DX8 Topic 8 - Too Big to Care

Saturday, October 10 2020 3 pm to 5 PM (end time flexible)

Venue: Cafe Brunelli, 187 Rundle Street, Adelaide SA 5000 (Upstairs. Please buy a drink or something. We are ‘renting’ the seats in this small business)

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.

Focus Questions

1. What are some situations that you personally opt out of caring about because you feel that the forces involved are too big or remote for you to have any influence?

2. In organizations and governments, when is 'big' better, and when is it not? What's the sweet spot?

3. For countries, what is the ideal population size? Can a country be too big to govern in a fair and humane way? Examples? Is there a population size at which democracy becomes non-viable?

4. Can the leaders of organizations have an income so large that they no longer relate to the needs and concerns of ordinary workers in their organization? If so, what multiple of median income should CEOs etc be limited to?

5 What can be done to clip the wings of monopolies and oligopolies? The world seems to be losing the fight against these. Large organizations lead to economies of scale. However monopolies and oligopolies in industry, banking, commerce, education and government lead to abuses of power. They stifle competition and undermine incentives for change or improvement.

6. Some very large organizations do make an effort to make participants feel that their ideas and opinions are valued and acted upon. Which of these efforts are credible? 'Democratic' elections are an obvious query here. In companies the effort is often cynical window dressing, and hence worse than useless. Some however are genuine and effective. Examples?

7. Some individuals are unable to focus or care beyond their personal needs. For example, they would be unable to see a vaccine as valuable beyond personal safety. Can governments actually change the level of responsibility felt by everyone? What are the roles of culture, ideology and religion in this?

8. How can power in large organizations be made conditional upon actually acting with care for other people? It is common for individuals to link their personal status to the organizations they work for or live in. Nationalism is an example of this. Working for, say, a major multinational organization is another example. Yet as soon as an individual is given major responsibility they tend to misuse that responsibility in very personal ways. [ For example, Thor's PhD dissertation, a study of large educational institutions in seven countries reads like a crime novel ..]

9. What is the dividing line between personal responsibility and acting as a mindless agent for an employer? A company is a "legal person" yet is clearly not a person. The agents of a company typically act as if they are not responsible for this "legal person" abstraction, the company (or the king, or the government, or the army). For example, a bank employee might not feel responsible for giving you biased investment advice. A soldier in wartime is a killing machine, yet can be held responsible for committing war crimes in the name of a state.

10. Daily life itself is becoming more and more complicated in bigger and bigger cities. People generally will not feel responsible in these cities for what they clearly don't understand. How responsible are they for what they misunderstand (which is usually a very large component driving their actions)?


Extra Reading

David Niose (Dec 04, 2016) "Why Are We So Powerless? - It explains Trump's rise—is it also the key to a reversal?" Psychology Today @ https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201612/why-are-we-so-powerless  [Thor, comment: Recommended article] [Quote: "While most Americans are somewhat aware that corporations have resources far beyond those of individuals, it’s remarkable that the issue of corporate power — the actual extent to which corporations control the system and dictate public policy — is not itself an important item on the public agenda to be discussed and debated. If America is a country divided, there is one profound truth that can unite us all, whether black or white, male or female, straight or gay, believer or nonbeliever: If corporations are people — and under the law they are — real humans have become second-class citizens. ... Only systemic change, reaching the constitutional level, can effectively restrain corporations and put policymaking on a track that prioritizes human interests."]

Wikipedia (2020) "Vaclav Havel's 'The Power of the Powerless". @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_the_Powerless 

Wikipedia (2020) "Political Alienation" @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_alienation

Wikipedia (2020) "Social Alienation" @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_alienation 

Wikipedia (2020) "Anomie" @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anomie 

Tegan Tallullah (25 February 2018) "Feeling powerless? Here’s seven types of citizen power" The Climate Lemon website @ https://theclimatelemon.com/seven-types-citizen-power/ 

Scott Bennett (16 February 1999) "The Decline in Support for Australian Major Parties and the Prospect of Minority Government". Parliament of Australia @ https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_

Seth (July 26 2019) "Too Big to Care" Seth's Blog @ https://seths.blog/2019/07/too-big-to-care/  [Quote: "As brands get bigger (and bigger might be as small as an organization with just two people in it), policies kick in. Policies and budgets and bureaucracy. The brand has become too big to care. I mean, it might be big enough to pretend to care. To have policies that appear to set things right. But they don’t really care. The only way to really care is to have human beings who care (and to give them the authority and resources to demonstrate that".)

