Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Are some fueling hate between the right and the left to keep us distracted as they set up a total Corporatocracy in the USA?

Asked by ETpro (34472points) September 4th, 2010

Let me begin by saying I am not anti capitalism or anti corporation. I owned my own corporation for years, and now own a sole proprietorship. My concern is corporatocracy, not responsible corporate behavior that benefits us all.

There are people who are fabulously wealthy, in the top 1% of wealth, who move in and out of government, or who can buy people in government. They can then have government direct lucrative contracts to corporations they own or hold an interest in. Some think it’s already too late. Corporate money buys the votes of both parties. Now they can spend unlimited sums on political advertising. They hire PhDs and skilled communicators in think tanks to develop divide-and-conquer strategies and guide the major political parties in implementing them. CEOs, top government advisors and even heads of watchdog agencies circulate through revolving doors. CEOs rake in millions then hit the $10 million golden parachute and land in government where they steer billion dollar contracts, some of them no bid, to the very companies they just left and still own huge financial interests in. Some think there may still be hope, but average voters are driven about by phony controversies and manufactured hate just to make sure we never gain the political will to exercise that hope.

For more depth on the slide of the USA into corporatocracy, see The Corporatocracy Systematically Destroying the American Middle Class and
Battle the Corporatocracy by Demanding Sustainability

What do you think? Are we heading for a Corporatocracy? Are we there yet? Is Corporatocracy a good move or bad?

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31 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

In some ways we are in that situation, but it may not be as dire as we think. That is because corporations have conflicting interests, and not all are in a position to scratch each other’s backs.

Small business and large business often have different interests. For example, in the health care debate, big business has an interest in forcing small business to pay their fair share for health insurance. Of course, small business complains they’ll go out of business if forced to cover their employees.

The interests of other industries are not always in consonant. I can’t think of a good example… well, let’s say energy producing firms and energy consuming firms are usually on different sides of an issue. Trial lawyers are not on the side of tort control companies. Green energy is opposed to spending on the military-industrial complex. Tech firms and communications firms may be on the same side on some issues and on opposite sides on other issues.

Consumer goods companies want regulation that helps people make a lot of money. If we don’t have money, we don’t buy, and they don’t make any profits. And on and on. Sometimes the people who run companies don’t understand what is in their best interest and sometimes they do. But they are no different than the electorate in that.

The point is that there is not really a corporatocracy. Corporations are not all on the same side on different issues. Thus there is conflict in government, whether or not companies are more involved or not.

As to the revolving door—I don’t know what to say. It’s been happening for ages. Congress passes legislation saying there must be a one or two year gap between government employment and private sector employment in the field they were regulating.

It’s all about who you know, and people in power know people in power. How can it be otherwise?

Elections, more and more, are becoming referendums about how the party in power is doing over all. It has nothing, really, to do with the issues. But parties benefit and suffer from this. Yet, in a way, none of it matters. It’s the economy. As the economy goes, so goes the party in power.

The hatred between left and right? I think that is there because it is perceived to work. Everyone loves their own congressman but hates congress. You need to be seen as vociferously representing your constituents. So this encourages more and more radical language.

I seriously doubt that what we are seeing now is all that much different from what has happened at times in the past. There have been times of vicious partisanship and corporations throwing around all kinds of money in Washington before. It really doesn’t matter whether we have laws trying to limit corporate campaign spending or not. They always find a way to spend the money. Always.

I don’t think this represents any significant change from any time in US history.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

While I do not object to your opinion, I feel your question is mainly rhetorical, that is, posed as a pretext to state an opinion, rather than to obtain information.

I’m sure I have done the same thing.

Should we expect people’s questions to be more a request for information than a stage to air our own opinions? I guess this is a question I should pose as a question.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think there is any sort of organized movement to do what you suggest.

iamthemob's avatar

@wundayatta

Corporations are on one side on one thing – they want to be left alone so they can maximize profits for shareholders. Any regulation – including demanding certain working standards – interferes with this.

I think the difference now is that globalization has allowed a lot of centralization of power. Being able to tap into outsourced labor means that corporations can get large enough to tap into efficiencies that allow for unparalleled growth. They can thereafter prevent innovation in the market by pricing others out, either by lobbying government interests or through using these efficiencies. Also, the government is now filled with people who are either formerly, or in the future, heads of these companies (e.g., many of the people regulating the agencies responsible for food policies were head honchos at Monsanto). Therefore, we have a new interrelation of vulnerable economies, government, and corporations that has not been allowed before due to technology restraints.

Essentially, corporations can act like monopolies without fitting the legal definitions. That’s where I think the veil might be drawn over our eyes.

iamthemob's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence

Only if it’s in the general and not social section. People never walk into issues like this without an opinion. Interestingly, when posed making one’s view apparent, you more often I find get responses from the opposing side. Asking the question should indicate that the answer is not set. Just because the person posing it obviously has one side, that doesn’t dictate what the person responding has to believe.

We wish convincing people of a point were that easy. :-)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Of course, I believe this to be true. Anything people are up in arms about through the supposed ‘media debate’ on any issue are issues being used specifically to keep people from thinking about what’s actually wrong with the US.

iamthemob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

Yeah…the media is kind of an EPIC FAIL these days.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Perhaps so, but how would we know?

