Pagan Spirituality and the Future of America
The company decides to raise capital and decides to issue stock in order to do so. This opened them to a fatal process that turned the freedom of having your own company into the destruction of freedom by capitalism.
The stock was "undervalued" on the market because the company was not cutting timber at an unsustainable rate in order to maximize money profits. They were acting sustainably for both the forest and the logging communities that relied on them. In Texas a corporate raider who knew nothing about logging but a great deal about extracting every penny from a company noticed this difference. Charles Hurwitz and his MAXXAM company bought controlling interest in Pacific Lumber through the use of junk bonds, abandoned all pretense of sustainability, and began destroying the forests on Pacific Lumber's land. Landslides, floods, destroyed salmon runs, and communities rapidly losing their economic base were the result, and Earth First!, with the aid of Starhawk and reclaiming, began to fight back. The struggle was prolonged but in time Hurwitz and MAXXAM were defeated in California, and sustainable practices mandated by law. MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber could not operate profitably under these laws, went bankrupt, and the land is now once again in hands able to operate ethically as well as profitably. The story is well told in David Harris's The Last Stand: The War between Wall Street and Main Street over California's Ancient Redwoods.
Once Pacific Lumber went public, they lost the capacity to act ethically because the values and judgment of owners was replaced by the values and judgment of capitalism, and of those individuals at home in such an amoral universe.
The dirty secret of capitalism is that it, not government, abolishes private ownership. When I own something I am responsible for it. When I own anything less than a majority of a company's stock I have no responsibility for how the company operates. I do not control it. My option if I disapprove of what the company does is not to have it change, but to sell my shares and leave. In such case my stock is bought by someone who approves or doesn't care that the company is acting in a way I dislike. In other words, I either put up with bad actions or transfer my "ownership" to someone who will.
Further, if I am an ethical CEO and sacrifice my share values to follow an ethical position, I run the risk of a hostile takeover and my being replaced by others with fewer ethics.
The shareholders do not really control the stock unless they are majority holders, which very few are. The CEOs do not really control the company because they are selected by those controlling the shares. So who really owns corporate property? In a very real sense no one does. Or to put it differently, capitalism as a system does, and rewards those who administer the shares proportionately to how well they subordinate all other values to maximizing money profit.
Corrupt CEOs can enlarge their salaries beyond reason, but only from within this system and serve capitalism. The result is a morally corrupt system whose principal officers are comfortable with its amorality.
This is capitalism and the pattern is endlessly repeated as companies are incorporated into its soulless Borg as soon as they go public and have to choose between maximizing money profit and doing the right thing.
Gus diZerega is a Gardnerian Elder with over 25 years practice, including six years close study with a Brazilian shaman. He has been active in interfaith work off and on for most of those 25 years as well. He has conducted workshops and given presentations on healing, shamanism, ecology and politics at Pagan gatherings in the United States and Canada. Follow Gus on Facebook.
Gus blogs at Pointedly Pagan.