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The Scorpion and the Frog

Most people should be familiar with fable [not by Aesop BTW] of The Scorpion and the Frog – the scorpion promises not to sting the frog in exchange for a trip across a river. Half way across the scorpion stings the frog ensuring that they will both die. When asked by the frog why he did it, the scorpion replies “because I’m a scorpion.”

Ellroon felt heartened about ‘Net Neutrality after reading NTodd’s explanation of the issue.

NTodd has a great exposition of why it shouldn’t be a problem from a technical perspective. Yes, technically it should just work and everyone should be thrilled with the results, except he forgets that the telecoms are scorpions.

Melanie of Just a Bump in the Beltway demonstrates part of the meaning in this Associate Press story, Verizon Copper Cutoff Traps Customers, about a major reason for switching to fiber optics.

We are talking about corporations. Corporations are designed to avoid a major danger of the free market system, risk. Corporations can’t be jailed, they can only be fined. They were created to limit the total liability of the owners. Their only purpose is to maximize the returns of investors, they have no loyalty or obligation to anyone else.

The infrastructure that telecoms have built have been paid for many times over by customers before they were built. They will charge you for installing a mile of cable, when they only actually use 100 feet. If sixteen lines can be connected to a switch, sixteen people will be charged for the entire switch. If you question them about the way they have done something, they will lie about it being a requirement for the FCC or the public utilities commission. They use outside contractors for as much as possible so they can avoid any responsibility for a crummy job, and to keep their payroll to an absolute minimum.

I have been dealing with telecoms for decades all over the country on items as trivial as my home telephone to multiple fiber-optic lines to carry video, Internet, and voice for a national network. Working with them is a nasty experience that no one should consider lightly. They don’t quite get the whole business of having “customers,” because they have never lost the monopoly mentality of the original Bell System. They don’t intend to compete, they intend to conquer. Why? – because they are scorpions.

10 comments

1 whig { 07.08.07 at 11:40 pm }

Should we be amending the constitution to make explicit that corporations are not persons entitled to civil rights, but instrumentalities of the state to achieve public purposes? Because that’s what they are supposed to be, that’s what they should be, and the only reason it seems to be otherwise is the Supreme Court decided at one point that the 14th amendment wasn’t so much meant to help the freed slaves as to provide for private wealth to gain further power.

2 Bryan { 07.09.07 at 12:25 am }

As a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist I hate the whole concept of “limited liability.” The market is controlled by risk. Risk is the “invisible hand.” Profit is justified by risk, so if you limit the risk, you should limit the profit. Since government is protecting the corporation, government has a right to regulate for the common good.

It doesn’t require a Constitutional amendment, it only requires a realistic interpretation, something we are not apt to get from the Synod.

3 whig { 07.09.07 at 12:41 am }

Nothing prevents a general partnership from having limited partners whose liability is backed by the firm or insurance.

A corporation is more analogous to a royal charter.

4 whig { 07.09.07 at 12:43 am }

Of course the insurance system is another matter altogether.

5 whig { 07.09.07 at 12:45 am }

But really, we’ve just recreated the British East-India Company with our modern corporate forms.

6 ellroon { 07.09.07 at 1:15 am }

Linked to you, Bryan.

And now I get to think about scorpions and corporations and get all steamed up again…

7 hipparchia { 07.09.07 at 1:39 am }

It doesn’t require a Constitutional amendment, it only requires a realistic interpretation, something we are not apt to get from the Synod.

actually it would require throwing over about 100 years of pro-corporation decisons, and i’d be willing to bet that all the justices would be reluctant to bash the altar of stare decisis that much. i’m thinking another amendment is the only way to go.

8 Steve Bates { 07.09.07 at 10:08 am }

“… all the justices would be reluctant to bash the altar of stare decisis that much. i’m thinking another amendment is the only way to go.” – hipparchia

As whig pointed out (or at least alluded to), there is an even earlier tradition in the history of American government of deep mistrust of corporations. Here is one article about the emergence of corporations in America, including some thoughts of Lincoln, Rutherford Hayes, T. Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. I can’t find a ref to a compact exposition, but IIRC, our founders, having seen the British royal charters firsthand, were equally suspicious. If we had genuine conservatives on the Court instead of radicals with an agenda, they could easily look to that earlier tradition if they wished. (Well, perhaps not easily…)

I am very reluctant about constitutional amendments at this stage. We haven’t had any in a long time, and I don’t want to give the dominionists any ideas. Promoting any constitutional amendment in essence promotes the whole notion of amending the Constitution, and I can’t see any good coming of that in these parlous times.

9 Bryan { 07.09.07 at 11:33 am }

They just threw out a century of decisions to allow corporations to impose minimum prices, and 50 years to void Brown v. Board, so stare decisis has lost its sway among the Supremes.

Corporations aren’t addressed in the Constitution, so it doesn’t require that they be addressed by amendment. I don’t want the US Constitution to start looking like the Florida constitution with references to fishing nets and pregnant pigs.

There needs to be a trade off – if risk is reduced, something must be given up. This current system is adding power to reduced risk and putting competitors at a disadvantage.

If Al Capone had incorporated, he wouldn’t have gone to jail.

The Declaration of Independence wasn’t a corporate charter – those guys risked everything.

10 whig { 07.11.07 at 2:17 pm }

Bryan, the corporations are running the show now in both parties due to their legal personhood and alleged first amendment rights to pay for political campaigns.