Julia Carrie Wong (26 December 2019) "Too big to fail? Tech's decade of scale and impunity - Big tech behaves as though power absolves them of responsibility. Have we learned nothing since the financial crash?" The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/dec/26/too-big-to-fail-techs-decade-of-scale-and-impunity 

Molly Gamble (March 18th, 2013) "Is Bigger Always Better? Exploring the Risks of Health System Mega-Mergers". Becker's Hospital Review @ https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/is-bigger-always-better-exploring-the-risks-of-health-system-mega-mergers.html 

AUEssays. (November 2018). "The Concept Of Powerlessness In Patient Treatment". AUEssays website @ https://www.auessays.com/essays/nursing/the-concept-of-powerlessness-in-patient-treatment-nursing-essay.php?vref=1 

Jake Blumgart (April 5, 2012) "The powerless American worker - For the most part, employees can get fired for anything from wearing the wrong color shirt to having an affair". Salon magazine @ https://www.salon.com/2012/04/05/the_powerless_american_worker/ 

Brie Reynolds (April 25, 2018) "What Makes Workers Feel Disconnected and Powerless at Work?" Flexjobs website @ https://www.flexjobs.com/employer-blog/workers-disconnected-powerless-at-work/ 

Privacy International (23rd January 2019) "Too big to care? Google and the exploitation of your data". PI website @ https://privacyinternational.org/news-analysis/2664/too-big-care-google-and-exploitation-your-data  [Quote: "As a nice touch Google says that they will "ask for your consent before using your information for a purpose that isn’t covered in this Privacy Policy.” But most of the data collected when you agree to the privacy policy you cannot control. This does not sit well with the requirements under the EU General Data Protection Regulation, which demands that consent for the processing of personal data to be "freely given, specific, informed and unambigous".]

Joanne Doroshow (Sep 16, 2016) "When a Corporation Is ‘Too Big to Care’ About Breaking the Law". Huffington Post @ https://www.huffpost.com/entry/corporation-too-big-to-care_b_8143168  [Quote: "These days, a company making $20.6 billion [c.f. Johnson & Johnson] can, “break the rules with relative impunity, or at least without suffering the kind of punishment that would actually hurt.” While some fault for this lies with the U.S. Department of Justice’s anemic response to corporate law-breaking, even more blame may rest with laws and court decisions that drastically limit the ability of juries to assess meaningful civil damages against these companies. Indeed, in recent years, we have seen the virtual annihilation of one of the most critical tools to stop and remedy egregious corporate misconduct: the threat of punitive damages".]

Shira Ovide (February 22, 2019) "Facebook Grew Too Big to Care About Privacy - Once it became indispensable, it gained the power to reverse promises it had made not to gather certain data". Bloomberg @ https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-21/facebook-grew-too-big-to-care-about-privacy 

Colin Shaw (May 4, 2018) "Too Big To Care? Why Mega-Mergers Threaten Us". Beyond Philosophy website @ https://beyondphilosophy.com/too-big-to-care-why-mega-mergers-threaten-us/  [Quote: "We all know that monopolies tend not to care about Customers. They don’t have to. The less companies, the less competition, the less they have to focus on the Customer. It’s as simple as day follows night. When companies merge, it reduces competition, which has implications not only for customers but also for employees.]



Index of past discussion topics & questions: http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/DiscussionIndex.htm

Convenor : Thor May thormay@yahoo.com Personal website (legacy) http://thormay.net
Articles http://independent.academia.edu/thormay  (.. about 147 articles by Thor)


Too Big to Care (c) Thor May 2020 

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