The new tyrants: global corporatization
If you don't like Big Government, blame Big Business the two are intertwined
By Travis Metcalfe
Daily Texan Columnist
one week prior to the announcement of the AOL-Time Warner mega-merger
earlier this year, Time-Warner CEO Gerald Levin said in a CNN interview
that global corporations are "fast becoming ... more important than
government," and they provide "a more efficient way to deal with
society's problems" through the market. This statement is not merely a
prediction; it's also a value judgment.
We are asked to
place our faith in the mysterious forces of "the market" to solve our
problems, and we are promised that it will deliver with a much greater
efficiency than anything Big Government could possibly come up with.
But like an E-coli infested fast-food hamburger, this notion contains
more than the acceptable amount of fecal matter.
real world, "the market," to the extent that it actually operates, is
ill-equipped to solve many problems. Through the government, we try to
regulate the market so it will produce a socially desirable outcome. As
businesses become larger and more powerful, it becomes increasingly
difficult to regulate them effectively. As a consequence, Big
Government and Big Business naturally grow together; and if they don't,
we find ourselves exploited by one of them.
presidential race this year, we heard a lot of rhetoric from the two
major-party candidates about their allegedly competing visions of the
size and role of government. But if you listened to any of the
third-party candidates, many of them were talking about the excessive
power of global corporations. These candidates were appealing to the
sentiments expressed through civil disobedience and other tactics
during the shutdown of the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle
one year ago this week.
At first glance, it seems odd
that more politicians didn't try to appeal to this backlash against Big
Business, especially since there are so many recent examples of
corporations abusing their power as the government fails to regulate
them adequately (Though, it doesn't seem quite as odd once you look at
the list of top contributors to the major-party campaigns).
recently announced the largest discrimination settlement ever, filed
last year by its African-American employees. The company minimized the
public-relations damage by announcing the settlement in the wake of the
unsettled presidential election, which dominated the media and
overshadowed an otherwise newsworthy event. Where was "the market" when
the minority workers at Coke were being systematically underpaid and
passed over for promotion?
Aventis, a biotech firm, is
the producer of the genetically engineered "Starlink" corn that
recently showed up in taco shells despite the fact that it had not
been approved for human consumption. The company recently announced
that the protein responsible for triggering allergic reactions showed
up in tests of non-Starlink corn.
They claim they have
"no idea" how it got there, but you don't have to be Gregor Mendel to
figure it out. When genetically-engineered corn is released into the
environment right next to a field of regular corn, some
cross-pollination is bound to occur. Where's "the market" when a
majority of the American public says it wants genetically-engineered
food to be labeled?
And how about the Firestone tire
recall, and the recent report from Good-year that it has experienced
similar problems with its tires over the last two years? Did "the
market" prevent hundreds of deaths and injuries from defective tire
blowouts on bloated SUVs? Of course not. Why? Look at who has the power.
David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World,
notes that 51 of the world's 100 largest economies are now
corporations, not countries. For example, the total economic output of
General Motors is greater than the GDP of Denmark. Unlike most
countries, however, the economies of corporations are centrally planned
and are ruled by a CEO-dictator. We could talk all day about the evils
of Big Government, but in the end it might all be irrelevant. Big
Business may indeed hold the keys to our future. But we should decide
now, before it's too late, if that's the kind of future we want.
Metcalfe is a doctoral student in the Department of Astronomy