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley

It’s our responsibility as citizens to demand responsibility from our government.

wundayatta's avatar

@iamthemob What you say is true for some companies, but I don’t know how many. I know there are companies that are in favor of higher taxes because they understand that if schools aren’t funded, they won’t have any good workers.

And from what I hear, companies are repatriating the jobs, since it turns out the quality is not good enough. It costs more to fix the mistakes than you get in savings on wages. It’s also difficult to manage and train a non-American work force. They don’t understand what Americans want and expect.

So the limits of exporting jobs overseas could be being reached.

iamthemob's avatar

@wundayatta

I don’t think it’s disputable that all corporations (and I say corporations because that’s the business form asked about) are universally concerned with maximizing profits for shareholders with as little interference as possible. That’s actually the legal mandate of the structure.

And that’s what inevitably leads to the problems discussed. Because directors are responsible to act on behalf of the best interest of the shareholders, responsibility for behavior that causes negative impacts such as the violation of workers’ human rights can only lead to liability if it was clear that such damage to stakeholders not involved in the ownership of the corporation would have had a more negative impact on the profits of the corporation and therefore the earnings of the shareholder than the profits generated by such disregard for the stakeholders. Because it is only the owners of the corporation (shareholders) that can bring such an action (generally) against the directors, and because the directors are protected by the liberal business judgment rule (e.g., the courts will only hold them responsible if the director knew or should have known of the harm to the corporation (not the human harm)), they are generally free from responsibility.

And oddly, the larger the corporation, the more significant the potential harm, but also the higher the potential profits to offset any negative loss from suits or bad press, and simultaneously a greater likelihood that a director can claim that because of the size of the operations the harm under review was unknown to them and not readily discoverable in any event.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I believe that US history is littered with corporatocracy, and that it is only the last half century or so during which corporate involvement in politics has been restricted. Alas, I studied history a long time ago and have no references to back up my claim.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Corporatocracy never involves a coalition of hundreds or wen tens of thousands of different corporations and companies with different, often conflicting interests. The first step in truly setting it up is to buy enough influence in government to either remove or render meaningless all rules against monopolistic behavior and anti-trust., That done, there are 6 major business sectors that represent the lions share of all business on the planet. They would divvy those up, and leave the rest as scraps for the dogs to eat from the rich man’s table.

@Dr_Lawrence Is it illegitimate to ask about anything you hold an opinion about? I am open to being convinced pro or con. I am not open to keeping my wouth shut just because I have an opinion.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

And if they just ignore us?

wundayatta's avatar

@iamthemob I think that far too many corporations see the maximization of profit as you say they do: a short term thing. How can I make the most money next quarter.

However, it is possible to understand maximization of profits as a much longer term thing. Companies with this vision think about long term profitability, not next quarter’s profits, and they behave much differently—and more responsibly, as far as the public is concerned.

After the most recent crisis, the government passed laws that were designed to get corporate leaders to take a longer term view. They can’t get their stock options as quickly now as they could before. Hopefully this will push their time horizons out a little further and they’ll become concerned about longer term profitability.

@ETpro If corporatocracy is made up of small number of corporations, it will inevitably change, as the other corporations seek their share. If there are six major business sectors dividing things up…. well, that is an enormous if. Not going to happen. They do not have the same interests and they will never get together to divvy up governmental largesse.

Of course, corporations are much more fractious than that, and interests are divided seven ways from Sunday. It seems to me to be highly unlikely that a corporatocracy could be formed, much less last for more than a week. This idea is a kind of conspiracy theory. I don’t put much credence in it.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I would say that capitalism is irresponsible in this country and certainly politics are a distraction from realizing what it’s doing to our nation, our resources, our world, our children, etc. Politics hasn’t been the same since “Socialist” became a no-no word.

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley

If there are enough of us, they can’t. Of course, the trick is getting enough people to believe that…

…but if you’re of the opinion (the general you) that it’s not possible…then it’s probably time to just lie down and take it.

iamthemob's avatar

@wundayatta

I agree with you, and I think that you’ve pointed out some tools being used to counteract the problem. Thanks so much for bringing up the stock options!

Yes, the more we (1) require that incentives address the long and not short term success of a corporation and (2) require more disclosure, transparency and accountability regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR) so that it is a MAJOR factor in determining long-term profitability (think about it…a system of management set up with a concerned eye towards a SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY?!? :-)) the better we all are.

iamthemob's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre

I love capitalism. Unfortunately, capitalism as it is now is getting closer and closer to totalitarianism I think than democracy. True capitalism allows innovation because the consumer is the voter, and therefore you have to be better than the other guy to sell a product or service.

Globalization has created efficiencies that allow for corporate consolidations that allow them to erect market barriers to entry and prevent innovation so that your only choice is one of the four media conglomerates, four food conglomerates, etc. – nearly the same as the effects of a monopoly that was the concern of early 20th century legislation.

