“The Dumbest Idea in the World”: Corporate America’s False – and Dangerous – Ideology of Shareholder Value

by Lynn Stout, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Published on Alternet, August 29, 2012

Excerpt

For at least the past two decades, Americans have been duped into believing that the sole purpose of a corporation is to maximize value for its shareholders. That belief, first promoted in business schools, has been absorbed in the media, in academic circles, and in the political realm….But in reality, it has no basis in the law or American precedent. The maniacal quest to raise share price is bad for eveyone — even shareholders themselves. This is why scholars, journalists (most recently, Joe Nocera of the New York Times [2]) and even corporate leaders are coming to the realization that the American corporation has made a wrong turn based on a false ideology. No less than Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric and a former enthusiast for shareholder value ideology, has done an about-face, calling it “the dumbest idea in the world.” Fortunately, there’s new movement aimed at challenging the destructive ideology shareholder value…

Full text

For at least the past two decades, Americans have been duped into believing that the sole purpose of a corporation is to maximize value for its shareholders. That belief, first promoted in business schools, has been absorbed in the media, in academic circles, and in the political realm — even progressives like Al Franken have repeated it as if it were indisputable fact. But in reality, it has no basis in the law or American precedent. The maniacal quest to raise share price is bad for eveyone — even shareholders themselves. This is why scholars, journalists (most recently, Joe Nocera of the New York Times [2]) and even corporate leaders are coming to the realization that the American corporation has made a wrong turn based on a false ideology. No less than Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric and a former enthusiast for shareholder value ideology, has done an about-face, calling it “the dumbest idea in the world.”

Fortunately, there’s new movement aimed at challenging the destructive ideology shareholder value. AlterNet has been on the forefront of this movement, publishing a series of articles, “Corporations for the 99% [3]” in partnership with William Lazonick, one of America’s top authorities on the American business corporation, who, along with AtlerNet’s Lynn Parramore and jouranlist Ken Jacobson, set about debunking this dangerous myth. Cornell University law professor Lynn Stout’s new book [4], “The Shareholder Value Myth,” is a welcome contribution to this movement — a must-read for anyone who seeks to understand the relationship between corporations and the public and to learn how to overturn a myth that has done incalculable damage to our society and economy. Below is an excerpt from the Introduction to Stout’s book. ~Editor

The Dumbest Idea in the World

The Deepwater Horizon was an oil drilling rig, a massive floating structure that cost more than a third of a billion dollars to build and measured the length of a football field from bottom to top. On the night of April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon was working in the Gulf of Mexico, finishing an exploratory well named Macondo for the corporation BP. Suddenly the rig was rocked by a loud explosion. Within minutes the Deepwater Horizon was transformed into a column of fire that burned for nearly  two days before collapsing into the depths of theGulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the Macondo well began vomiting tens of thousands of barrels of oil daily from beneath the sea floor into the Gulf waters. By the time the well was capped in September 2010, the Macondo well blowout was estimated to have caused the largest offshore oil spill in history.1

The  Deepwater  Horizon disaster was tragedy on an epic scale, not only for the rig and the eleven people who died on it, but also for the corporation BP. By June of 2010,  BP had suspended paying  its regular  dividends, and  BP common stock (trading around $60  before the spill) had plunged to less than $30 per share. The result  was a decline in BP’s total stock market value amounting to nearly $100 billion. BP’s shareholders were not the only ones to suffer. The value of BP bonds  tanked as BP’s credit rating was cut from a prestigious AA to the near-junk status BBB. Other oil companies working in the Gulf were idled, along with BP, due to a government-imposed moratorium  on further deepwater drilling in the Gulf. Business  owners and workers in the Gulf fishing  and tourism industries struggled to make a living. Finally, the Gulf ecosystem itself suffered  enormous damage, the full extent of which remains unknown today.

After  months of investigation, the  National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling concluded the Macondo blowout could be traced  to multiple decisions by BP employees and contractors to ignore standard safety procedures in the attempt to cut costs. (At the time  of the  blowout,  the Macondo project was more than a month behind schedule and almost $60  million over budget, with each day of delay costing an estimated $1 million.)2  Nor was this the first time  BP had sacrificed  safety to save time  and money. The Commission concluded, “BP’s safety lapses  have been chronic.”3

The Ideology of Shareholder Value

Why would a sophisticated international corporation make such an enormous and costly mistake? In trying to save $1 million a day by skimping on safety procedures at the Macondo well, BP cost its shareholders alone a hundred thousand times more, nearly $100  billion.  Even if following proper safety procedures had delayed the development of the Macondo well for a full year, BP would have done much better. The gamble was foolish, even from BP’s perspective.

