August 21, 2004


WHAT'S REALLY WRONG WITH CORPORATIONS (Samuel Francis, 8/16/04, Chronicles)

[R]eal conservatives, as opposed to the Economic Men who pretend to be conservatives, have some good reasons to be wary of corporations.

Reason One is bureaucracy. Corporations from IBM and AT&T to MacDonald's and Wal-Mart are no less huge, faceless and unresponsive machines than the welfare state, the post office or the other publicly funded labyrinths that conservatives want to abolish. The difference, libertarian champions claim, is that the "private" bureaucracies are responsive to the market and the "public" ones aren't.

Well, not really. Corporate bureaucracies have a zillion ways of shielding themselves from market forces, from propaganda (advertising) that manipulates and massages their consumers to outright privileges squeezed out of the state itself. The market helps control "private" bureaucracies effectively when they're really private and small enough to be swayed by what consumers can see, know and deal with. On the national and global scales of corporations today, that's seldom possible. The result is that corporate bureaucracies can swallow small businesses like whales gobbling plankton.

Reason Two is Economism, the belief that economic values are all that's real or important and that human beings are motivated mainly by economic drives. Business people tend to believe this, but modern corporations, coupled with both Marxist and capitalist ideology, have encouraged the belief and made what should be an obvious myth a commonly held but unacknowledged assumption. [...]

Which brings us to Reason Three of what's wrong with corporations—disloyalty to nation and people. As corporations have gone global, they have simply ceased to be part of any nation or to identify with any people, race or civilization—as their managers love to boast. [...]

The people who could make that and other charges against corporations and the global grabfest that they want to replace Western and American civilization are conservatives—the real kind, not the fakes who are little more than hired guns for Big Business. Maybe if real conservatives started telling us what's really wrong with Big Business, Hollywood would put them in the movies.

The general criticisms are accurate, especially the first--the concentration of power in the hands of corporations is exactly as troubling as it is in the hands of government--but the anti-trade/anti-immigrant stuff is nonsense.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
Dystopia: Candidates' visions don't do justice to democracy's greatest good, freedom.
Part 2 (Honora Howell Chapman, 8/20/04, VDH)

For a fresh read on corporate greed in this film (The Manchurian Candidate), I turned to the socialists at the World Socialist Web Site ( and found David Walsh right on the mark (unlike some other reviewers who took the mistaken position that the movie was an attack solely on the Republicans): “Demme and screenwriter Daniel Pyne deliberately blur party lines, suggesting in that manner that the Democrats and Republicans increasingly resemble one another. Demme told the same interviewer: ‘Many people today really look slightly askance at the notion that we have a really legitimate two party system going on. There is nothing fresh about the ideas so ultimately, what’s the difference? Especially with certain parties, in which the politicians speak one set of beliefs and then they seem to vote a whole different way, if you look at their voting records. So is this still a functioning two party system?’” Darn good question.

This film asks: What possibly could stop such corporate abuse of the political system, whether figure-headed by a Democrat or a Republican? Nothing less than a human being’s ability to become fully human, even when the brainwashing seems to have been complete. Humanity can save itself through recognition of not only its weakness but also its strength and free will to do what is right in the face of overwhelming odds and a frightening dance partner. One man can look another in the eye and communicate a bond and message that far overpowers any bottom line of a corporate budget. Ultimately, no corporation can control the human spirit—if that’s not an uplifting message, I don’t know what is.

The corporate world, not so oddly enough, also lurks in the background of “The Village.” M. Night Shyamalan has once again dreamed up a “Signs”-like scenario where the dangerous “other” lurks beyond the boundaries of an “idyllic” community that appears anything but dystopian. [I did, however, at one point have this gnawing fear that Jodie Foster as Nell might wander in from North Carolina to disturb their tranquil, old-fashioned dialogue.] The question becomes whether this community can weather an assault from “the other.” Demons internal to this community, such as physical and mental illness and death, challenge all the citizens to question their safety when violence strikes close to home. And it is the blind but awfully spunky and resourceful girl who acts heroically to save the day. Behind all of this, however, is the spectre not of a red-feathered birdmonster but a Bad Corporation and the violence and societal degradation it produces.

Our new 21st-century American monsters, at least according to these films, are not just al-Qaeda and the “axis of evil,” but our own homegrown businesses like Enron that ruin a lifetime of saving for retirement or that capitalize on the acquisition of fossil fuels and the waging of war in general. And the politicians are in cahoots with these domestic monsters.

How can we escape this dystopian nightmare? Perhaps by going back to the drawing board, as Socrates did with his students, who were being groomed to be major players in the Athenian democracy, and asking questions such as “What is Justice?”—all while recognizing as they did that “a city—or a state—is a response to human needs; no human being is self-sufficient, and all of us have many wants.” (Plato, Republic 369b) If we start to ask our politicians the big questions and hold them truly accountable for meeting the various “needs” in society, perhaps we won’t have to continue viewing so many of these cinematic dystopian visions of corporations threatening our very way of life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 21, 2004 10:56 AM

"The general criticisms are accurate, especially the first--the concentration of power in the hands of corporations is exactly as troubling as it is in the hands of government"

"Exactly as troubling", No not even close. If you stand up to the government bureaucracy you could end up in jail. If you oppose Wal-Mart's bureaucracy you have trudge over to K-Mart.

Posted by: h-man at August 21, 2004 1:31 PM

If you want corporate influence over America and Americans to decrease, you must first drastically reduce the size and power of government. Government's near-totalitarian power is what's made mega-corporations viable this past century.

See also this.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at August 21, 2004 1:35 PM

Well, not really. Corporate bureaucracies have a zillion ways of shielding themselves from market forces, from propaganda (advertising) that manipulates and massages their consumers to outright privileges squeezed out of the state itself.

No, really. If advertising was all it took, we'd be drinking New Coke and driving Edsels. And you can't sneer at libertarians when corporations squeeze privileges out of the state, because we oppose such privileges.

As h-man says, it's not even close. There are few if any natural monopolies (unenforced by the state), so consumers can always go elsewhere, and corporations can't tax, draft, or jail you.

Posted by: PapayaSF at August 21, 2004 1:57 PM

Haven't you people been paying attention? The Corporation owns the government. All the ills you attribute to the government are boons to the corporation. The Republican+Democrat manifesto is: "Rights to the corporate "person", Regulations to everyone else." Taxes collected by Government are distributed to Corporations without accounting or, better still, with Enron accounting. Halliburton is currently the brightest star in this constellation, but there are hundreds, or thousands of others, starting with A, for Arbusto and running through the sweetheart deal that gave Austin the albatross that this the baseball stadium that Bush built. The "redistribution" of wealth from the many to the few in that and in most other cases is truly Ruthian. And CACI can now "employ" you rather than draft you, again with no accountability from the tax-giving agencies that prop them up. As for "natural monopolies", look no farther than Microsoft as an example of a competition-dousing machine.

Posted by: patriot1955 at August 21, 2004 3:47 PM


Quite right. There's the basis of an excellent compromise in the Right's hatred of taxes and the Left's hatred of tax breaks--flatten and simplify the tax code.

Posted by: oj at August 21, 2004 3:57 PM

The left doesn't hate tax breaks -- they believe the poor should pay nothing and the middle class little, with the rich and the evil corporations making up the difference.

Posted by: jd watson at August 21, 2004 5:37 PM