Capitalism, the legitimate racket of the ruling class

Issue 
Privileging profit is corporate culture.

“The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence,” said US federal assistant attorney general Lanny A. Breuer at a recent press conference. He was announcing that the company had agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle criminal charges from the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. BP also plead guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter and three other lesser charges.

Is this official acknowledgement of this “culture of privileging profit” in BP supposed to placate us now that this giant company has “fessed up” and agreed to pay less than 20% of its last annual profit — US$25 billion?

Are we supposed to believe that BP's “culture of privileging profit” was some slip up that has now been acknowledged and renounced?

Privileging profit is corporate culture — not just in BP but in every corporation big and small.

Corporate lawyers are good at appearing to say one thing while actually saying another. The assistant attorney general said BP “privileged profit over prudence”, but prudence can mean exercising caution in regard to one's own interest. So one reading of his slippery lawyer words is a caution to BP and other corporations not to get caught.

But capitalists do take higher risks for higher profit — even if those risks are not just to their capital but also to the rest of society and the environment. And the giant corporations that now dominate the world are so greedy for profit they are prepared to abandon all prudence and risk even the habitability of the earth.

A fine here and there — even the odd jail term for a CEO — does not change the corporate culture of privileging profit over people and planet. These companies can get destroy lives, get caught out, then do a deal for an effective slap on the wrist. BP, Exxon, Coca Cola, James Hardie and the rest of the corporate criminals have killed for profit, been caught out, but are still doing business.

“Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class,” the legendary gangster Al Capone famously said.

If you agree with Green Left Weekly that this is a racket the world can no longer sustain, then please help us keep our publication going.

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