This  book  argues  that the Deepwater Horizon disaster is only one example of a larger problem that  afflicts many public corporations today. That problem might  be called shareholder value thinking. According to the doctrine of shareholder value, public corporations “belong” to their shareholders, and they exist for one purpose only, to maximize  shareholders’ wealth.  Shareholder wealth, in turn, is typically measured by share  price—meaning share price today, not share  price next year or next decade.

Shareholder value  thinking is  endemic in the business world today.  Fifty years ago, if you had asked the directors or CEO of a large public  company what the  company’s purpose was, you might have been told the corporation had many purposes: to provide  equity investors with solid returns, but also to build great products, to provide decent  livelihoods  for employees, and to contribute to the community and the nation. Today, you are likely to be told the company has but one purpose, to maximize its shareholders’ wealth.  This  sort of thinking drives directors and executives to run public  firms like BP with  a relentless focus on raising stock price.  In the quest  to “unlock shareholder value” they sell key assets,  fire loyal employees, and ruthlessly squeeze the workforce  that remains; cut back on product support, customer assistance, and research and development; delay replacing outworn, out- moded,  and unsafe equipment; shower CEOs with stock options and expensive pay packages  to “incentivize” them; drain cash reserves to pay large dividends and repurchase company shares,  leveraging  firms until they teeter  on the brink  of insolvency;  and lobby regulators and Congress to change  the law so they can chase short-term profits speculating in credit default  swaps and other high-risk financial  derivatives. They do these  things even though many individual directors and executives  feel uneasy about such strategies, intuiting that  a single-minded focus on share  price may not  serve the interests of society, the company, or shareholders themselves.

This book examines and challenges the doctrine of shareholder value.  It argues that shareholder value ideology is just that—an ideology, not a legal requirement or a practical necessity  of modern business life.United States corporate law does not, and never has, required directors of public corporations to maximize either share  price or shareholder wealth.  To the contrary, as long as boards do not use their power to enrich themselves, the law gives them a wide range of discretion to run  public  corporations with other goals in mind, including growing  the firm, creating quality  products, protecting employees,  and serving the public interest. Chasing  shareholder value is a managerial choice, not a legal requirement.

Nevertheless, by the  1990s,  the idea  that  corporations should  serve only shareholder wealth as reflected in stock price came to dominate other  theories of corporate purpose. Executives, journalists, and business school professors alike embraced  the  need  to maximize  shareholder value with near-religious fervor. Legal scholars argued  that corporate managers ought to focus only on maximizing the shareholders’ interest in the firm, an approach they somewhat misleadingly called “shareholder primacy.” (“Shareholder absolutism” or “shareholder dictatorship” would be more accurate.)

It  should  be noted that  a handful of scholars  and  activists continued to argue  for “stakeholder” visions of corporate purpose that gave corporate managers breathing room to consider the  interests of employees, creditors, and  customers. A small number of others  advocated for “corporate  social responsibility” to ensure that public companies indeed served the public  interest writ large. But by the turn  of the millennium,  such alternative views of good corporate governance had been reduced to the status of easily ignored minority reports. Business and  policy elites  in the  United States and much of the rest of the world as well accepted as a truth that should not be questioned that  corporations exist to maximize shareholder value.4

Time for Some Questions

Today, questions seem called for. It should be apparent to anyone who reads the newspapers that Corporate America’s mass embrace of shareholder value thinking has not translated into better corporate or economic  performance. The  past  dozen years  have  seen  a daisy  chain  of costly  corporate disasters, from  massive  frauds  at Enron, HealthSouth, and  Worldcom in the early 2000s, to the near-failure and subsequent costly taxpayer  bailout  of many  of our largest  financial  institutions in 2008, to the BP oil spill in 2010. Stock market returns have been miserable, raising the question of how aging baby boom- ers who trusted in stocks for their  retirement will be able to support  themselves in  their   golden  years.  The population of publicly  held  U.S. companies is shrinking rapidly  as for- merly public  companies like Dunkin’ Donuts and  Toys“R”Us “go private”  to escape  the  pressures of shareholder-primacy thinking, and  new  enterprises decide not to sell  shares to outside investors at all. (Between 1997 and 2008, the  number of companies listed  on  U.S. exchanges declined from 8,823 to only 5,401.)5  Some experts worry America’s public corporations are losing their  innovative edge.6  The National Commission found that an underlying cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster was the fact that the oil and gas industry has cut back significantly  on research in recent  decades,  with the result  that  “knowledge  and  experience within  the  industry may be decreasing.”7

