Should Corporations Rule The World?

by Mark Lovett on April 6, 2010

It’s been nearly 10 years since The Silent Takeover by Noreena Hertz was published, yet the subjects discussed have never been more timely.  The book’s subtitle, Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy, explains the subject at hand, and ultimately asks the key question, “Have governments become obsolete, and if so, are corporations now in charge?

Dr. Noreena Hertz

We have witnessed the rise of corporate power over many centuries, and world governments have always been susceptible to bribery, manipulation and corruption, but in the past few decades the extent of this vast financial power has eclipsed that of our elected leaders at an alarming rate.

In 2008, for example, 88 of the world’s largest 150 economic entities were corporations – in fact, only 23 countries ranked higher than Royal Dutch Shell.  A position presented by Ms. Hertz is that as our national governments have become irrelevant the electorate has become disconnected from the political process to some degree and has instead been voting with dollars.

“With governments, regardless of their political persuasion, increasingly impotent, unwilling, or unable to intervene on their citizens’ behalf, and seemingly having lost any sense of moral purpose, it is hardly surprising that the electorate is turning its back on conventional politics, even in countries that proclaim democracy as one of their greatest achievements.” Hertz

The Nature Of Corporate Control

Politicians are increasingly seen as impotent, irrelevant, and dishonest.  People see their governments as unable to deliver what they promise…The distinction between incompetence and dishonesty is becoming blurred as, in  country after country, senior politicians are discovered to have engaged in corrupt practices.”  Hertz

Although international trading began some two thousand years ago, the multinational corporation has come to the forefront of economic activity in just the past century – most notably after World War II.

Whereas governments are, to a large degree, bound by borders, corporations can operate in almost any country, and can therefore choose how they want to divide their assets and production facilities.  And while they must adhere to the legal policies of each country, they will often play one government against the other as a means of achieving favorable economic conditions.

International Trade Barcode

Transnational Economy In Action

Money Trumps Politics

Because of this dynamic, political candidates are often bound to the monetary will of corporations that reside in their district, or contribute to their campaigns, which means that the politicians who appear on the nightly news telling us how much they love democracy might actually be “owned” by corporate interests, and those interests may not match the will of the people who elected them to office.

In the end, this question raised by Ms. Hertz seems to be the most relevant, and most perplexing:

Is it possible that while governments are allowing corporate interests to take precedence over the public, corporations and businesspeople may decide to put the public’s needs first? Hertz

While I admit that this scenario is possible, the reality is that capitalism in not inherently moral, and the fact that profit is the main goal of business further diminishes the focus on doing the right thing.  It’s true that we can express our own morality (beliefs, ideologies, or objectives) when we purchase products, but in many cases we no longer have a broad choice.  For example, if you want to protest the business philosophy of Boeing and Airbus, air travel is not an option, you have no other choice.

  • Do governments, and therefore our votes, still matter, or have corporations taken over?
  • Can we still vote with our dollars, or has limited competition diminished that capability?
  • Will the day come when governments pass laws, but corporations choose to ignore them?
  • Is it possible that our corporations will take the moral high ground and protect the planet?

What are your thoughts?  Should governments or corporations rule the world?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Zam March 28, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Was just trolling the web and came up with this page when I typed into Google “governments are nothing, corporations rule the world” to see what would come up. This article is spot-on, it is clear to me that the new century belongs to corporations, and that the state is shrinking. I think over the last few decades more and more the corporations in USA for example have gotten into all the key positions and re-wrote the laws massively in their favor—and also hollowing out the government and making it less and less. Like Ronald Reagan said, “get the government off the people’s backs”, and it was done. But things got much worse, as you can see. The more you privatize the services that have been done by the government, the more you lose accountability, transparency, and democracy.

Reply

Global Patriot March 28, 2012 at 4:08 pm

You bring up a good point with regards to losing accountability, transparency, and especially domocracy. In fact, the number one reason there is a push to privatize government services is that it eliminates democracy from the equation – there are no public elections for corporate managers – and when the motive becomes profit, people and planet are pushed to a lower priority.

Reply

GlobalPatriot May 29, 2010 at 4:57 pm

When we have choices, voting with our wallet is a great idea, but as corporate mergers consolidate business around the globe, we're ending up with fewer choices.

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thepinkpeppercorn May 29, 2010 at 4:19 am

Yikes. The title makes me cringe! I think we can have some individual control…albeit limited without sharing our ideas….by literally voting with our pocketbooks.

Reply

Steffan Antonas April 9, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Mark,

This is one of my all time favorite topics. Here are some quick ideas on the four questions at the end of this post:

* Do governments, and therefore our votes, still matter, or have corporations taken over?

