Thursday, 18 March 2010

Don't vote for XYZ Inc.


Murray Hill is running for the US Congress. At first glance, nothing seems to be wrong with that – surely anybody can run for Congress. But then Murray Hill is unique and a first. For its full name is Murray Hill Inc. It’s a company; not a person. An interesting article in the Economist (click here) examines this quirky issue superbly.

This is a consequence of a landmark US Supreme Court judgment in January. In a bitterly divided 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment free speech rights extended to corporations. The biggest impact of this ruling would be that no limits can be placed on political contributions by businesses. The impact of business on politics is bound to increase, and this has generally been considered to be not a good thing.

But another consequence of the decision seems to be what Murray Hill is contemplating. It faces huge hurdles for sure – there must be a myriad of other laws that require a candidate to be of flesh and blood. As The Economist says, Murray Hill is sure to fall foul of one requirement– all candidates have to be 18 years of age or above and Murray Hill Inc is only 5 years old ! In any case, it has little chance of getting elected – its slogan is “put people second” and “create the best democracy money can buy”. After all Murray Hill is a PR company trying to gain some publicity.

But underneath this lurks a real issue, The rather blasé view in The Economist that companies can be pressurised to act responsibly in engagement with the political process is dangerous. Businesses will not act responsibly – they will act precisely in their own self interest and to hell with everything else. After all that is their charter. They will lobby furiously for breaks; they will compete for pork; they will finance candidates who will do them favours after getting elected.

The Supreme Court decision has raised alarms across the US. The Court appears to have become as bitterly divided as the US nation itself – there is a big drift to the extremes on both sides of the political divide. All the “conservatives” on the bench voted for the decision. All the “liberals” dissented.

In my view businesses are crucial to economic activity, but must remain there. There is grave danger in allowing them to be part of the political process. Businesses are not members of society – only people are. Businesses already influence political processes far too much because they finance much of it. By their very nature they cannot aid sensible public policy. They should not be allowed anywhere near it.

There is grave danger in voting for XYZ Inc.

24 comments:

  1. Am surprised why the Supreme court never considered the implications!!

    Also thinking how many companies will field themselves as candidate[wondering who will be held responsible if the company loses election!!:P]

    Above all, will people vote for them??

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  2. Don't think any serious company will ever stand and none will get elected, but still ..... you never know .....

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  3. Daily a post means,u vetti @ office,correct?
    (No offence meant)

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  4. @ambluisamma - Absolutely correct. Totally vetti :)

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  5. I only see an irony with my feeble observation: In one end, politics makes companies and businessmen, in other end, companies take part in politics :D...

    @Ambuli's amma, one need not be vetti to post every day. with proper time management(Which most of us fail utterly), one can post even thrice a day, if only we have an interesting perspective, an insight to everyday occurances. I think Ramesh is one of those extra-passionate blogger, who can fit posting everyday in his schedule(however busy he might be), writing effortlessly on topics we would not mind to think of, otherwise. :)

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  6. Very well said,but business and politics are not always inseperable,but still businesses engaging in political processes could be a red flag as you point out.

    @ RS: I just wanted to make fun,and thats why questioned,but am surprised by that totally vetti answer,also i definitely agree that he is a passionate blogger and his posts are really inspiring,topics are of great interest and gives an insight.

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  7. LOL @ athivasi vs ambulimama :D :D for a min thot i had logged into tamilnadu sattaperavai :D :D maanbumigu ambuliamma avargalaynu podatha kurai thaan :D :D

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  8. Anonymous18/3/10

    guess hollywood has taken over US judiciary too :D right out of speilberg/cameroon movie script. antha oorla Companye ozhunga nadakaama izhuthu moodings..ippo countrya manage panna veraya!! venaam saami.

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  9. since the judgement is quite controversial and i do not have any capability to comment on this as i have even stopped reading newspaper these days, i follow the lighter vein - the comment track

    This week has been a bloggers delight - back to back posts from our "Blog Prince Charming" is the best treat you could give to us.

    thanks to you for that. looking forward for more!!!

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  10. Anonymous18/3/10

    //As The Economist says, Murray Hill is sure to fall foul of one requirement– all candidates have to be 18 years of age or above and Murray Hill Inc is only 5 years old ! //

    !!! ada aapicerungala!! ivangalaam adangavay maatangala!!

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  11. Durga18/3/10

    Well well... Some article that! It is beyond one's imagination that the Supreme Court can pass a judgment such as this without really considering the fallouts from such a decision! Clearly, the judges were in a tearing hurry to be done with the case. Business are meant to make profits and that's the reason for their existence. Their involvement in the society should stop at CSR. Involvement in politics should be left to individuals/parties (who, largely, do a shoddy job of it). But then, can we all just do our own jobs, for the simple reason that our priorities & objectives are different?

