“It is life Jim. But not as we know it…!” Mr. Spock
The year was 2025. The company was “G”. “G” was a very powerful American conglomerate. The board of directors, which was composed of eight individuals, decided that cheaper imports from Europe were hurting “G”’s bottom line.
So, they hired a public relations firm to lobby, on G’s behalf, for higher duties on European imports. The public relations firm developed a very effective campaign. The main slogan that they came up with was:
“What is good for “G” is good for America”.
You could hear it on the radio, you could watch it on the TV and you could see it on billboards everywhere. Even on buses and in underground train stations the word was out: What is good for G is good for America!
Lobbying at the highest level induced Congress to grant “G” its demands and they issued legislations slapping higher tariffs on European goods.
Five years later, a newly elected young Senator received an anonymous email explaining to him the “G” dynamics. The Senator launched an Investigation and the results of the investigation showed that “G”, a highly robotized and automated company had no employees.
“G” subcontracted logistics. It received raw materials and input goods from suppliers at a highly automated in-sourcing docking station. Products were produced on an automated production line, which was maintained through a subcontracted maintenance company. When the production process is complete, then the products were off-loaded to an out-sourcing docking station for picking up by distributors.
Accounting and finance were outsourced to “AA” the top accounting and auditing firm. Legal was outsourced to several law firms and other administrative tasks, including marketing and advertising were also handled through outsourcing contracts.
“G” did not have shareholders either. The employee pension fund, which was run by an out-sourced investment-banking firm, invested in buying the company’s own shares. After the pension fund managed to buy all the company’s outstanding stock it started offering the surviving company pensioners lump sums of cash compensations. For all practical reasons, the fund ended up fully owned by the company.
“What is good for “G” is good for America” turned out to be a misleading slogan. Due to the high tariffs, consumer prices got inflated. Since “G” fortunes did not translate to higher wages, the middle class could not afford the higher prices and economic growth turned flat. Stagflation, stagnation coupled with inflation, became the buzzword for the times, and whatever that meant, it was rampant.
Due to the tariff barriers imposed on goods produced in Europe, the continent went into a recession. Economic stagnation in Europe translated into lower European purchasing power of imported American goods which, in its own turn, lead to heavy corporate downsizing at their American corporations that were far behind “G” in terms of automation. Unemployment reached unprecedented rates.
The young Senator reported to Congress. Congress ordered an inquiry and called “G”’s eight board members to testify. Senators accused the board members of deliberately deceiving the public for their own benefit.
“G”’s Chairman tried to explain the objectivity of the board’s actions to the hostile members of the Congressional Hearing Committee. He started off by saying:
“As directors of G it’s our duty to act in the best interest of the company. This initiative, which was opposed by five of our board members, on personal grounds, was for the best interest of the company. So professionally we had to execute it, otherwise we would have failed in doing our jobs and would have betrayed the trust of the company, our employer."
One of the inquiring Senators asked. “You say it was for the best interest of the company right?”
“Yes” answered the Chairman.
“Do you mean for the best interest of the shareholders?"
“No, we do not have shareholders.”
“Was it for the best interest of the employees then?"
“No, Senator, we do not have any employees.”.
“Then whose best interest was it?"
“For the Best Interest of the Company” said the Chairman, condescendingly as if addressing a child.
“But Who, then, Mr. Chairman, is the Company?”
Anamnestically composed. Delivered to members of the Brussels Toastmaster's Club at the Atelier, Place Schauman, September 26th 2000.