Our focus on short term gratification is reflected in the immorality of many of the world's global corporations. This is one of themes in my book, Inventions.
The United States laborer: Skilled, unskilled, professional and small business owner, is the hardest working laborer on the planet. Not only that, they are close to being the least rewarded for benefits and vacation time. One of the background issues in my book, Inventions, is corporate greed, or making money at all costs. I won’t go into the details of how this issue plays into the plot, because I want you to read the book and see for yourself. However, this issue is even more of an issue today than during the setting of the book. More and more corporate executives have been caught modifying the books, back dating stock options and committing other corporate sins. Of course, Enron is the poster child for this corporate mentality. Today, we see the greed on the part of mortgage lenders and junk bond companies that has led to the problems in the sub-prime market. It is estimated that 358 individuals own more financial wealth than half the world’s population collectively owns. About one billion people earn less than one dollar a day. We see China ignoring the problems of millions of people while the elite of China amass wealth. The middle class in the U.S. is fighting to survive. We see the world’s natural resources being plundered to the point that we will be unable to sustain human life without some drastic measures being taken. We are told that globalization is a good thing and that it is here to stay. But one must ask what has happened to our corporate morality?
The Buddha warned that three poisons could destroy individuals and societies: greed, anger and ignorance. My book Inventions traces these three traits in it’s main characters. Some of the characters learn the anecdotes of justice for greed, compassion for anger and knowledge for ignorance. Some do not. The same is true for individuals and institutions in today’s world. Unfortunately, the short term views fueled by a society that is built upon short term gratification and consumption are at the heart of many of the problems we face today. I often question why our country is so indifferent to minorities and the poor. One of the answers lies in our individualistic culture. This culture often sets our priorities as self, then our clan (those most like us by family or ethnicity), then our country, then mankind. This is further evidenced by the fact that countries that are mostly monolithic in ethnicity are the ones that take best care of it’s citizens and are willing to pay higher taxes. Given the scope of the problems we face and given the rapid globalization of the world, we might better be served by considering the needs of mankind first. Our religions profess this, but far too many of us say this on Sunday but in reality practice a religion of self. Of course there will always be times when one needs to put oneself and one’s family first. But there needs to be more of a balance than exists in today’s global economies.
Today’s global corporations are often short-sighted. Most companies in the U.S. are measured on quarterly performance. When quarterly goals are not met, these companies are considered failures, even though their annual performance may meet expectations. Our short term consumer oriented view is reflected in the up and down swings of worldwide stock markets. Too often, corporate executives articulate well thought out market and product strategies that emphasize teamwork, but the corporate CEOs are really most interested in their own short term success and financial gain. Given this environment, it is no surprise these captains of industry want to make as much money as fast as possible, because the rules of the game are stacked against their long term survival. This is the root of corporate immorality.