In college 50 years ago, I took Introduction to Political Science from Stephan A. Douglas. Not the short, fat Little Giant who debated Abe Lincoln. But a very good tall and angular professor at Illinois.
The main thing I remember from his class is his explanation about a compelling revolution in political science and economics that began a decade earlier. Traditionally, he said, political scientists sought to explain how institutions, practices and people in political and economic processes worked to promote the public interest and the common good. It was Pollyanna-ish: All for the better.
Then some iconoclasts said that’s not how things work at all. Most folks in the political and economic spheres aren’t trying to promote the public interest. To the extent they can, they use institutions and practices to promote their own special interests. This insight, which today seems obvious, changed political science and helped foster a branch of economics known as public choice theory – which has produced a number of Nobel Prizes in economics.
Against the background of the Viet Nam war and the turmoil in American politics in the 1960s, it was a bracing idea, and it quickly became a formative part of my intellectual make-up. It has served me well in politics and public service.
Now come our corporate leaders with a perfect example of how political and economic behavior masquerades as public-spirited when it’s really completely self-serving. The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of America’s largest companies, issued a new “Statement of the Purpose of a Corporation,” signed by 181 CEOs.
“While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” reads the key sentence. It names those stakeholders: customers, employees, diversity and inclusion, suppliers, the communities where they work, the environment and sustainability. Oh, yes, also “effective engagement with” company stockholders.
Since 1997, their periodic “Principles of Corporate Governance” statements have endorsed the notion of shareholder primacy: that corporations exist primarily to serve stockholders. In the New York Times Magazine on September 13, 1970, economist Milton Friedman, one of the intellectual giants of the 20th Century, said business executives who pursue a goal other than making money for their equity investors are wrong.
They are, he said, “unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.” They become “unelected government officials” who essentially tax employees and customers. They violate their legal and ethical fiduciary duties.
But the new diktat declares all “stakeholders” equal – leaving corporate moguls, our enlightened visionary betters, to decide how to balance their interests via corporate actions.
The concept of corporate stakeholders arose soon after the public choice revolution. Originally, it was descriptive: It described the groups that were affected by actions of corporations. But once the term was invented, it morphed into a normative concept suggesting the stakeholders have some kinds of claims on the actions of companies and their decision-makers that legitimately compete with the fiduciary duties owed to those who put their capital at risk by investing in the firm.
Now the CEOs have thrown in the towel and joined these predatory special-interest claimants. Why?
It’s something I’ve observed the last 40 years in regulation, politics and business. Essentially, executives are – surprise! – pursuing their own self-serving interests. They want to be lionized everywhere as great leaders, compassionate souls, visionary intellectuals. They want to use the resources their stockholders have entrusted to them to buy off everyone – unions, politicians, predatory special interests such as environmentalists, and the lamestream press.
Maximizing long-term discounted stockholder value within ethical norms crimps those aspirations.
This rot is clearest with regulated utilities, where executives can cut implicit (sometimes explicit) deals with regulators: We’ll do almost any foolish thing you want us to, as long as we can pass on the costs to ratepayers.
The problem started a century ago when large corporations were no longer managed by their primary owners, but instead by hired professional managers with their own self-serving agendas. Ironically, consumers, employees and the real public interest in economic growth and fairness suffer with stockholders in this scheme. Friedman was more right than he knew.
“Baby shots” used to be a boring subject, and taken for granted. As the number of vaccines grew from seven in the 1980s to 16 requiring 70 doses now, most parents obediently brought their children to the doctor when shots were “due.” The compliance rate was more than 90 percent. Parents who objected for one reason or another just got an exemption from school-attendance mandates and kept quiet. Every state had a medical exemption, most had a religious exemption, and many had easily obtained philosophical or personal-belief exemptions.
Now that states are repealing exemptions, parents are descending on state capitals en masse, many with severely injured children in tow. Thousands rallied outside an Albany courthouse as a lawsuit challenging an end to religious exemptions was heard.
Despite vociferous objections and attempts to disrupt hearings, the California legislature passed a law (SB 276) severely limiting medical exemptions, the only kind available. “Rogue doctors” were allegedly selling exemptions.
The bill’s author, Sen. Richard Pan, M.D., said that everybody who really needed an exemption would get one. However, 882 out of 882 pediatric practices told a mother that they would not write an exemption for a child who had had anaphylactic shock. This life-threatening allergic reaction, which kills rapidly by closing off the airway, is one of the few allowable indications for an exemption. But now, a parent not willing to risk recurrence cannot send her child to school.
Doctors are no doubt afraid of being targeted by the medical licensure board. SB 276 mandates scrutiny of doctors who have issued more than five exemptions, including exemptions made before the bill takes effect.