Even former champions of shareholder primacy are beginning to rethink the wisdom of chasing shareholder value. Iconic  CEO Jack Welch,  who ran GE with an iron fist from 1981 until his retirement in 2001, was one of the earliest, most vocal, and most influential adopters of the shareholder value mantra. During his  first five years at GE’s helm, “Neutron Jack” cut the number of GE employees by more than a third. He also eliminated most of GE’s basic research programs. But several years after retiring from GE with more than $700 million in estimated personal wealth, Welch observed in a Financial Times interview about the 2008 financial crisis that “strictly speaking, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.”8

Revisiting the Idea of “Shareholder Value”

Although shareholder-primacy ideology still dominates business and academic circles today, for as long as there have been public corporations there have been those who argue they should serve the public interest, not shareholders’ alone. I am highly sympathetic to this view. I also believe, however, that one does not need  to embrace either a stakeholder-oriented model of the firm, or a form of corporate social responsibility theory,  to conclude that shareholder value thinking is destructive. The gap between shareholder-primacy ideology as it is practiced today, and stakeholders’ and the public interest, is not only vast but much wider than it either must or should be. If we stop to examine the reality of who “the shareholder” really  is—not an abstract creature obsessed with the single goal of raising the share  price of a single firm today, but real human beings  with the capacity to think for the future and to make binding commitments, with a wide range  of investments and interests beyond the shares they happen to hold in any single  firm, and  with consciences that make most of them concerned, at least a bit, about the fates of others, future generations, and  the planet—it soon becomes  apparent that conventional shareholder primacy harms not only stakeholders and the public, but most shareholders as well. If we really want corporations to serve the interests of the diverse human beings  who ultimately own their  shares  either directly or through institutions like pension and mutual funds, we need to seriously reexamine our ideas about  who shareholders are and what they truly value.

This  book  shows how the  project of reexamining shareholder value thinking is already underway. While the notion that managers should  seek to maximize  share  price  remains conventional  wisdom in many  business circles  and in the press,  corporate  theorists  increasingly  challenge  conventional  wisdom.  New scholarly articles  questioning the effects of shareholder-primacy thinking and  the wisdom  of chasing shareholder value seem to appear daily. Even more important, influential economic  and  legal experts  are proposing alternative theories of the  legal structure and  economic  purpose of public corporations that show how a relentless focus on raising the share price of individual firms may be not only misguided, but harmful to investors.

These  new theories promise to advance our understanding of corporate purpose far beyond  the  old, stale  “shareholders- versus-stakeholders” and “shareholders-versus-society” debates. By revealing how a singled-minded focus on share price endangers many shareholders themselves, they also demonstrate how the perceived gap between the interests of shareholders as a class and those of stakeholders and the broader society in fact may be far narrower than  commonly  understood. In the process,  they also offer better, more  sophisticated, and  more  useful  understandings of the role of public corporations and of good corpo- rate governance that  can help business leaders,  lawmakers, and investors  alike ensure  that  public  corporations reach  their  full economic potential.


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/dumbest-idea-world-corporate-americas-false-and-dangerous-ideology-shareholder-value

