Maybe you remember hearing about the United Fruit Company and the Banana Republics. Or that adage that what’s good for General Motors is good for the USA. Both reflect eras of corporate dominance over nation-states. There’s a lesson there because today corporations are bigger than ever, their assets and incomes dwarf many of the countries in which they operate, and many large corporations operate in global markets. When you look around the world and see the pressure on the modern democracies – the fall of democracies in Russia and Turkey, the supposed populist surges in Britain and the US, you should stop for a moment to consider what is going on, who has something to gain, and what might be behind it all.
Here’s my take. As a minimum, independent nation-states are an inconvenience to global market operations. Nations want to levy taxes, impose labor regulations, and protect the environment in ways that directly reduce corporate profitability. Corporations, on the other hand, exist only to allow the collective investment of wealth to make their investors richer. There is an obvious tension here. And consider if a Democratic nation-state fails to understand that it should be run for the benefit of corporations. The majority of the population, for example, doesn’t see why health care should be run for the benefit of the wealthy investors, or why the military of a country like the United States should be bigger than its five largest rivals. They want health care for all, a carbon tax, and support for renewable resources. Such nerve, such an insult to the bottom line of Pfizer or General Electric or Exxon-Mobil.
Much better then for corporations if those democratic impulses could be blunted and channeled. If I was a corporation, I would look for ways to control the political parties – facilitating corporate donations to buy elections through a case like Citizens United would be a great idea. Gerrymandering, voter suppression. I would look for and support a demagogue, a Putin, Trump, or Erdogan, that could be depended on to be sympathetic. Above all, I would control the media – so that the nature of the corporate enterprise could be recast. Our policies are “for the people”, we put “America First” (Or Russia First). Like Murdoch I would buy up major media outlets to ensure “fair and balanced” reporting, and buy local stations like Sinclair is doing.
We actually know, from the work of Jane Mayer in Dark Money, that the Kochs, Mercers, Bradleys, and other oligarchs are doing just this. Indeed what they intend is not even hidden. What is hidden is the destruction being unnecessarily wrought on the poor, the middle-class, and the minorities who are not empowered by privilege and that nice trust fund.