not for saleCorporatism is government run by and for corporations, in the belief that this is the most “efficient” model of national management. It is the model that has been used by ultra-conservative totalitarian regimes in Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Italy in the past century. It is also the models by which corporations themselves run. It is the antithesis of democracy.

Most ‘free’ trade legislation and globalization regulation is corporatist in nature. It subordinates national law — including employment laws designed to protect domestic workers, and environmental laws — to the “efficiency” of capitalism, by rendering such laws null and void if they exceed the lowest-common-denominator standards of any of the treaty countries.

Many countries restrict the ability of corporations to influence government by limiting or prohibiting corporations from donating to campaigns. This not only reduces the temptation to slide into corporatism, but also reduces the likelihood of favouritism, and corporate subsidies being awarded as kick-backs.

We can’t really blame corporations for being corporatists, or for taking advantage of corrupt and ultra-conservative governments to advance the corporatist cause. Their charters drive them to maximize profit and minimize cost, without regard for the social or environmental impact of their actions. That is the fault of lawyers who have browbeaten governments to give corporations many more rights (including the rights of ‘persons’) and much more power than those who first developed the concept of corporations ever envisioned.

In fact, the founders of most democratic countries, and their brightest leaders since then, have repeatedly warned that, because corporations are inherently (and deliberately) undemocratic, citizens and governments must exercise continuing vigilance to prevent corporations from usurping the power and authority of the people and democratic governments and institutions. During the late 19th century, corporatism reached unprecedented and dangerous levels, resulting in misery and often death for workers, until the rise of unions restored the balance of power. These corporatists subsequently became known as the Corporate Robber Barons. We have forgotten this terrible period in our history, and it is beginning to repeat itself.

Now that corporatists have a willing ally in George Bush (ironic, since Bush is a political unilateralist), activity by corporatists is again on the rise. Bush’s inner circle wants to starve government until it can be “drowned in a bathtub“, creating a perfect environment for corporatists to move into the power vacuum.

There is a great deal of evidence that this is occurring today. In addition to ‘free’ trade agreements, massive privatization of government institutions, and the sell-off of public lands and property at huge discounts to corporatist friends — all occurring in third-world countries whose governments are essentially owned by corporatists, and in George Bush’s America — there are other, more insidious signs, such as:

  • Burying and distortion of reports by public institutions when they run counter to corporatist interests. Many of us have reported on Bush’s burying of scientific reports, including those on the causes of global warming. Most recently the US Department of Agriculture has complained that Bush’s inner circle is ignoring their warnings about food safety in deference to corporatist pressure by factory farm and food processing conglomerates.
  • Internationally, the most environmentally destructive mining, oil & gas, and forestry companies are pleading poverty to shrug off responsibility for cleaning up the damages from their operations in the third world. The massive lead poisoning of children in Peru by American miner Doe Run is a typical example. When the FTAA ‘free’ trade agreement is passed, it will allow similar poisoning to occur throughout the Americas, since under FTAA, environmental laws stricter than Peru’s (i.e. all environmental laws) will be null and void since they would be deemed to create an “unequal playing field” for corporations. This has already happened with NAFTA.
  • Corporations now wield enough power to influence and even dictate countries’ foreign policy, which is a critical step towards corporatism. Even back in 1973, the previous corporatist-friendly administration of Richard Nixon was prepared to invade Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi to steal their old fields in response to the OPEC oil embargo in the US, to try to force Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab territories — according to documents recently declassified by the UK. And there’s not much doubt corporate interests were as responsible as extremist ideology and personal hatred for the US invasion of Iraq.

The only things separating us from global corporatism today is the democratic ballot box and the vigilance of public interest groups and non-mainstream media. The mainstream media, owned and controlled by big corporations, already self-censor news that is anti-corporatist. The collapse or privatization of public education would lead to the corruption of what our children learn — to a corporatist-friendly message. The continuing dumbing-down of the electorate, and its disillusionment due to gerrymandering and other anti-democratic political abuses, plays right into the hands of corporatists.

We are at a crossroads for democracy, and we are so distracted by other issues that we can’t see it. If Bush wins re-election, their second term slogan might well be “we’re lovin’ it”.

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  1. Jon Husband says:

    Blogging, and talking with each other via interconnected media, is just about the only way left for us to counter, antidotally, the corporate grip on media and its slavish devotion the current power structures – IMO. Seems like almost everything else is owned and spun. Electronic grains of sand driven by human voices, passion and the desire for truth, erdoing, grain by grain, the sandstone pillars of patriarchy and traditional, self-serving hierarchy.

  2. Ray Jefferd says:

    Do actually hold this point of view or are you just trying to stir the pot?

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    I don’t know if Ray is directing this comment to me or to Jon. If he’s directing it to me, he obviously doesn’t know me very well ;-)

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