The new Feather-Knocker-Over-er, from Ronco!

Well knock us over with a…

The “shareholder comes first” has for years been the mantra of the Business Roundtable, a group that represents the most powerful CEOs in America and their thinking.

The group’s new principles on the role of a corporation released Monday imply a foundational shift, putting shareholders on more equal footing with others who have an interest in a corporation to some degree — including workers, suppliers, customers and, essentially, society at large.

“We know that many Americans are struggling. Too often hard work is not rewarded, and not enough is being done for workers to adjust to the rapid pace of change in the economy. If companies fail to recognize that the success of our system is dependent on inclusive long-term growth, many will raise legitimate questions about the role of large employers in our society,” the statement reads.

First, let’s think about presenting this as “news” ( it grows increasingly difficult to choose which word gets ironi-quoted)? Not just news but it was above the fold – meat space term for the top story on the site, as though the NYT (WAPO and others) wanted to make sure it was very definitely seen and just as likely unread, per their habits. Great placement! Either it’s meant for the shallow consumption of millions or the verification by the 65 to 85 people who mean the most to them. Theories welcome.

Unusually, I’m not a pitchfork sharpener. But let’s at least be a little skeptical about this gambit. CEO’s are now worried about this? I wonder why? Hong Kong, maybe. Hmmm, let’s think about that, broaden the context of what they’re saying because this may well be being introduced to lead exactly nowhere, as in See, We Talked About That Once. Kind of like a window of purses at Barney’s. Isn’t that nice?

But Hong Kong – complicated (why?). Scary (for whom?). 2047, huh. Interesting. Those people got born and are here now. But look over here – robot cars! Greenland?! What a goob!

Dow Climbs on News of Harvard Professor’s Detention

Be sure and watch for signals of a stock market recovery in order to be ready to attribute or discount the effect to your favorite pet cause. Try it with a friend!

Seriously, it would be just as irresponsible to say that the market is up because we’re seriously considering tackling healthcare reform. Or, we’re saving the financial system via recapitalization through profit-taking. Wait a minute… that’s ugly because it’s TRUE. Which is something altogether different. A guy getting arrested breaking into his own house? That’s a rejected plot line on Lost. Not nearly unbelievable enough.

Some things we’d rather see, while for others we might do anything in exchange for the power to look away. Taken together or separately, what would any of these developments mean? They’re actually worth going into on their own merits, but that might unfold too slowly and allow us to miss the forest when the trees are SO pretty.

Meanwhile… Electricite de France and an American solar panel company are building the largest solar manufacturing plant in France.

EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN) and First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) today announced a venture to build France’s largest solar panel manufacturing plant. With an initial annual capacity of more than 100MWp, the plant will produce solar panels made with First Solar’s advanced, thin-film photovoltaic technology. This new venture will support the recently announced goal of the French government to become a leader in sustainable energy technologies including solar electricity. At full production, projected for the second half of 2011, the plant will employ more than 300 people.

Under the terms of the arrangement, First Solar will build and operate the plant in France. The plant represents an expected investment of more than €90 million. The initial annualized capacity of the plant is expected to exceed 100MWp, making it the largest manufacturing facility for solar panels in France. EDF Energies Nouvelles has agreed to finance half of the capital expense and plant start-up costs and will benefit from the plant’s entire output for the first 10 years. First Solar and EDF EN intend to announce their decision on the site location within the next few months.


I ask you:

Is this a parody?

I myself believe in the sanctity of life. But the market has its own logic, and if we’re going to live with it, we must make the most of its choices.

An extreme case in point would be the Green Revolution, the introduction of modern technology in Third World agriculture in the 60s and 70s. Just for the sake of illustration, let’s give momentary credence to the most pessimistic figures and suppose that between 1970 and 1990, the number of hungry folks in the world excluding China did grow by 11%, and that the Green Revolution had something to do with it. Let’s even throw Bhopal into the mix, since the factory there made components for pesticides.

Would this be acceptable risk from our viewpoint? The answer is clear when you notice, on the one hand, that the Green Revolution was essential to modern agribusiness, being its most profitable experiment ever; and that, like climate change and other huge trends, the Green Revolution belongs to a type of risk case in which scientists do not all agree on the source of problems caused, or whether they even exist. Unless the precautionary principle comes to dominate government once again, there is little actual risk in such cases–especially interesting now at the dawn of the new “Green Revolution.”

Thanks, Andy. I think.