The documentary examines the inception of corporations and the ways they acquired public charters. Moreover, it analyzes the work they did for the public interest or appeared to do so to the modern day behemoth with only self-interest to protect and how they obtained legal rights similar to human rights. These corporations acquired legal rights by hijacking the Fourteenth Amendment meant to give equal rights to slaves. The documentary examines corporations and defines them to be psychopaths for their total disregard for other people’s feelings. They also lack the ability to maintain human relations; they lie to earn profits and disregard the safety of others. Furthermore, they lack the capacity to experience guilt, do not conform to social norms, and disrespect the law.
Their sole motivation is profit, and in the pursuit of this goal the corporations are guilty of the following:
Harm to Workers
Workers are afforded the right to form or join trade unions, but the corporations try to suppress the activities of the trade unions, either through legal means or intimidation and violence. For example, there was the violent reaction of the authorities to Bolivian demonstration against the privatization of municipal water, which caused several deaths and injuries as shown in the documentary.
They result from the poor factory conditions where people are crammed into small spaces with poor ventilation. These fires have caused loss of lives and livelihoods. An example is the Bangladesh Tazreen Fashion factory that caught fire in 2012, killing a hundred and twelve people. The factory was found to lack basic safety requirements such as an emergency exit door. The factory supplied the retail giant Wal-Mart.
Harm to Human Health
The production of synthetic chemicals has caused an increase in cancer cases and children born with birth defects. For example, Monsanto’s Agent Orange is an herbicide used to deforest Vietnam. The chemical is estimated to be responsible for over fifty thousand birth defects and hundred thousand cancer cases. Products like the bovine growth hormone, which is used to increase the milk yield of dairy cattle, is the factor contributing to animals falling sick. Once they get treated using antibiotics, the antibiotics later find their way into the human body, promoting the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Environmental pollution is a major health risk. There are entire cities covered in smog, which makes it not only difficult to breathe but also causes respiratory infections. These pollutants not only affect the atmosphere but also pollute drinking water or are absorbed by plants or animals, which are later consumed by people. Eventually, pollution affects the health of humans by causing diseases or ailments.
Harm to Animals
Loss of Habitat
The expansion of industries and forest felling for plantation farming have caused the loss of habitat for animals. Some faced extinction and many found themselves on the verge of extinction. Large tracts of land that hosted these animals get cleared for industrial or agricultural reasons, and, as a result, the animals have to compete for the little areas left. It creates pressure on the biosystems, causing even further degradation of the environment.
Factories are places where animals are crammed in small spaces and are subject to intensive farming techniques, especially the animals which are reared for their meat like pigs or beef cattle. These conditions are unsuitable for the animals and cause them distress and restlessness. The heavy feeding programs that aim to insure fast maturity are also uncomfortable for the animals, not to mention the drugs and hormones fed to the animals.
Experimentation is done on animals by pharmaceutical and/or agrochemical corporations. For instance, Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone is used on dairy cattle to increase their milk yield, even though milk is already in surplus. The hormone causes distress to the animals and triggers diseases such as mastitis, which, in turn, requires antibiotics. As a consequence, this is transmitted to humans through the consumption of this milk, causing the development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Harm to the Biosphere
It is said that every living thing’s life support system is failing due to the activities of these corporations. Agrochemical corporations sell chemicals to farmers that degrade their lands, pollute rivers and contribute to the increase in greenhouse gases. The big offshore oil corporations release their toxic effluent into the water and the atmosphere, which has contributed to the fast-approaching destruction of the planet’s life support systems. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions from industries and factories increase global warming, which causes the greenhouse effect. Global warming, in turn, has triggered climate change, making it difficult for farmers to plan their planting season. Consequently, it has caused the loss of vegetation and increase in desert conditions. It has also led to adverse weather conditions like famine, flooding and hurricanes, and the situation promises to get worse if these emissions are not checked.
Propping up of Despotic Regimes
These corporations have no problem working with despotic or tyrannical administrations that have no regard for human rights. From the documentary, the IBM computers are used by the Nazis in Germany, and Coca Cola created Fanta for the same regime. In fact, most of the corporations thrive in such regimes where labor and environmental laws are lax, and in some cases, it is their reason for moving their operations into these countries (Hilary, 2013). These corporations undermine democracies and sovereignty of nations by supporting despotic regimes and providing them with the revenue they need to sustain themselves. They also undermine democracies by being involved in making decisions such as cutting emissions; however, nobody endeavored to represent them.
