly affect their standard of living and their so-called freedoms. Anything of content surrounding the WTO is conspicuously absent in the mass media yet its conferences are enthusiatically attended by all leaders of major corporations and heads of government from at least 43 nations. The masses would be better informed if they signed on to unsponsored (and thus unbiased) websites like http://www.zmag.org for their information. I'm not suggesting people ignore the mass media (propogranda has its place in every society), but rather gather information from several sources and compare them (bring them up to a topic of analysis) to arrive at an informed decision. During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act--George Orwell
  • by GPLwhore ( 455583 ) on Sunday June 03, 2001 @08:59PM (#179463)
    IPS is a leftist think tank in Washington. They have their own agendas and this piece of "work" reflects it very well. Some of the more ridiculous points in that report:
    Sales vs. Workers While the sales of the Top 200 are the equivalent of 27.5% of world economic activity, these firms employ only a tiny fraction of the world's workers. In 1999, they employed a combined total of 22,682,166 workers, which is 0.78% of the world's workforce.

    Great, we are getting better productivity than ever. This point is suspiciously similar to the ones made by various unions in XIX century directed against industrial revolution (which included destruction of machines etc .. all in the name of workers)

    The organization attributes this decline in tax rates to the use of "tax havens" and intense competition among industrialized countries as they attempt to lure investment by offering lower taxes.

    This is why France and EU want to punish countries with significantly lower tax rates. For obvious reasons they cannot get at US so for now they are after smaller countries.

    As citizen movements the world over launch activities to counter aspects of economic globalization, the growing power of private corporations is becoming a central issue.

    ...and replace it with what ? Until these people propose something better instead I think we are going to be better off with what we have now.

    Is this me or seems like Slashdot seems to be completely dominated by leftists and liberals. When was a last time you saw any story presented from conservative point of view?

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