We love denouncing evil corporations. So much so that one – now all-knowing – corporation made it their tongue-in-cheek mission to avoid being evil. That little cultural nugget implies certain inevitable temptations that stand in the way of any successful corporation.
What are these temptations? We are all familiar with the phrase ‘power corrupts’, but to what sorts of power does this phrase refer? What do we mean by ‘corruption’? Can we be no better than supreme court justice Potter Stewart?
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.
—Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964)
I think we can do better by understanding the lifecycle of productive ventures in the context of their environment. In part I of this series I proposed that there is a consistent pattern in the evolving structure of human societies. That argument described the overall human created environment – the accumulated stack of social ‘technologies’, that forms the background for all economic activity. That stack has been developed through four economic paradigms: