Inspection- Of Corporations and Incentive

by Ken Carman

So simple.

So hard for them to understand.

Free marketeer-ing is a Kool Aid drinking cult. The economy dies, they demand we drink more. With every sip more of the economy dies, except the “modern” (sic) day 1% robber barons. “Trickle down” only works if you prefer what splashes on you while standing on a urinal drain.

Admittedly arguments like that get nowhere with members of the “free” market cult. Not even when it’s obvious that the “cure all” elixir they love to sell is a “just get out of the way” form of arsenic that could lead to a corporate culture that would kack the economy. Scratch that: has been kacking the economy. And they have been pouring that poison down the economy’s throat year, after year, after: both Republicans and “free” market Democrats like Bill Clinton.

But perhaps there is another way to phrase your arguments with your local foam at the mouth dripping free marketeer fanatic. Ask them what’s the engine that drives any market. The answer? Incentive. Base your arguments around “incentive:” tossing the ball into a court they think they know very well, only they think a “free” market offers all, and the only, incentive needed.

That’s pure crack they’re smoking. And when it comes to damn near any other topic they’re all for other kinds of incentive. It should be easy to give examples of how people are “incentivized.”

Murder is illegal and tough jail sentences offered for those who do such. Why? Incentive. It’s illegal to drive 100mph through a school zone during release time. There are heavy penalties for doing so. Why? Incentive. Why is rape illegal? Incentive.

Given the “market will regulate” philosophy, one would think “the market” would self regulate murder and rape. After all, even though we use it for entertainment in our books, TV and the movies, society doesn’t approve of actual murder, right? In the market place of ideas and social norms that’s pretty obvious. So wouldn’t that “market place” regulate it without any need for laws and such?

Of course not. No sane person would would suggest we drop all laws, rules and regs that apply to those activities, not even free marketeers.

The market rewards those who do more business, whether through honesty or scam. Given a pure “free” market one could start a business offering to kack anyone a customer chooses and it would do very, very well, sans that “dang gov-ern-ment in-ter-fear-ence.” If it’s not “good business” then the market will auto select it for extermination, sans that “in-ter-fear-ence,” right?

Of course not.

If they’re anti-abortion point out to them that abortion, unregulated and un-harrassed, is profitable enough that there could be plenty of sources from which to buy that service. Why are they so “anti-free market,” or do they actually believe the government does have a role in regulating business, creating laws?

Seems pretty damn near everyone believes government does have some place regulating business. “Getting the government out of the way” is not the real point here. The real issue is that we just disagree about when we should, and when we shouldn’t.

On the positive side of incentive, there are tax breaks for giving to charity. Churches get a break, non-profits too. Why should the government do that? Why should we “coddle” them? As we all know without special rules for non-profits and churches we’d have just as much charity and good works, right? The less profitable, yet necessary, task would get done, right?

Of course not.

And of course not.

Why do we regulate people, make laws, when it comes to anything? The same reason profit sometimes work wonders in the market place.

The reason: incentive.

Invent some new wonder and you may be rewarded with riches. Steal an idea you may be rewarded too, or do some verbal agreement then renege on it like Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers. Regulate that children can’t work 18 hours a day and be paid slave wages, society is better. Regulate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and no one’s happy.

Profit is neutral: just like regulations and laws. Profit doesn’t always reward good, anymore than it always rewards bad. Regulations and laws aren’t all “bad,” and certainly not all “good.” Taking away all laws and regs is as bad an idea as taking away all profit motive, everywhere, in every human endeavor.

Profit only proves you have convinced others to obtain your services, buy your product. It proves neither good or bad, scam or worthy, rape or consensual. Just that people either must, or want, to buy it. “Want” can be compared to following Jesus… or Jimmy Jones.

So if corporations are people we should treat them just like everyone else, the best solution would be to discuss as a society what regulations, rules, laws we should have, then also use those and taxes to create incentive. Encourage them to hire people, create safe work environments, not off shore or hire illegals.

Under the Ken Carman Regulation and Tax Plan corporations would get less taxes, and regulations would be less intrusive as long as they are behaving as a society we decide they should behave

In the past few years we have been tying teacher’s jobs to performance. Tax breaks, and the rigidity of enforcement of regulations, should also be tied to performance. If it works for teachers it should work for WalMart and the Koch brothers. What’s good for Mrs. Magillicuddy in the 8th grade classroom is good enough for CEOs.

Companies generally don’t hire more people out of the “goodness of their hearts.” They generally don’t auto dump some profitable product because there may be something wrong with it. Cigarettes are a good example. For years they fought even the notion their product may be hazardous to one’s health.

They hire people because those people will help them make more money. They take products off the market when lawsuits, bad press and governmental pressure makes it unprofitable to keep the product on the market.

Listening to The Alex Bennett Show as I started to type this, as if on cue, Alex got a call from one of these free marketeers, as simple a person as anyone possessing a M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e mind. A mindset where all problems are solved by spelling out the mouse’s name, or vomiting up select phrases like, “Just get the gov-ern-ment out of da way!”

How many times have you heard that talking point blathered without thought, as if it is an undeniable truism?

No, they’ll buy more limos, another jet, raise the CEO’s salary another God-zillion, pass out bonuses to each other, or just hand it over to the stockholders. Why is it those who often push the welfare queen cliche’ would have us believe by just giving money away, or deregulating anything, we create incentive?

News: This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “bad” people. But CEOs and board members are people too, just like us.

So what would motivate them to serve profit while also serving society through jobs, fair wages, honesty, decent products, non-deceptive business practices, charity… etc.?

Not deregulation. That does the opposite.

So what is the main driver of capitalism, again? Everyone, say it with me: incentive. Who does incentive well? Yes, the market does… to a certain extent. But if you really believe government doesn’t do incentive well stop paying your income tax and send a personal letter to both the media and the IRS, telling the IRS to “F____ off.” Start driving through every school zone you see at 100mph when you see a cop. Salute them with your middle finger at the same time.

I’m sure you will get “incentivized.”

Regulations and taxes also “incentivize.”

So here’s the obvious solution: raise taxes and regulate more. But with the caveat that if they expand, hire people, the tax rates temporarily go back down. If they hire even more, giving more benefits, offering more of a living wage to their employees, and prove they’re trying to be good citizens maybe some regulation enforcement is relaxed. The man, or woman, who inspects you every week shows up every month instead and is told to let things slide a bit as long as long you are obviously trying to do what you should be doing anyway. If they keep doing the opposite they are ordered to show up every damn day and get all anal on their ass’ when it comes to enforcement.

That’s “incentive.”

Back to more foolishness from our The Alex Bennett Show caller…

“Tax cuts should always be permanent.”

Just the opposite.

Want to cut incentive? Make tax cuts permanent. Want to create incentive? Tie taxes and regs to actual performance, behavior and hiring practices.

No group of people, or corporations, automatically behave as they should without any rules, laws or regs. Not even the market behaves as we hope it should when profit’s the only motive we treasure. There are a whole lot of ways no one should make a profit. For any of that we need… ready everyone? Repeat after me …incentive.

Let’s make damn sure they’re “incentivized.”

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Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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