Thursday, May 03, 2018

Are Multinational Corporations UnAmerican?

Reading this article in the WSJ about the political madhouse that is Google, I came across an intriguing tidbit.
Also last month, some employees circulated a petition asking the company to withdraw from a program aimed at helping the U.S. Defense Department identify and track potential drone targets through artificial intelligence, according to a person who saw the petition. Google is competing with rivals including Inc. and Microsoft Corp. for a multibillion-dollar contract to move the Pentagon’s data into the cloud.
First, an aside. If I ran Google, I'd tell the employees that we make web apps and a search product. We don't make political statements nor do we take political positions. Keep politics and religion out of the workplace or you'll be subject to disciplinary action. The article linked above reveals a workforce torn by political disagreements that do nothing to help the bottom line.

On with the show.

Perhaps it is natural for a multinational corporation, but that snippet reveals a company that is in America, but not of America. At its heart, the DoD exists to preserve the nation. Drones are an ever-more important part of our fighting forces and to refuse to assist them is to take a neutral position on the protection of America. That is, whether America survives or not is all one to Google, should they decide to accede to the demands of the petitioners.

I don't know, but Exxon, Apple and Disney might have a similar position as they have extensive holdings in countries who are at least partially opposed to the interests of the United States. Is ambivalence towards America's interests common in multinationals? If you helped the DoD, would that anger China? How do you choose between the two?

Whatever the answer is on a case-by-case basis, and it is not at all clear that Google will side with its internal protestors, the image I get in my head is that of a multinational corporation which has, in some sense, set itself up as it's own country. "We don't care who wins a conflict between China and the US so long as Google itself continues to thrive."

Is Google Switzerland? Hmm.

The blue skies and snow-capped mountains of Google.

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