Friday, April 17, 2015

Global Corporations Now Weigh In On All Laws in All Jurisdictions



"Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains." - Thomas Jefferson

Why does a global corporation headquartered in New York state bother to weigh in on what the laws on religious freedom in Louisiana ought to be? It used to be that giant corporations would only lobby for laws which gave them a potential marketplace advantage. They would push for regulations which they could handle put which would push out smaller competitors. They would ask for laws which mandated the use of their products. They were so successful at this that many of us rightfully began to wonder who was making the rules, real natural persons or artificial (state created) entities called "corporations?" The latter now seem to have more access to government rule makers than the real live citizens that government was ostensibly created to serve. (Localism talked about this problem, and what to do about it, in some depth).

Now we see that corporate governance is expanding to a new level. Commercial corporations are no longer limiting themselves to laws which directly affect their industry or advance their commercial interests. They now presume an unlimited degree of latitude in informing states as to what state law might be on any subject, whether it is in their commercial area or not, even in states outside of the ones in which the parent company is incorporated. If citizens do not act to stop it, this is the dawning of a new era of unlimited corporate governance.

I refer to the recent "warning" that IBM issued to the state of Louisiana about a proposed bill which purports to be a "religious freedom" bill. I am skeptical about it because my own home state of Arkansans sought to pass a similar measure which I considered mostly political grandstanding. The one possible bit of change that the bill in question would have allowed was rejected by Wal-Mart. Oh technically it was rejected by Governor Asa Hutchinson, but he had announced he was ready to sign the thing until Wal-Mart called him and told him to take out the one bit of change. Both he and the legislature went to embarrassing lengths to comply. 

But as sorry as that is, at least Wal-Mart has its world headquarters in Arkansas. I am not sure who is more embarrassed about that, them or me. I don't shop there because I reject their corporate philosophy of cheapness ahead of quality, plus their stores are getting rather nasty and unpleasant places to shop.  I wish my state was known for some of the many positive things we have going for us instead of what that chain has now become, but I digress.

 IBM might counter that although their headquarters are in New York, they are building a $55 million software development center in Baton Rouge which "could create 800 jobs". Yes, that New York corporation is indeed a guest doing business in that state. But it is extremely poor form for guests to come into one's home and start admonishing the host family about how they ought to conduct the business of their household. In addition, IBM will be extremely well compensated for their decision to locate in Louisiana. The state economic development commission combined with local governments has agreed to give them almost thirty million hard-earned taxpayer dollars to build this facility. In addition, the state has pledged to spend an addition $14 million on higher education in a way which will provide logistical help and support to IBM. 

So thank to the people of Lousianna, IBM is getting a $55 million facility for about eleven million dollars. And no sooner do they move in than they start lecturing the locals about how they ought to run their state. Were I a resident, I would be tempted to tell IBM to go do something to themselves that I would have a religious objection to baking a cake for! 

Note: it was the case in Washington State where a bakery was forced out of business, and the owners face fines and possibly imprisonment, for refusing to bake a cake celebrating a homosexual "wedding" which has people around the nation asking some hard questions about how much freedom they actually have to use their own property as they see fit. No matter where you stand on the particular issue involved, if you believe in private property, not just religious freedom, but freedom of association and are against involuntary servitude, then this campaign to force people to do things they don't wish to do should rub you the wrong way. 

More broadly speaking, Localism supports the idea that people in different places can have different ideas about what the rules ought to be, and so long as people stay under some authority of their own free will maybe we ought to be able to sleep at night even though people we have never met in a city that we have never been in are doing things differently.  We ought to respect that people can have different ideas about where the lines ought to be drawn instead of some central authority making the decision for all of us. Global corporations oppose this view- they tend to aggress against local self-determination because they are run by an upper echelon which naturally tends to an elitist view of the world.