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07:25 am: Punishment

I want punishment for the oil gusher that’s currently dumping into the gulf of mexico. I think that our current system of corporate punishment is inadequate, and I want to propose a slight change. Basically – I think that corporations should be no less culpable than individuals for their crimes.

My understanding of law as it stands is that we’re going to ‘monetize’ the punishment. We’re going to make BP and their contractors pay for the cleanup. The deaths of 11 workers, thousands of large animals (sea turtles, whales), and so on are all just an unfortunate accident. The effects on the gulf coast (fishermen going out of business, children sickened) are just part of doing business – and insofar as there is punishment – it will be served by payment of a fee. Like when you’re late with a library book – or when you park your car without feeding the meter.

One pays a fee for inconveniencing people by leaving your car in the wrong place. One is punished for negligent manslaughter.

I use those examples because – I’m not sure of the exact numbers – but my impression is that the legal limits on BP’s culpability (a couple of billion or so) are lower than their annual profits (10 billion or so) from last year – which was a crappy year for them. Any fiscal punishment that does not even exceed their profits is zero relative to the people responsible. All of that is simply and straightforwardly passed on to the shareholders (your retirement account and mine), and then on to the customers at the gas pump (you and me).

We’re fining ourselves for this disaster. We’re morons.

I think that the company should be wiped out. I think that BP should lose their charter to do business within the US. I think that the board of directors and all the executive officers should be barred for life from board or officer level participation in any publicly traded corporation. True, this will simply move the action around – Exxon will snap up BP’s territories – but if the stakes are “no big important jobs for you, ever again, if this happens on your watch,” then perhaps the executives will give more than a wink and a nod to regulation.

I also think that insofar as Transocean and Haliburton were involved, they should face similar punishment. If this was just a small subcontract for Haliburton – perhaps only the executives responsible could be banned.

I understand that the corporate actions here were so large and diffuse that personal responsibility may be unobtainable. But these bastards killed nearly a dozen people directly, fouled a decent portion of the earth, and are poisoning thousands of humans and millions of animals.

“Low profits for a year” is inadequate. If those are the stakes, then this will happen again and again.

We need punishment.

Personal responsibility, people.

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.



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