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/lynn-stout
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/11/opinion/nocera-down-with-shareholder-value.html
[3] http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDgQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.alternet.org%2Fuploads%2Fpdfs%2F99corpsv2.pdf&ei=Y1Q-UNnlFa-B0QHFkoHAAg&usg=AFQjCNHe8OzdOV8EsoF53W5HpyTJhF6_Ww
[4] http://www.bkconnection.com/ProdDetails.asp?ID=9781605098159&PG=1&Type=BL&PCS=BKP
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/shareholder-value
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/shareholder-value-ideology
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/america
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/bp
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/business-0
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/ceo
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/company-layoffs
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/company-reorganization
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/congress-0
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/corporate-governance
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/corporate-social-responsibility
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/corporations-law
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/deepwater-horizon-oil-spill
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/deepwater-horizon-0
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/english-law
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/enron
[21] http://www.alternet.org/tags/financial-times
[22] http://www.alternet.org/tags/ge-0
[23] http://www.alternet.org/tags/gulf-mexico-0
[24] http://www.alternet.org/tags/healthsouth
[25] http://www.alternet.org/tags/jack-welch
[26] http://www.alternet.org/tags/law-0
[27] http://www.alternet.org/tags/legal-entities
[28] http://www.alternet.org/tags/man-made-disaster
[29] http://www.alternet.org/tags/national-commission-bp-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill
[30] http://www.alternet.org/tags/national-commission
[31] http://www.alternet.org/tags/person-career
[32] http://www.alternet.org/tags/shareholder-primacy
[33] http://www.alternet.org/tags/usd
[34] http://www.alternet.org/tags/united-states
[35] http://www.alternet.org/tags/worldcom
[36] http://www.alternet.org/tags/corporate-law
[37] http://www.alternet.org/tags/offshore-oil-spill
[38] http://www.alternet.org/tags/oil-and-gas-industry
[39] http://www.alternet.org/tags/oil-drilling-rig
[40] http://www.alternet.org/tags/oil-spill
[41] http://www.alternet.org/tags/oil-0
[42] http://www.alternet.org/tags/unsafe-equipment

Corporations

How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas

Cynicism Is Corporate America’s Greatest Weapon. Disarm It

Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted

The Sick Ayn Randian War Against Everyone Who Isn’t Rich

Meet the Elite Business and Think-Tank Community That’s Doing Its Best to Control the World

Mankind: Death by Corporation

How Corporations Are Subverting Attempts to Rein in Their Power

Pro-Capitalist, Anti-Government Extremists

The Dumbest Idea in the World”: Corporate America’s False — and Dangerous — Ideology of Shareholder Value

The Corporate Bully Whose Front Groups, Willful Distortions and Hate-Mongering Has Poisoned U.S. Politics: Meet Richard Berman By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet, November 24, 2013  … Dr. Evil is Richard Berman, a Washington-based lawyer-turned-hitman for Big Food who pioneered and still deploys many of the most intentionally deceptive, inflammatory and anti-democratic tactics used in corporate propaganda campaigns today. For nearly four decades, Berman’s attacks have tried to smear, discredit and destroy public-interest causes and groups by a toxic brew of industry front groups, distortion-filled attacks, ridicule and bullying to stoke prejudice and hatred as a means of turning the public’s attention and regulators away from his paymasters’ business practices…Can one man really be held responsible for large slices of any era’s excesses, especially in a city as dominated by opportunists as Washington, D.C.? The answer is yes, there are people who are emblematic of political eras. Ronald Reagan was the “Teflon president,” evading [12] criticism that stuck. Lee Atwater was the dark political operator who revived [13] the GOP’s racist attack machinery for George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign. In Berman’s case, there is a decades-long record of gleefully [5] taking fights into the gutter….Why would Berman and his backers go after a group like the Humane Society of the U.S… their warnings and advocacy threaten how Big Food—the corporate-dominated food and beverage industry paying Berman—makes its fortune….In May, the Boston Globe’s deputy Washington bureau chief Michael Kranish [14] wrote a magazine-length report [15] on Washington’s “industry of distortion,”…Berman boasted about winning on emotion—not truth. “Emotional understanding is very different; it stays with you,” Berman said. “Intellectual understanding is a fact and facts trump other facts. When I understand something in my gut, you’ve got me in a very different way.”“We should attack their credibility using ridicule and humor; not for what they’ve said but for who they are.” Now 70, he has used front groups and exaggerated facts flung with a disregard for public consequences for decades…With little legal recourse, Berman’s targets have worked with the media to try to expose his dark tactics….But these more civil tactics—seeking IRS review, being upbraided in the mainstream media—don’t derail a street fighter who enjoys bullying…If anything, Washington’s political culture has been embracing [31] Berman’s thuggery. October’s federal government shutdown, the ongoing Obamacare and budget wars, and the routine vilification of critics are all signs of increasingly poisoned politics…Berman described himself as a fighter for corporations in an era dominated by do-gooders. “Businesses themselves don’t find it convenient to take on causes that might seem politically incorrect,” he said. “And I am not afraid to do that.” Berman says he isn’t in interested in policy debates and position papers, but gut punches that people will remember…His staff goes through government reports, activist press releases, policy papers and books by anyone who might stand in the way of unfettered corporate profits. They take aim by seizing on small points…and blow up that trifle to smear a reputation, organization or agenda…The methodology is twisting the truth, exaggerating facts that are totally acceptable to make them sound corrupt, and fanning cliches or prejudice to evoke emotional reactions that take the public’s eye away from real scrutiny of, or accountability for, his clients’ exploitive business practices…Berman’s sponsors reveals why he has had a four-decade run as a corporate hit man. With the backing of tobacco, booze and then Big Food, he has created industry front groups, kept his sponsors’ identities largely hidden, developed a political playbook based on smears, distortions and hate-mongering, and seen the campaign and lobbying profession embrace his poisonous and destructive methodology. America’s political culture has become uglier and more hate-filled in recent decades, and Richard Berman has played a singular roll in that descent into the gutter.