Parents are besieging legislators with reports of children who died or experienced devastating illnesses or disability after getting their shots. Interchanges on Twitter are passionate. One juxtaposed a sign saying “Vaccinate your f****** children” with a photograph of a gravestone and the message “We did.”
Whatever happened to hundreds of once-healthy children—it’s impossible to prove that the shot did it—the public-health dogma is: “Vaccines are safe and effective.” So safe and so effective that vaccines should be the exception to the rule that medical interventions are illegal and unethical without informed consent?
Two articles in the fall issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons challenge the orthodoxy that vaccines should be mandated, overriding patients’ liberties in an effort to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases.
How much risk can a person be compelled to take, even to save the life of another? In other contexts, such as exposure to radiation or lead, a risk of 1 in 10,000 or even less is considered unacceptable. Yet a much higher risk from vaccines cannot be ruled out. According to the most current information available, only 1 percent of serious side effects (such as death or permanent disability) are likely reported to the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
The 1905 Supreme Court precedent for upholding mandates, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, concerned a raging, deadly smallpox epidemic. Later courts have ignored warnings about the potential abuse of state police power, and permitted mandates to prevent possible future epidemics of much milder diseases. Now, a measles outbreak of some 1,200 cases—thankfully no deaths so far—has triggered the demand for stricter laws, suppression of “anti-vaxxer” information, and harsh measures including $1,000 fines for refusing vaccination in Brooklyn.
Even if at least a few of the tragedies are caused by a vaccine, isn’t it worth it to wipe out dread diseases?
In the 20th century, mankind seemed to be winning the war on microbes. Smallpox was eradicated, and antibiotics were vanquishing infectious diseases. The growing threat of microbial resistance has caused senior public health officials in the UK and the U.S. to be concerned about the “post-antibiotic apocalypse” and the “end of modern medicine."
Parental outrage might cause reexamination of vaccine orthodoxy. It also raises the question of where to draw the line against encroachment of our freedom.
The gospel according to Robert Francis O’Rourke:
“Hell yes. We’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.”
What a schmuck. In fairness to our favorite fake Mexican, however, at least he’s honest about it. Slicker politicos would never admit it.
They would not admit it because my neighbors and I would turn our AR-15s on them. That’s why the Second Amendment to the Constitution exists in the first place—so an oppressive government cannot ruin our country.
The left HATES guns. It has a firm belief that anybody who owns a gun must be a terrorist. Or the police. Or their private security guards.
They think that guns kill people. Cars, Ryder trucks, diesel fuel, fertilizer? Not so much.
Back when Chuck Schumer was just a Congressman (and the space between he and a TV camera was STILL the most dangerous place to be in Washington) he made a critical mistake with a witness in a hearing on gun control. Suzanna Hupp was testifying because she was with her parents at the Killeen, Texas, Lubys’ Cafeteria in 1991, when a shooter killed both of her parents. She had consciously left her weapon in her car.
When she testified in front of Chuckie’s committee, she was asked what sporting purpose a particular weapon had. Her answer:
“I know I’m not making myself popular here. But the Second Amendment is not about duck hunting. It’s about our right—all of our rights—to protect ourselves from all of you sitting up there.”
Twenty-Eight years after the shooting, her popularity should be at an all time high—at least among sane people.
The simple fact is that no law, no rule, no regulation passed by some overstuffed, egotistic politician masquerading as a Congressman or a Senator—or worse, some nameless, faceless bureaucrat—will stop some nutcase from waking up one morning, taking anything which can be used as a weapon and using it to kill people.
No background check will save a life.
No weapon ban will stop a shooting.
No confiscation will stop the use of anything to kill someone.
We probably could work around the edges, but the left has some shibboleths which prevent anything like that from happening.
One of those shibboleths is that guns kill people. It was never true and will never be true.
If you put a gun in plain sight and surround it with people, it simply will never stand up by itself and kill someone. That takes a person who, for whatever the reason, picks the gun up, aims it and bulls the trigger.
But the left wants to blame a marvel of engineering as opposed to the moron who picks the gun up and kills someone.
Another shibboleth of the left is that law abiding people cannot be trusted to possess guns. That somehow, owning a gun will turn a perfectly normal person into a bloodthirsty criminal.
Do they have empirical evidence?
In fact, most evidence points the other way. Whatever else you can say about criminals and even crazy people, they tend not to shoot up places where they might get shot first.
How many mass shootings (as the left is wont to call them) happen in cop bars, as an example?
Now, we’re never going to convince most of the lefty nutcases with words. Which is why James Madison made sure we have the law on our side. And now we have a Supreme Court which has said that gun ownership as a matter of self-defense is a right granted by God and not government.
The crazier the left gets, the more it plays into our hands.
You want to confiscate guns from law abiding people? Come and take them. Speaking for little guys everywhere, see what happens.