Am I wrong, or is it a common idea in the left these days that corporations are a threat to our freedom? For example here’s a quote from the opening paragraph on Bernie Sanders’ campaign web site (emphasis is mine):
In America today, corporate greed and corruption is destroying the social and economic fabric of our society, where a small group of ultra-wealthy CEOs are making the decisions that increasingly determine our economic, environmental and political future.
Here’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, quoted in an article in Newsweek magazine: “we should be scared…corporations have taken over our government”.
My sense is that Senator Sanders and Representative Ocasio-Cortez have it backwards. It’s the state we need to be afraid of. Remember your history. The two founding documents of our republic are the Constitution and Declaration of Independence: the Declaration was a rejection of monarchy; the main goal of the Constitution was to fashion a robust government while at the same time limiting its power. (Note the Bill of Rights plus Article Ten.)
Were the Founding Fathers wrong in their mistrust of strong government? I trust them over Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, any day. Note that the Founding Fathers were certainly aware of the influence big corporations exert over government: the East India Company had been around since 1600, the Muscovy Company since 1555.
Strong, Centralized Government = Misery
Look at three examples of states that are famously all-in on state control, from top to bottom: Cuba, Venezuela, and China. Do you see a pattern? Do you want to see the numbers on these three states? The ‘2019 World Press Freedom Index’ is published by Reporters Without Borders and “ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists”. Here are the rankings for Cuba, Venezuela, and China:
- Venezuela 148
- Cuba 169
- China 177
(Turkmenistan comes in last at 180. The US comes between Romania and Senegal at 48.)
The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom is published by The Heritage Foundation and measures “the principles of economic freedom”. Once again, 180 states are tracked. North Korea comes last, the US is between Iceland and Netherlands at 12. Here are the rankings for Cuba, Venezuela, and China:
- China is 100
- Cuba 178
- Venezuela 179
I can’t think of any example of corporations taking over a government, while there are many examples of strong central governments (as above) abusing and impoverishing their citizens.
It may useful to consider motivations. Here’s what I think motivates the four actors I’m considering in this article:
- The political right: desires freedom and prosperity
- The political left: desires social justice and equality
- Government: desires stability and authority
- Corporations: desire money (greed!)
Why would anyone accuse corporations of taking (or wanting) control of the government? My sense is that Adam Neumann and Elon Musk have their hands full with their own personal concerns, and have little interest in issues like health care, abortion, and gun control, with this caveat: to the extent the issue at hand has no impact on their firms. And what could be more reasonable? Pure self-interest. Any stockholder in those companies will rightly accuse a CEO of malfeasance if they do not focus on the interests of their firms.
Why would the political left accuse corporations of exercising malign control over our government? I welcome the readers to pitch in with comments.
The Bottom Line
Cuba, Venezuela, and China. The effect of expanding government is to give government more, bigger, and better tools to oppress citizens.