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February 04, 2008


Chris Ward

There are a number of looming 'corporate battles', which can involve the resources of corporations (in competition with each other); governments (in balance with their judiciaries); and individuals.

Mostly, the individuals cannot afford to engage in opposition to a corporation, a government, or a judiciary; there is a massive inequality of economic resources deployable. And yet, the corporations, governments, and judiciary ultimately only exist by the consent of, and to provide service to, the individuals.

If we look, for example, at one of the 'live' questions in the UK http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7183003.stm where neither I nor my employer has a financial interest; but it illustrates the point nicely.

The UK government are engaged in litigation against the UK banks, before a UK judge (who in principle represents the Queen) on the question of whether the charges that the banks make for handling bank accounts which are overdrawn are 'fair'.

On the one hand, why should a government tell a private business what prices it may or may not set ? On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of UK individuals have been 'kicked when they are down' by the imposition of what the government thinks are unfair charges.

Closer to home, there's a new release of IBM Lotus Symphony available here http://symphony.lotus.com/ ; 'no charge, for everybody'. I assume it's there because IBM corporately thinks it improves IBM's competitive position, to end the retail market for standalone word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet applications; the sort of thing that Lotus Development Corporation (now part of IBM) was selling before IBM bought it and redirected its efforts towards Lotus Notes and infrastructure value. If the price is zero, there is no market.

So the global corporations, the large governments, and the commercial legal systems which have to balance between them as to what it equitable, look as if the horn-locking is set to continue.

What of the individuals who get tossed and buffeted on the waves, between the behemoths ? Is there a safety valve, an outlet, a safe harbour ?

Ken Kalinoski

Rock on, Irving... God be with you. Till we meet again, Ken Kalinoski

Thomas Otter

The Milton Friedman piece gets more interesting when you look at it in full. Milton's position is more subtle than that fragment would suggest.

"...That responsi­bility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while con­forming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom"


I'd argue that the customes and basic rules of society are changing too. Businesses that focus on CSR effectively do so out of enlightened self interest, not out of philanthropy. Societial rules and norms move on. Most of the time it takes a while for business to adapt to the change.

IBM has recently published an in depth study on CSR. You'll find my former colleague, James Farrar worth a read on this

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