Check out the discussion on a new capitalism model before we chuck the baby out with the bathwater. It gives me a little more hope in our system.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta You are not understanding what I am saying yet. If we move to a true corporatocracy like Nazi Germany embraced, the smaller corporations in all major business sectors will be subsumed into the one dominant player. There will be one energy company,. one media, one agri-business, one healthcare, one heavy manufacturing, and one financial corporation. They will, one by one, gobble up all the samller players to consolidate power and to maximize profits.

@iamthemob Amen. Thanks for all you have contributed.

SeventhSense's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre
Socialist has never “not” been a no no term in this country.

ETpro's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre The change is it is now leveled routinely at people who are nothing of the sort by people who haven’t a clue what the word even means.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

@ETpro the consolidation seen in this country is being driven from the corporate boardrooms. In Nazi Germany the big business players (which were already heavily consolidated before Hitler came to power, see IG Farben) were made to understand that their position was secure only so long as they recognized that Hitler through the NSDAP had ultimate control in the country. There had indeed been a left-wing in the Party (yes, that’s what the ‘S’ in the name stood for, socialist) which was broken when Hitler consolidated power as he felt it better to simply bring the industrialists and the army under control rather than have to supplant them completely, a “second revolution” desired by some in the SA (who saw themselves as the natural successors to the Reichswehr).

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

Regarding the original question, I feel we are for all intents and purposes there already.

ETpro's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop You probably alredy know this, but just so it is clear to everyone, the S in the Nazi Party name no more made Hitler and the Nazis left wingers than the Democratic in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) makes Kim Jong Il a freely elected leader and not a brutal dictator. Putting a label saying Cinnamon on a jar of cyanide doesn’t change its toxicity one iota.

In truth, the earlt Fascist movement did embrace the idea of populist socialism, but that had long since been subsumed into a strategy to use corporate power to consolidate dictatorial rule when Hitler and Mussolini came took the Fascist reins. Mussolini expressed that fact quite clearly, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power. ” Not much in there about divvying up wealth among the poor.

The corporatism creeping into the US government avoids the pitfal of an invitation from a fickle dictator. The idea now is let the corporate leaders of the top industry sectors actually rule, and just set up puppets ti appear to fill the traditional governent leadership.

wundayatta's avatar

@ETproIf we move to a true corporatocracy like Nazi Germany embraced, the smaller corporations in all major business sectors will be subsumed into the one dominant player. There will be one energy company,. one media, one agri-business, one healthcare, one heavy manufacturing, and one financial corporation.

I am saying that these different business sectors have competing interests, so even with such consolidation, corporations will not speak with one voice. Besides which, the anti-trust legislation will not allow corporations to become monopolies.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta The siz largest business sectors are Finance, Manufacturing, Construction, Agri-business, Medical Care and Defense. Are you saying that these 6 are at such cross purposes that you would see no problem with there just being 6 mega corporations, one for each sector?

If we move to a corporatocracy, the corporate interests will own the government. They shape law to suit their needs. If anti-trust laws intefere with the dominant corporations increasing profits, they will simply amend those laws. That’s already underway. The recent Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections overturns the Founder’s intentions and hundreds of years of case law and Supreme Court interpretations. It is straight out legislation from the bench, bought and paid for by the corporate interestes it served.

wundayatta's avatar

Whoa, @ETpro! Where did all these straw men come from? I said nothing about having no problem with consolidation of that scale.

Let’s see. Do the other sectors want to bail out the financial sector? How about the transportation sector? It’s going to be all locked up in an internal fight. Never mind the communications industry, which also has internal struggles. Health and Agriculture are at odds, as Agriculture wants to grow lots of corn for sweetener and Health wants people to consume less sweets. I could go on and on.

There is no corporate monolith and there can’t be one. Even right wingers don’t want to see monopolies develop. Everyone knows how bad they are. You are making an unbelievable stretch when you leap from campaign finance law to anti-trust law.

Anyway, I think it’s come to “agree to disagree” time. I’m not going to be a corporate apologist. I think there are dangers to democracy, but I don’t think that’s the direction the dangers come from.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Of course the other sectors would bail out the financial sector. They depend on it. Their very corporate structure stands atop it. Healthcare doesn’t necessarily want what’s good for people. Individual doctors do, but the profit in that industry depends on people being sick, the sicker, the more profitable. Ever wonder why, since the cure for polio, there have been very few drugs developed to cure any disease. Such a drug gets perscribed for a few weeks, then it’s done its work. Virtually all medical research now is directed at developing new drugs to manage disease, not cure it. The idea is to find a drug that each patient suffering some disorder must take for the rest of their lives. THat’s much more profitable.

At worst case, the biggest of the 6 would just swallow up the others—and I should throw the Entertainment industry and Computers in as well. Then the CEO and board could mitigate any competing interests to the corporation’s best advantage.

I am sorry, but I have seen what can and will happen whne too many people adopt the “It can’t happen here.” attitude. It did happen in Fascist Italy and Germany, and corporate interests there had the same list of competing insterests.

iamthemob's avatar

I think now they’re distracting us with Islam“ism”.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

Big government socialism for the elite. Laissez-faire capitalism for the rest.

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