If there’s a certain amount of poetic justice in the latest round of layoffs to sweep the country, it’s a small one. In the first place, the executives who were let go all had contracts that stipulated exorbitant severance packages and in the second it doesn’t really portend anything good for the working class.
Nobody’s even sure exactly where the trend started, where the idea came from. Memos floating it went around the halls of the big multinational banks. It worked its way into the middle of mass e-mail chains. At one high tech firm, a voice on a conference call quietly made the suggestion. It seemed like a radical notion at first, but it gained traction at first based on sheer buzz alone.
The purpose of a corporation is to make money. This is considered to be obvious almost to the point of tautology. The right decision is always the one that produces the most profit, the biggest return on investment, the most reward for the least risk. Everything else? Just a distraction.
In recent years, this came to be understood as gospel truth and the officers of the corporations became little more than executors of a program. The ones who wouldn’t make the “hard decisions” for the good of the company got booted out. The ones who would were rewarded.
But if it’s possible to determine what the right choice is, why did there have to be a single person who was tasked with making them? It doesn’t take a warm body in a seat to cut services and reduce payroll to the minimum needed to operate, after all. Eliminating the decision-makers not only saves a company the not-inconsiderable cost of their future compensation, it reduces the chance of a costly error made in a moment of sentimental weakness or compassion.
Maybe the human touch is needed to deal with the fallout when things were pushed too far, but people are getting more and more used to hearing “that’s business” and “we have a right to make a profit” when they complained, anyway. The longer this goes on, the more it seems like it’s always been that way.
There were laws and regulations that needed changing to accommodate a headless corporation, of course, but by this point that was little more than a formality. The government expectes there to be a person to hold accountable, but corporations are people and they’re firmly in charge.
The evidence increasingly suggests that they know it.