Posted on: February 8th, 2008 Hightower Nails it: Google & the Bottom Line

Once again Austin Chronicle columnist Jim Hightower, here, has provided useful and penetrating insight into the issues of the day, this time on our culture’s obsessive absolutization of the “bottom line” at the expense of everything else. I especially like the last two paragraphs:

Corporate idealism is practically an oxymoron in this era, with big investors considering the bottom line to be the only line and demanding a constant flow of ever-higher profits. On the rare occasion when the flower of idealism does bloom within the corporate ranks, you can bet that Wall Street’s investment barons will rush forth and try to stomp it to death.

This is why a new initiative by Google Inc. is so important – not only on the merits of what the company executives are attempting but also to show that idealism can and should be central to the corporate mission, even adding to the all-holy bottom line.

Google honchos, alarmed by the rising cost of energy and appalled by the environmental and human costs of our continuing reliance on fossil fuels, have announced a major corporate investment in clean energy. They plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to hire engineers and other experts to develop solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable-energy sources. The Internet giant’s goal is not merely to generate clean, cheap renewables for itself but to advance the whole alternative energy industry so it can produce massive amounts for all. It’s a goal the company believes can be achieved in years rather than decades.

Good for them! However, Wall Street is aghast that Google is pursuing such an idealistic goal rather than just using those millions to fatten its short-term stock price. As one market analyst grumped, “My first reaction when I read about this was, ‘Is this a joke?'”

No, you’re the joke. The idea that a few corporate executives would dare look beyond their own bottom lines ought to be cheered, not jeered. And while Google’s investment won’t produce a short-term profit, it can help expand a socially beneficial green industry – and that’s ultimately good for Google … and even for all businesses.

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