Selling Out

Over the weekend, both Bill Maher and The New York Times made essentially the same observation – that large U.S. corporations are engaging in wide-scale self-censorship with regard to China. Movies are being censored as they’re being made to remove any subject matter, no matter how small, that might offend Chinese authorities – like removing the flag patch of Taiwan from the Tom Cruise’s flight jacket in the next “Top Gun” movie.

It doesn’t matter to corporations that the Chinese government is an autocratic surveillance police state that is operating concentration camps against minorities within its own borders or that Chinese corporations are the largest-scale thieves of intellectual property. All that matters is the bucks to be made by access to the Chinese domestic market.

“Bucks above all” isn’t limited to corporations, of course. The International Olympic Committee has continually turned a blind eye to the rampant Russian doping scandals, and allowed the fiction of the “Russian Olympic Committee” to send athletes to the Winter Games, clearly for financial reasons.

This kind of behavior by corporations also isn’t new in the United States, either. Even before the U.S. entered WWII, both General Motors and Ford allowed conversion of their German plants to military production at a time when U.S. government documents showed they were still resisting calls by the Roosevelt administration to step up military production in their U.S. plants. Ford’s German subsidiary, Ford-Werke, even used slave labor from a concentration camp to produce military materiel.

IBM supplied the punch card technology that allowed the German government to identify and track “undesirables,” such as Jews and Gypsies, so they could be exterminated by the Nazis. Even after it was apparent that the system was being used for the Holocaust, IBM continued to supply Germany with machines. IBM subsidiaries in Europe still delivered punch cards to Nazi Germany, and IBM executives directed operations through neutral Switzerland.

Until the US officially entered WWII, Standard Oil re-registered its oil tankers under the flag of Panama, enabling the ships to carry oil to Nazi Germany, and also provided tetraethyl lead to Japan.

The bottom line is fairly simple. For far too many large U.S. corporations, the opportunity to make more bucks transcends U.S. national interests, environmental stability, basic morality, and truth. And that hasn’t changed in over a hundred years, which is why corporations need strong federal oversight… and why the corporate sector fights such oversight. They want the freedom to maximize their bucks, regardless of the impact on everyone else… and the world.

10 thoughts on “Selling Out”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    We could have learned from the pandemic the importance of at least critical supply chains having significant domestic production…but that hardly happened at all.

    But the difficulty with oversight is that the overseen will have a revolving door, and lobbyists; and be at least as likely to corrupt the regulators as to be controlled.

    There’s also the problem that social media and perhaps others love to censor “misinformation” as long as the result aligns with those they favor…even if they’re occasionally wrong and some of the information turns out not to be misinformation. They’re effectively acting as an unelected extension of government, doing what government itself is not allowed to.

    NOBODY should have too much power, not huge corporations, not government either.

    1. Grey says:

      100% agree with you here, RH. (I know I’m not really contributing here, other than to note that it’s one of those blue moons when you and I see eye to eye.)

    2. Postagoras says:

      Howdy R. You really like to give up on government as a problem solver. It’s easy to criticize, because there ain’t no perfect system.
      But in my lifetime, the air and water in the USA are much cleaner than in the mid-20th century, because of acts of Congress and EPA regulations.
      That’s a pretty huge success. It isn’t the only one.
      I totally agree that the system isn’t perfect. But letting the perfect be the enemy of the good ensures that nothing is done.
      I don’t really want to argue with you, if you want to endlessly advocate some kind of libertarianism, go for it.
      What makes me mad is Republican legislators who refuse to legislate. Everything get punted to the courts, or to regulatory oversight. Or to ten thousand page end-of-session omnibus bills that just kick the cans down the road.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        If there were a genuine conservative majority, they would propose ideas and legislate – yes, a lot of deregulation (not all regulation is bad, but for darn sure too much is not good either, and it accumulates long past usefulness!). Absent that, anything they propose would be used for target practice by the left, so why bother.

        Crush, humiliate, discredit, and (politically) eradicate the left and institutionalists, and, if not altogether painlessly, everyone except the crooks will be better off.

        Aside from the minimum needed to avoid chaos, the only power anyone should have is over themselves.

        1. Tom says:

          Too bad Homo “sapiens” has such difficulty with self-control and yet finds it easy to advise others. The reverse might indeed work.

        2. Postagoras says:

          So what you’re saying is that if the conservatives don’t get to dictate 100% of all legislation, they’re going to do nothing.
          And you’re also saying that although half the country is NOT conservative, they should be crushed, humiliated, discredited, and eradicated.
          So “NOBODY should have too much power”, except for conservatives.

          1. Tom says:

            I was implying that perhaps cooperative control would work since individual self-control seems not to work (eg Putin at this moment).

  2. Bill says:

    This won’t happen as long as companies can “influence” politicians. Money in politics has always been a problem but since the previous limits were removed, it has been a disaster. Unlimited funds from unknown sources is an easy way to buy politicians.
    I realize it would require a lot of legal changes, but a corporation’s donations should be limited by the amount they pay in taxes. So, if they pay no federal taxes, they contribute nothing to federal elections. If they pay $100k, then their maximum total contribution is $100k. They should also be limited to states where their offices are. If they don’t have an office in Iowa, then they can’t donate to the Iowa races.
    There will be ways around this, and the officers of a corporation will need similar limits.

  3. Jeff says:

    Thanks, Lee. We look out for ourselves in the short term, which may be a proof to the theological concept of total depravity.

  4. Postagoras says:

    My question is, what good is “strong federal oversight” with globalization? Corporations can play a global shell game and evade oversight.

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