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  12. @ gils: Post.kku comment poda sonna,comment.kku comment podareenga,enakku paravai illa,ramesh kooda adjust pannipaar,but indha madhiri oru punidhamana blog.la vandhu kummi adikkareengala appidinnu RS kochuppar.

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  13. @RS - Ironical, yes. Politics is second nature to humans - Put three people together and there'll be politics !! Hey thanks for some very kind words

    @ambulisamma - Please keep the fun quotient high - pull my leg as often as I do the same with others. Despite being a business blog, it would be nice if there's some light heartedness here ; so all power to you !

    @gils - Maanbumigy Gils avargale !! as always, your comment is unique, rib tickling and thoroughly desertving of the "Most Beautiful Commenter" award !!

    @Anon - Not so much Hollywood as extremism of views. I think the court is a reflection of what's happening in the US as a whole - a huge hardening of views on both sides. Civilized debate has become impossible

    @Sandhya - Maybe you are better informed for notn having read the newspapers ! There's only garlands of cash on Mayawati all around !

    @Anon - Adnaga Maatangal - No chance !

    @Durga - In one sense, the Court knew very well the fallouts. But it reflects two things - an unwavering commitment to the Constitution irrespecitve of whether the outcome is liked or not and a shifting from the middle ground to extreme views on the left and the right.

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  14. @ambulisamma - Totally bowled over by "punidhamaana blog". No, No - please keep it naughty :)

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  15. @ambulisamma:Baas, y kovam?no kovam. Inga pidinga oru handshake and a milkshake. namma business prof-a vetti nu sonnathaala orey feelings airuchi, avvalavey :D.

    @Gils:Baas, kadaseela nammala sattasabaiyoda compare panniteengaley baas....

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  16. kiwibloke19/3/10

    In India, there is a lot more good done by corporates than the netas that we elect - I'm not talking about all the CSR stuff (which to me is a load of hogwash), but the more serious work around making the wheels turn, bringing in prosperity. What if one of our corporates stood in the election? Even the best of the 'good corporate citizens' in India can have no hope in hell of ever winning one single seat in this hypothetical situation. In Gils' language, the price of democracy in India is briyani and packet sarayam and rendu gandhis (2 x500 INR notes for the uninitiated in Chennai chentamizh) I've voted in more elections in NZ than in India(none!) and I'm neither ashamed nor guilty of this fact.

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  17. It seems to be an interesting evolution. Murray Hill seems to be trying to see to what extent that the square ruling can be pulled around to fit different dimensional pegs. I will amuse myself more with how much of pulling and pushing happens before something concrete happens. The inanimate Senator!, Ha, that is fun! No wonder Obama is not happy with this. More problems than what he already has.

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  18. //nammala sattasabaiyoda compare panniteengaley baas....//

    enga...kodi veetu kanagasabaiyoda kampair panna mathiri solitele..tamilnaadu sattasabai nu "uyarvaaaa" sonenga :D

    thalaiavary..anonyum naanay..agnyaniyum naanay :D

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  19. //In Gils' language, the price of democracy in India is briyani and packet sarayam and rendu gandhis (2 x500 INR notes for the uninitiated in Chennai chentamizh//

    !!!! ada appracentigala..en tamizh total damage..waitess.next comment will be in so chaste a language i will make u run towards the nearest "agaraathi" :D :D

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  20. @kiwi - Interesting thought. Surelt tata Steel will make a better MLA than Shibu Soren !!

    @RamMmm - Inanimate senator is a funny concept. At least "it" can't fillibuster

    @gils - Anon - yes; Agnyani - never ! Anon gilsu stylla irunthuthu, aana, gilsoda girl friendo enamo nnu carefula irunthein :)

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  21. This seems to be a controversial judgment, as Sandhya points out.

    I agree with you that businesses already influence political processes far too much. I am also sure that in most cases they will not act responsibly if elected. Just hoping that Mr. Monks' advice is taken seriously under such situation. After all, corporates like tata steel (if not all) would definitely make a difference.

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  22. @Vishal - Higly controversial judgement - the legislature is surely going to pass other laws to address this.

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  23. Bizarre is the word! But after some thinking, I will stand by MPs in flesh and blood instead of a an entire corporate body. Because you may let Tata in, but then you can't keep the door closed for Reliance.

    Individual troubles seem more controllable than a whole Corporate house.

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  24. @Deepa - Yes, men of flesh and blood, however flawed are safer than those with no human emotions !

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