They are also involved in the suppression of people’s rights to access information through the limitation of the media freedom. The example cited is the expos? of Monsanto that through their lawyers and pressure from the fox network and its affiliates tried to prevent the submission of an investigative report on their product Posilac (Hilary, 2013). The drug was used by dairy farmers and was absorbed by humans; it is a fact that they concealed from the regulatory authorities. It clearly shows the power that these corporations wield and their tendency to abuse it.
The multinationals involved in the agriculture sector have developed seeds that are self-terminating, which means that farmers cannot save seeds from their crops and are, therefore, hooked to these corporations that provide them with seeds (Hilary, 2013). These ventures seem lucrative to farmers at first when they are provided with seeds and agrochemicals. At times, they get loans, but once the crop yield drops, the cost becomes unsustainable and, as a result, they lose their lands and, as in case of India, some commit suicide.
Wolf (2004) and Bhagwati (2004) emphasize the harm that these corporations cause to humans through issues such as poor wages, child labor and long working hours. Moreover, they harm the environment through discharge of toxic waste and other pollutants. However, the authors also argue that globalization or corporations are more beneficial than harmful. They stress the reduction of poverty as a positive indicator of the impact globalization has as a result of free movement of capital and labor. They advocate for the policies that promote free market economics removal of subsidies and trade restrictions. The free movement of labor will cause convergence of wages and working conditions and, thus, improve the conditions of the working masses in the poor countries where these corporations run businesses. They argue that the failures of corporations and globalization are mainly the failures of the policies or rather politics of the nations involved rather than the failures of free market economics that they espouse.
I believe that corporations have a negative effect on human life. Since corporations are led by a few individuals, they do not help realize the needs of the masses but rather serve the ambitions and aspirations of a few affluent members of society. When operating in poor countries, they may be beneficial to their mother country only. The host country suffers from the negative impacts of the corporations. In this sense, these corporations focus on profits. As a result, they cut all the costs that they can and produce products, which have a tendency of generating high profits. Consequently, the local companies have to strategize in a similar manner in order to remain relevant in the market. Therefore, they disturb the priorities of the local companies. These corporations utilize technology that may be inappropriate for developing countries. They operate in a manner that will guarantee high returns (Shah, Yusaff, Hussain, & Hussain, 2012).
In addition, it has become clear to me that they overexploit the resources in the developing countries and leave them once they finish the resources. They do not replace or renew the resources that they exploit. They disregard the long-term impacts of their actions. Additionally, I have realized that they do not put the necessary effort into ensuring that they maintain social and environmental peace. They pollute the environment, and, as a result, local people suffer from ailments and other long-term problems. They discriminate and make the employees overwork (Shah et al., 2012). In most of corporations, in case of an accident, they delay compensating the affected worker or their family. Finally, as a result of their multinational or international status, the corporations influence the political system of the host country. It may cause political instability in developing countries.
However, it is also evident that the corporations have benefits for the host countries. They create employment opportunities for the people living in poor countries. The corporations also offer foreign currency needed for developing countries. Some of the corporations operate effective corporate social responsibility projects, which benefit the local people. Additionally, they enhance infrastructure, although it happens only in the areas of interest. The corporations also invest in research, which also benefits the local people. Since they operate worldwide, it is possible for them to regulate their prices, providing benefits for the local consumers.
It is not right for me to have a blanket condemnation of the corporations, even though most of them conduct business without regard for other humans or their effect on the environment. The major reason is that they make a critical contribution to the development and progression of the human race through the transfer of technology and devising innovative ways of solving many of human problems (Sharma, 2006). The solution would be not to dismantle the corporations as the liberals would do or give leeway as the right advocates. However, the solution would be to have a strong regulatory framework that these corporations will be subject to, having strong environmental laws that will be strongly enforced so that those in violation of the law will incur heavy fines and a trade embargo. Additionally, I believe that the mother countries of these corporations should create and enforce strong labor laws that would insure that they adhere to the national laws even when operating overseas.