Corporate Elites Are Witnessing a Growing Wave of Resistance to the ‘Walmartization’ of Our Economy By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, AlterNet, November 29, 2013 - The struggle of working Americans took center stage as Black Friday protests covered the country.  The struggle for wages that do not leave families impoverished is one that affects us all and highlights the unfair economy created by a class war waged by the wealthy for decades.  The ‘Walmartization’ of the US economy has created a downward spiral in wages and destroyed small businesses and communities while heightening the wealth divide that is at the root of so many problems.  The war on working people is a war on all but the wealthiest Americans. The people are fighting back and the elites recognize it. We have seen how aggressive they are in how they responded to Occupy and other protest movements. Thousands of Americans have been arrested exercising their Right to Assembly…Noam Chomsky writes in his new book, Occupy: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, that the “business class” is always engaged in class warfare. They continually act to protect their interests, wealth and power. The class war manifests itself in every aspect of our lives from the attack on our public institutions and civil liberties to climate change and the global race to the bottom and racially unfair police enforcement and mass incarceration.  It defines our foreign policy including trade agreements rigged for big business and wars for resources, cheap labor and the positioning of American Empire…Henry Giroux recently spoke with Bill Moyers about his book Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism. Giroux said, “The real changes are going to come in creating movements that are longstanding, that are organized, that basically take questions of governance and policy seriously and begin to spread out and become international.” An area in which this is happening to a great extent is in global trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) will meet in Bali, Indonesia on December 3. Ever since the Seattle protests in 1999, the WTO has been unable to move forward on their agenda. This week WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo announced [9] they were unable to move forward once again.  U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke expressed “great sadness,” while we applauded the failure of corporate trade. Activists and small countries being bullied should be wary, this could be a negotiating ploy and they need to continue to fight back. We are on the cusp of a new era of fair trade instead of rigged corporate trade. Our tasks are to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is reaching completion and the new Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TAFTA) from being signed into law and then go on the offense to demand a trade process that is inclusive, democratic and transparentWorkers and Communities Unite Against Walmart…We can think of no other corporation that has caused as much damage to the working class, communities and the overall economy as Walmart.  Poverty wages, destruction of local business and the obscene wealth divide are at the door of the largest retailer in the nation. The six Walton heirs have more wealth than the bottom 40 percent [16] of Americans. Walmart is the largest private employer in the world and has extensive supply lines but its unethical business practices are driving the world economy in the wrong direction. The Walton family wealth has come at a tremendous price for the rest of us. They’ve gained this wealth by squashing worker rights, lowering wages and draining our local tax dollars, and they show no signs of changing course. After the disastrous collapse of the factory in Bangladesh which killed over 1,000 workers, many companies signed on to a new accord to prevent it from happening again. Walmart, along with GAP, refuses to sign [17] the accord. Walmart could easily provide a living wage. A recent study by Demos shows it would even be in their best interest to do so because it would stimulate the whole economy. And there are signs that Walmart is feeling the heat. The CEO, Michael Duke, announced this week that he will step down. And Walmart hired a public relations firm  to smear Walmart protesters. Our sense is that this effort will backfire as it shows the desperation of this Goliath that will fall to mobilized Davids. In fact, Walmart is not the only corporation that mistreats its workers; it’s just the largest one. Here is a list of ten American companies [29] that pay the least. In addition to Walmart employees, other workers are fighting for a living wage. Fast food workers and those who make supplies [30] for the fast food restaurants have also been holding strikes and rallies. Airport workers from Seattle to Minneapolis to New York [31] are organizing for higher pay and winning in the case of Seattle…Persistence and Solidarity are Key Ingredients…A Cultural Transformation…We are in a war that reaches into every aspect of our lives. Giroux describes it as “a war on the mind. The war on what it means to be able to dissent, the war on the possibility of alternative visions.” He goes on to say that we are in “A war on the possibility of an education that enables people to think critically, a war on cultural apparatuses that entertain by simply engaging in this spectacle of violence….”In addition to building a global movement, Giroux calls for a cultural transformation. We need to find places where people can connect to talk about the world they want to create and then strategize about how to make it a reality. We need to move outside of the constraints inherent in our current economic structure and use our collective wisdom and power to build new systems based on values that lift up communities and heal the planet. The cultural transformation begins with dispelling myths and facing the truth…We see people doing creative resistance that reflects these values on a daily basis and report on much of it at Popular Resistance [51].  There is so much going on that we cannot cover it all, and we know the potential is even greater.  Connect with people in your community. One person suggested forming a Popular Resistance meet-up and others are joining struggles for workers, the environment, youth, to end war, end police abuse and so much more.  There is room for you in this movement. When you get involved, you will find that your frustration at the mis-direction of our country lessens because you will see that you are not alone. Many are working for the transformation we know we need with persistence and in solidarity. This article is produced by PopularResistance.org [52] in conjunction with AlterNet.  It is based on PopularResistance.org’s weekly newsletter [53] reviewing the activities of the resistance movement. Sign up for the daily news digest of Popular Resistance, here. 