Governments still matter because they set the rules and play referee. What matters is how we inject values into the policies that define the rules. This is why surfacing good policy and getting passed is so important.

* Can we still vote with our dollars, or has limited competition diminished that capability?

We should be voting with our dollars, no doubt. It’s the responsibility of people like the readers of this blog to constantly tell the stories that matter and educate people who don’t ask the deeper questions that don’t realize they’re voting at the cash register. Awareness is the battle we fight every day.

* Will the day come when governments pass laws, but corporations choose to ignore them?

I doubt it. A fundamental part of this new digital revolution is our ability to monitor corporations. They know we’re watching and we’re telling the world about what we see. technology is allowing monitoring and story telling at an unprecedented scale, and allowing NGOs to keep score. Will injustices still happen? Absolutely. But the ability to hide is disappearing rapidly, which is encouraging. What’s important is that we remove corporations ability to interfere with policy/rule making and politics. That’ll help a lot.

* Is it possible that our corporations will take the moral high ground and protect the planet?

Yes, absolutely. You can see it happening already. Corporations are finding that the values of society is shifting. People are becoming more conscious and aware of how their food gets to their tables, how energy is harvested, what sustainability means etc. The whole story is beginning to matter to consumers, and that’s an important shift. By telling great stories about their products and services and organizations, corporations can make great PR campaigns for themselves and show consumers that they want them to vote with their dollars.
.-= Steffan Antonas´s last blog ..Design Project: The Vineyard Vines Blog =-.

Reply

Global Patriot April 9, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I support all your positive viewpoints Steffan, and do agree that we need to flex our purchasing power, but I also get concerned when I hear about legislation that has been “watered down” due to the influence of special interests.

Wouldn’t it be great if corporations sent their lobbyists to The Hill with instructions to pass legislation that promoted the public interest?

Reply

Steffan Antonas April 9, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Mark,

This is one of my all time favorite topics. Here are some quick ideas on the four questions at the end of this post:

* Do governments, and therefore our votes, still matter, or have corporations taken over?

Governments still matter because they set the rules and play referee. What matters is how we inject values into the policies that define the rules. This is why surfacing good policy and getting passed is so important.

* Can we still vote with our dollars, or has limited competition diminished that capability?

We should be voting with our dollars, no doubt. It’s the responsibility of people like the readers of this blog to constantly tell the stories that matter and educate people who don’t ask the deeper questions that don’t realize they’re voting at the cash register. Awareness is the battle we fight every day.

* Will the day come when governments pass laws, but corporations choose to ignore them?

I doubt it. A fundamental part of this new digital revolution is our ability to monitor corporations. They know we’re watching and we’re telling the world about what we see. technology is allowing monitoring and story telling at an unprecedented scale, and allowing NGOs to keep score. Will injustices still happen? Absolutely. But the ability to hide is disappearing rapidly, which is encouraging. What’s important is that we remove corporations ability to interfere with policy/rule making and politics. That’ll help a lot.

* Is it possible that our corporations will take the moral high ground and protect the planet?

Yes, absolutely. You can see it happening already. Corporations are finding that the values of society is shifting. People are becoming more conscious and aware of how their food gets to their tables, how energy is harvested, what sustainability means etc. The whole story is beginning to matter to consumers, and that’s an important shift. By telling great stories about their products and services and organizations, corporations can make great PR campaigns for themselves and show consumers that they want them to vote with their dollars.
.-= Steffan Antonas´s last blog ..Design Project: The Vineyard Vines Blog =-.

Reply

GlobalPatriot April 10, 2010 at 4:41 am

I support all your positive viewpoints Steffan, and do agree that we need to flex our purchasing power, but I also get concerned when I hear about legislation that has been “watered down” due to the influence of special interests.

Wouldn’t it be great if corporations sent their lobbyists to The Hill with instructions to pass legislation that promoted the public interest?

Reply

gregorylent April 6, 2010 at 2:39 pm

the organizational structures that best embody collective consciousness naturally coagulate around what the word “rule” refers to …

but, there are forces at play in the universe of far greater infuluence, just takes a wide mind to see them …

inferring, that the collective consciousness is part of something … that is driving

Reply

gregorylent April 6, 2010 at 9:39 pm

the organizational structures that best embody collective consciousness naturally coagulate around what the word “rule” refers to …

but, there are forces at play in the universe of far greater infuluence, just takes a wide mind to see them …

inferring, that the collective consciousness is part of something … that is driving

Reply

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