Morality and ethics are not even in the same universe as a corporation that is richer than all but 16 countries on the planet.
This is an extract from Apple, Inc: Slice the Fruit, Find the Cyanide by Ales Nesetril, which can be read in full here.
It has been about twenty years since Apple, Inc. released its “Think Different” marketing campaign. The advertisement beamed with reverence for figures such as Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. It encouraged viewers to challenge the status quo, rebelliously question authority, and push the human frontier forward. The connection between executing difficult acts of defiance and buying consumer electronics was not clarified. No explanation was necessary.
The success of the ad campaign, as measured by the boost in Apple’s brand value, presumably did not rely on how many free thinkers it actually generated. I just watched the minute-long clip again a few moments ago, and I too ballooned with glorious purpose to expose the first atrocity that came in my sights: Apple, Inc.
With a value of $1.06 trillion, Apple is the largest corporation in the world by market capitalization. This makes it a richer entity than all but 16 countries on the planet. It is what smaller corporations aspire to rival. Corporate boards around the world ponder over its success techniques. LinkedIn users vicariously celebrate Apple’s wealth through memes. Even outsider executives gleam at this monument of our global economic order, while business managers tenderly clutch copies of Apple’s innovation stories in their beds.
As can be attested by those in the tech industry, Apple directly or indirectly controls many industry-wide decisions made by various companies. This sway is not limited to consumer electronics only. It spans branding and marketing, venture investments, and practices in supply chain and operations. Hence, the company owns an intellectual monopoly within various industries, influencing domain experts, policy-makers, media members, and other agents of business society. Entire countries and communities are tied to great shifts caused by the moves of mega-corporations like Apple.
Further, corporations like Apple cumulatively operate political and economic monopolies in a supposedly democratic society. The public’s only role is to consume the outputs of their business and tolerate all associated externalities, so that the $1.06 trillion can grow boundlessly, as in Apple’s case. As Walter Lippmann, a leading political commentator in the 20th century remarked,
“The public must be put in its place, so that the responsible men may live free of the trampling and roar of a bewildered herd, ignorant and meddlesome outsiders whose function is to be interested spectators of action, not participants, lending their weight periodically to one or another of the leadership class (elections), then returning to their private concerns.” (Year 501, Chomsky)
For Apple and its owners, “living free” fundamentally means the unopposed ability to cheaply extract raw materials around the world; manufacture, package, and hawk products to make limitless profits; and continue to appreciate that capital in investment markets. This paragraph captures their life’s work and meaning.
Despite lofty PR claims about thinking differently, and the tasteless juxtaposition of Martin Luther King, Jr. while peddling electronics, the very existence of Apple’s concentrated wealth sufficiently proves the absence of democracy. Like all corporations, Apple will stop at nothing in its quest to maximize profit and market capitalization. Quaint constructs like democracy of wealth and decision-making are of immense concern, but only to the extent that they need to be stomped by influencing the state.
Evidence was provided in a 2014 Princeton Study, which showed that the US is decidedly an oligarchy. As the study describes,
“Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.”
At the behest of corporations, political and economic democracy is obliterated. From 2017 to date, Apple has poisoned the veins of the electoral process with $10.9 million in campaign contributions to various political representatives. 35 out of their 42 lobbyists have previously held government jobs.
This is only symptomatic of a much larger epidemic, as explained by Professor of Political Science at University of Massachusetts Thomas Ferguson in Golden Rule: The Investment Theory Of Party Competition And The Logic Of Money Driven Political Systems. In summary, Ferguson compellingly shows, with high predictive success, a truth that citizens instinctively know — that US elections are occasions in which coalitions of private capital invest to control the state.
Simply put, elections are bought and the buyers expect to be rewarded.
Maximizing revenue and minimizing costs are not conspiracies. These are programmatic requirements from corporations like Apple. Their profit-oriented operations operating under capitalist rules are fundamentally incapable of making sound engineering, planning and distribution decisions.
Morality and ethics are not even in the same universe, barring cheap PR stunts. Lighting up scarce resources, wasting limited energy and exploiting creative human energy to generate immense profits for a few owners is the central commandment. These are not mistakes, oversights or errant behaviors, but the predictable outcomes of a state-sponsored capitalist economy.
Political democracy and communal self-ownership of economies are threats to this commandment. Rejecting the notion of privatizing profits and socializing risks and costs is a step towards building alternatives. Much can be said to break the intellectual chokehold of corporations, raise spirits in the age of such titanically oppressive institutions, and encourage imaginative combat against tyranny. For now, two words should suffice:
Extracted from Apple, Inc: Slice the Fruit, Find the Cyanide by Ales Nesetril. Read the full article here.