The Source of Corporate Power by Robert C. Koehler, CommonDreams.org, January 28, 2010 …landmark Supreme Court decision marking some sort of culmination in the long corporate trek to personhood…The 5-4 decision in the long-awaited Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case overturns restrictions on corporate spending to influence election results, giving entities with millions (in some cases, billions) of dollars at their disposal unlimited license to electioneer for the candidate with the friendliest attitude toward their interests.
The tendency of money and power is to concentrate, of course. The big trick, from a human perspective, is to make sure our core values remain pre-eminent, that they are served by the ways in which we concentrate power. Democracy is the great mechanism for doing so…the wakeup message in this nakedly cynical ruling by the Roberts Court, with its slim (but sufficient) right-wing majority, is that the concept of democracy is mortally wounded
This is an “activist” judicial decision, that is to say, a decision that serves a prior agenda, with any principles cited (e.g., the sanctity of free speech) sheer window dressing in service to a larger, and covert, cause…could have been decided on narrow grounds. The court chose instead to expand the scope of the case, making it into a challenge of existing laws that regulate corporate election spending…
I see little hope for a gullible nation that allows the tube to hemorrhage urgent inanities directly into its consciousness for 18 hours a day. This gullibility is the source of corporate power. Democracy can only thrive where people think for themselves.

Five Ways Privatization Degrades America by by Paul Buchheit, Com­mon Dreams, August 13, 2012

How Corporate Personhood Threatens Democracy by Tom Stites, Unitarian Universalist World magazine, March 2003

How corporations became ‘persons’ By Tom Stites, UUA World, May/June 2003 5.1.03

We Are in the Midst of Defeating the Largest Corporate Trade Agreement in History By Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, AlterNet, November 15, 2013   …We need to know the truth in order to participate in the great debates that shape our futures…the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  will provide extraordinary patent protections and internet restrictions designed to further enrich the wealthy while the race to the bottom accelerates. A confluence of events this week has weakened the chances of the TPP’s survival… Opposition to the TPP continues to build…We are in a historic moment of people vs. the corporations.  We are in the midst of defeating the largest trade agreement in history….information he released to Wikileaks and other media outlets revealed the cooperation between private and government security agencies and methods used to stifle dissent, including monitoring the Occupy movement, as well as their strategies for defeating movementsthe truth destroys corrupt power….We live in a time of crisis, but also in a time of opportunityKnowledge is essential for popular power. … there is a “rise in worldwide populist activism…Every day we see that more people are embracing their power and joining the popular resistance so feared by the elites. People are making our own history; setting the world on a new course. Much work is needed to begin the world anew, each must do what they can. Join us.