Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Capitalist Sins: "It's Just Doing Business..."

I haven’t been to Jeff Jarvis’s Buzz Machine in a while so when I popped over to do a little catch up, I caught his post referencing one of Fred’s at A VC that I either missed or had bounce off my thick skull. The discussion is another one of Fred’s most excellent business ethics and morality plays that he’ll address every once in a while that I enjoy reading.

You can get the detailed run down of the issue over at BuzzMachine and A VC, but the gist of the discussion surrounds the ethics of Yahoo! bowing to Chinese censorship nannies in order to launch access there. A Yahoo executive was asked at a conference whether his company would have chosen to do business with Hitler and Germany during pre-war times. Fred says he should have pulled a P. Diddy and shut the studio down and gone home. Jeff says he damn well better have had to answer the question (perhaps asking the question without evoking Hitler’s name would have been a more cordial way of discussing the topic I think).

My response is as follows:

Both David G. and Jarvis are right. Jeff's position cannot be denied. Semel needs to, and should feel obligated to answer the question. Why? Because their product is communication and information, not farm equipment. Their product's use, if used in it's American fitness for purpose could land a Chinese citizen in jail. I think sweeping China's civil rights atrocities under the rug of capitalism is wrong (yes, jailing someone for looking something up on the internet is an atrocity).

I think David G., Derek, etc... provide good responses to the question, but here's the hypocrisy catch. Haliburton/Brown & Root have shareholders too. I really fail to understand the heaps of shit slung their way from liberal capitalists. Is there a CEO reading this blog that wouldn’t take a call from the Whitehouse for lucrative work? Just asking.

In the end, giving the Chinese a sip from the cup of freely shared information will do more to inspire Chinese dissidents to demand more freedoms than putting a sanction in place as David G. accurately states. We’ve got third graders here in America hacking into the most secure networks of the world. I can only imagine that once the Chinese have Google and Yahoo!, they’ll find away to get access to uncensored information and are probably doing it right now.

There are some very thought provoking comments (mine excluded) from folks all over the world on Fred’s and Jeff's blog so give it a click and weigh in if you feel up to it.

P.S. I love how one guy equates the Chinese ability to download pirated movies and music without paying for it as "China being more liberal than the U.S." Another thief makes excuses...


At 1:51 PM, June 06, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

Answering the question that was asked differs from answering the question that should have been asked.

I would, as Fred stated, not have even deigned to respond to a question that evoked Hitler, because it's fucking stupid!

China is not Nazi Germany. I'm not saying China isn't gulty of human rights offenses on a major level, but the Hitler/Nazi thing has so much baggage carried with it, that it is indeed best to ignore those type of 'what if' questions that stupid rerporters love to throw at unsuspecting press conference holders.

Ask the real question! Should we do business with, or kow tow to a country that is ruled by a cruel and heartless regime guitly of crimes against humanity? That's the real question.

I'm not saying I have an answer to it.

At 2:15 PM, June 06, 2006, Blogger Tony Alva said...

I thought for sure I'd have seen one of your famous responses to the guy who commented on the "Free" downloading being enjoyed by the citizens of China. Like me, you might have missed the original post.

At 2:59 PM, June 06, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

No, I caught the original post, but I felt my position was well defended by others. Yes, Google, or Yahoo, or any internet company should be in China regardless of what restrictions are put on them by the Chinese govt. As you said, it will help break down the walls of repression.

Any company not courting China is a company that is not interested in growth.

At 11:30 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger Clarkie said...

"Haliburton/Brown & Root have shareholders too. I really fail to understand the heaps of shit slung their way from liberal capitalists. Is there a CEO reading this blog that wouldn’t take a call from the Whitehouse for lucrative work? Just asking."

I think the problem that liberal capitalists have with Halliburton (and it's thinly veiled subsidiaries) is that it overcharged the US Military by as much as 212 million dollars on fuel costs, that there's another 250 million dollars worth of "questionable and potentially unjustifiable charges," that Halliburton leases Humvees for several thousand dollars per month and can't even armor them properly - costing US lives, and finally, that awarding a no-bid contract to a company formerly run by Dickhead Cheney is completely unethical. Sure, it stings any liberal's bleeding heart to see a corporation become a war-profiteer, but this goes way beyond that. Halliburton's 11 BILLION dollar success in Iraq has little to do with capitalism, it's more like some perversely corrupt communism. The government's collsion with the corporation affords Halliburton a decidely uncapitalistic advantage. The way I understand capitalism is that if you don't like the service you recieve by a company you are paying, you seek a competitor to do a better job. But for the overwhelmingly shitty job that Halliburton accomplished in Iraq, they are not fired, but rewarded with another no-bid contract to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, along with the perk of being allowed to disregard the minimum wage in order to maximize their profits further. Does that sound like capitalism to you?

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