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May 4, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Big Business, Small Government, and How it Shapes Our Future.

For the past four decades, we watched the power and influence of corporate entities surpass and eventually override those of smaller developing nations. We shook our heads as we learned piecemeal of the darker side of globalisation—the horrors: sweat-shops, slave labour, scorched-earth resource extraction, corporately financed political turmoil. We made excuses: a side-effect of development, a few bad apples, a product of historical forces, a marriage to failed ideologies. We published academic hypotheses: the core, the periphery, the end of history, the wrecking ball. What did we care, honestly, that a few yahoos on the other side of the world couldn’t get their shit together? Maybe their leaders should stop being so corrupt, maybe they should start looking forward, throw off their backwards traditions, maybe they should follow our lead.

In the end, we did nothing.

It didn’t matter to us. Our economies were thriving, our democracies were functioning, we had social order and security. We had our Nike shoes, our Nestlé coffee, Google Maps, online trading, pharmaceuticals, diversion—movies, books, YouTube, roller-coasters. We were contented.

An idea had spread—an ideology, rather—that development was possible only through international engagement. But it had to be on our terms: unfettered capitalism with total market access. International institutions were created, trade was facilitated, “aid” was contingent upon submission to business interests. Structural readjustment policies—a loan condition for so-called economic development—molded the policies of countless countries to suit our corporate interest. We dangled a carrot to undermine their sovereignty. Money was given to some leader—a president, a dictator, a warlord—who quickly disappeared, leaving office with the cash and leaving the citizens with the bill. We watched this happen over and over again, wondering why they couldn’t just sort it out.

We needn’t wonder any longer.

The global recession proved how much we are all now connected. It also proves how dependent our governments have become on the wealth generated by corporations. America is a special case. This ideology, these policies, this move towards a globalised economy, has long been championed by the United States government, for the obvious reason that most of these corporations are American based. What’s good for American business has always been good for America.

A new dynamic—suppurative for many years now—is beginning to emerge: a dichotomy that will alter the course of history just as did the clash between despotism and democracy, or communism and capitalism. The battles waged are many, be it the struggle of a developing nation to maintain its sovereignty, or the fight to end the stranglehold of corporate special interest on American policy; they are the same.

We have only begun to witness the power wielded by the global corporate elite. In American, the birthplace of the corporation, they now write the laws driving both domestic and foreign policy. Drug companies write the laws regulating the pharmaceutical industry. Credit card companies have written laws outlawing bankruptcy (for individuals, not corporations). Corporate oil and arms dealers steered us into wars to enrich themselves. The lobbying of special interests has infected every sector of the United States government, the presidency, the Supreme Court, the legislator—dependent upon millions of dollars of contributions to run for office.

In short, the corporation has grown more powerful than the state.

What we see happening now in America is the next stage of this progression, an escalation of battle tactics on the part of the same multi-nationals corporations exploiting developing countries. The have successfully been able to undermine the sovereignty of the countries of the developing world, either by colluding with the corrupt or strong-arming the desperate. Now, they aim their sights on us, the developed nations of the world.

They have outgrown their base-camps. There is no longer a need for them to wield their power through government channels. They have seen, just as we, how easily the concepts of sovereignty, democracy, and liberty can be supplanted. It’s a matter of marketing, a skill they’ve honed to perfection. They’d done it before, with our condolence, under the guise of development. The crises we see around the world—corruption, wars of aggression, extreme poverty, torture—are all symptoms of the same problem: the state is eroding. Without a state—without a government—there can be no democracy.

The democracies of the world that haven’t already been taken under need to wake up. The danger is all too real. As we can see with every headline we read or broadcast we watch, human life is of no intrinsic value to the corporation. They’ve successfully conquered those at the very bottom. They are actively destroying the one at the top, emptying the US treasury.

The parasite is finally killing its host. The next victim will be you.

When the government of Unites States falls, the shockwave will be felt on every border of every nation. The mechanisms of the state will become obsolete, though not the way envisioned by Marx. In its place will be the multi-nationals: the corporation.

In the Canadian documentary, The Corporation, corporate behaviour towards society and the world at large was evaluated, the way a psychologist might evaluate an individual. The same behavior is found in clinically diagnosed psychopaths, possessing no conscience, a total lack of remorse, and an uncontrollable, often-violent drive. This is the new face of power; this is our new global elite.

This battle will be fought in our lifetime, and will claim just as many bloody victims as any fight over democracy or communism or any ‘ism’ we’ve seen in the past. The death toll has already begun, tallied in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Chile, and the war-torn plains of the African content. The next battlefield will be much closer to home.

The poem “First They Came…” by Martin Niemöller, best describes our current situation. I paraphrase:

First they came for the communists, then the social democrats, then the unionists, then the Jews. Each time, I did not speak out, for I was none of these. Then they came for me. …by then, there was no one left to speak out.

Though the victims are different, the process is the same, as is the end result should we do nothing.


About the Author ()

Andrew Mendes is an American studying International Relations and Public Policy at Victoria. He enjoys following politics and reading lots of news.

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