Corporations have replaced nation-state’s as the globes real sources of power. But unlike governments, which are nominally responsible to their citizens, corporations answer to nothing other than the bottom line.
While governments, at least in theory, evaluate their success by the extent to which they meet the needs of the public for security and survival, corporations see those same citizens as simply resources to be mind for profit.
The measures corporations take to extract that wealth aren’t limited by the need to ensure the well being of the public. Indeed, the only limits on their avarice are imposed by the governments they increasingly control both by their capture of the electoral process and their ability to demand those governments implement international agreements ceding state sorverignty to corporate boards.
Two new studies point to the success of the corporate agenda, first in capturing global wealth, and, second, in seizing the instruments of state used to monitor and control the citizenry.
The corporate capture of global wealth
First, from Global Justice Now, a report on the dramatic rise of corporate financial power, a power that exceeds that of the world’s nation states:
10 biggest corporations make more money than most countries in the world combined
- 69 of top 100 economic entities are corporations not countries
- Walmart, Apple, Shell richer than Russia, Belgium, Sweden
- British government told: stop supporting your corporations, support your people
Corporations have increased their wealth vis-à-vis countries according to new figures released by Global Justice Now. The campaign group found that 69 of the world’s top economic entities are corporations rather than countries in 2015*. They also discovered that the world’s top 10 corporations – a list that includes Walmart, Shell and Apple – have a combined revenue of more than the 180 ‘poorest’ countries combined in the list which include Ireland, Indonesia, Israel, Colombia, Greece, South Africa, Iraq and Vietnam.
The figures are worse than last year, when 63 of the top economic entities were corporations. When looking at the top 200 economic entities, the figures are even more extreme, with 153 being corporations.
Global Justice Now released the figures in order to increase pressure on the British government ahead of a UN working group, led by Ecuador, established to draw up a binding treaty to ensure transnational corporations abide by the full range of human rights responsibilities. Campaigners are calling for the treaty to be legally enforceable at a national and global level. Britain doesn’t support the process, and has repeatedly vetoed and opposed such proposal in the past.
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said:
“The vast wealth and power of corporations is at the heart of so many of the world’s problems – like inequality and climate change. The drive for short-term profits today seems to trump basic human rights for millions of people on the planet. These figures show the problem is getting worse.
Corporations captures government’s secret functions
And the second instance of the corporate seizure of government power, this time focusing on the power to set the most secret agendas of the exercise of power in the secret exercise of power and the ability to invade the most intimate areas of privacy.
From an enlightening essay by veteran journalist Tim Shorrock for The Nation:
The recent integration of two military contractors into a $10 billion behemoth is the latest in a wave of mergers and acquisitions that have transformed America’s privatized, high-tech intelligence system into what looks like an old-fashioned monopoly.
In August, Leidos Holdings, a major contractor for the Pentagon and the National Security Agency, completed a long-planned merger with the Information Systems & Global Solutions division of Lockheed Martin, the global military giant. The 8,000 operatives employed by the new company do everything from analyzing signals for the NSA to tracking down suspected enemy fighters for US Special Forces in the Middle East and Africa.
Leidos is now the largest of five corporations that together employ nearly 80 percent of the private-sector employees contracted to work for US spy and surveillance agencies.
This is incredibly risky for a country so dependent on intelligence to fight global wars and prevent domestic attacks.
Yes, that’s 80 percent. For the first time since spy agencies began outsourcing their core analytic and operational work in the late 1990s, the bulk of the contracted work goes to a handful of companies: Leidos, Booz Allen Hamilton, CSRA, SAIC, and CACI International. This concentration of “pure plays”—a Wall Street term for companies that makes one product for a single market—marks a fundamental shift in an industry that was once a highly diverse mix of large military contractors, small and medium technology companies, and tiny “Beltway Bandits” surrounding Washington, D.C.
[T]hese developments are incredibly risky for a country more dependent than ever on intelligence to fight global wars and prevent domestic attacks. “The problem with just five companies providing the lion’s share of contractors is that the client, the U.S. government, won’t have much alternative when a company screws up,” says David Isenberg, the author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq.
Moreover, the fact that much of this privatized work is top secret—and is generally underreported in the press—undermines the accountability and transparency of our spy agencies. That should deeply concern the American public.
What’s the source of that power?
We close with a quote from a 20 April 2015 essay or Harper’s by New America Foundation scholar Lee Drutman:
Something is out of balance in Washington. Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures—more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million). It’s a gap that has been widening since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined House-Senate budget in the early 2000s.
Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time. For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business.
Add in the disastrous corporate agenda set by the U.S. Supreme Court and we are looking at nothing less than a de facto and de jure coup in the most powerful nation the planet has ever seen.
The only question is whether or not it will take a second American revolution to restore the balance we have lost.