The ‘democracy problem’: introduction

‘We can have democracy or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few. We cannot have both’ – US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

‘Being in government is not the same as being in power’ – Enric Duran

Ultimate power is corporate, not political

The focus of the corporate sector is the quest for perpetual growth, international competitiveness, the development of export-oriented businesses and maximising returns for investors. These priorities damage ecology and concentrate wealth into the hands of the major shareholders of the world’s largest banks and corporations. This concentration is intensifying, as corporate branches suck money out of our local communities and deliver it to those major shareholders.

Source: Mimi & Eunice

This global system of corporate power forces governments to behave in a predetermined way or be removed from office. The countries that play the corporate game best will attract most money from international corporate investors. If any government fails to introduce corporate-friendly policies, they will be punished by international investors who will withdraw their money from that country, national GDP will fall, jobs will be lost and they will be guaranteed to lose the next election.

The punishment will be much harsher in poor countries. Corporate control of the US military via their control of the US political system will ensure a swift and violent regime change for governments that commit to an anti-corporate agenda. Corporations manufacture the weaponry used, and move in to rebuild infrastructure afterwards – conflict is extremely profitable for the corporate sector.


Comparative military spending (billions of dollars): it’s not difficult to see how corporate control of the US military means that other countries will find it very difficult to step out of line. This level of military spending is for much, much more than defence.

Even if the global system weren’t self-perpetuating, governments whose remit covers only one country are obviously impotent when it comes to regulating multinational corporations – but there are no global institutions to effectively regulate them either. Those with teeth (for example the World Bank, World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund) are corporate-initiated and controlled.

Meanwhile the corporate media scares the public into believing that maintaining this system is the only way to protect jobs – even though an economy based on small businesses will employ many, many more people.

The upshot is that whoever forms a government, within this system of corporate power, the ability to prioritise people, communities and nature over corporate profits is severely limited, and in any case, such policies will be reversed by future pro-corporate parties.

We don’t get to vote for the real power brokers. As Emma Goldman said: ‘if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal’. Real power is corporate and doesn’t put itself up for election. Ultimate power – the ability to control the direction in which humanity moves – is economic, not political. Whether you consider yourself left- or right-wing, you still don’t get to vote for where the real power is. This is a non-partisan position – it affects all of us.

Freely-distributed film by Scott Noble that explains how we’re living in an empire. However, some of the people interviewed mention that it’s a US empire – but that implies that it’s something to do with the American people, which of course it’s not. This is a corporate empire. Neither is it an endorsement or criticism of particular governments – all are controlled by the corporate empire, and support a pro-corporate agenda.

40 ways that corporate power trumps political power

  1. Corporate political donations: this article is Australia-focused, but covers the issues well; and see this investigation into what corporations can get for their money in the US.
  2. The corporate lobby industry – there are many times more political lobbyists than there are politicians.
  3. Ministers leave government and go straight onto the boards of mega-corporations and financial institutions; this is called the ‘revolving door’.
  4. Corporate representatives are more and more invited into government – unelected ministers or members of government committees are regularly drawn from banks and corporations.
  5. Politicians have personal financial interests in the banks and corporations they are supposed to regulate.
  6. More on the profitability of war for the corporate sector here and here.
  7. Most Western media are owned by billionaires, who, not surprisingly, support the current economic and political system that made them billionaires; they are able to shape public opinion and ridicule or ignore anti-corporate opinions.
  8. Newspapers and private TV stations depend on corporate advertising, and will pull stories with a negative slant on the corporate sector (although they will often expose individual corporations), and publish stories that give a positive slant to the world-view of corporate advertisers, because their livelihood depends on it. Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model describes how the business model of the corporate media is not delivering news to the public, but delivering audience to advertisers; in other words, the public is product, not the customer.
  9. Pharmaceutical corporations dump drugs that are banned in the West in poor countries, often increasing the price and recommended dosages.
  10. Did you vote for a party or join a union that wants better working conditions, a minimum wage or health & safety or environmental legislation? Corporations threatening to take factories and jobs elsewhere can put a stop to that.
  11. In the US, limits to how much corporations can spend on political advertising were lifted, and routes allowed for those donations to be made in secret, prioritising the influence of money over ordinary voters.
  12. Global institutions are run by and for corporations, (their internal operations are secret) to formulate global policies that national governments slavishly adhere to; a prime example is the World Bank;
  13. … and the World Trade Organisation;
  14. … and the International Monetary Fund;
  15. …..and global, secretive, corporate, highly-influential think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations;
  16. … and the Bildeberg Group (not the figment of conspiracy theorists’ imaginations, but a cosy – and secret – meeting of international corporate leaders, bankers and their politician chums);
  17. … and the Trilateral Commission
  18. The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) will allow corporations to sue elected governments if they introduce legislation (including environmental or health & safety legislation) that reduces corporate profits;
  19. … and the Trans-Pacific Partnership will do the same in Pacific rim nations.
  20. Corporate-sponsored domestic institutions, like the Pacific Legal Foundation in the US, which exists to defend corporations against environmental, workers’ rights and tax avoidance legislation.
  21. Corporate-funded ‘citizens’ groups’ (that are anything but), set up to campaign in the corporate interest.
  22. Public relations firms are paid by corporations to write pro-corporate articles for and letters to newspapers, and plant corporate stooges in public meetings, posing as ‘concerned citizens’. There are now more public relations employees engaged in these kinds of activities than journalists on both sides of the Atlantic.
  23. Embassies have secondees from corporations, who pay their wages, and diplomats, ex-diplomats and former ambassadors are now expected to open doors for corporations abroad.
  24. Credit rating agencies rate countries based on IMF / World Bank data; if they don’t adhere to corporate policies, they are downgraded and capital flows out of their country.
  25. The fractional / zero reserve banking system means that unelected banks, and not elected governments, control the money supply.
  26. Corporations can afford to provide products and services for free in locations where there is competition from small businesses, until the small companies are forced to close, and the corporations can then charge more than the small companies did.
  27. Government subsidies (and bail-outs) for banks and corporations – sometimes called ‘corporate welfare‘.
  28. Corporate tax avoidance.
  29. Corporate-funded ‘think-tanks’ producing pro-corporate reports.
  30. Corporate funding of university departments to tailor research towards corporate profit rather than the public good.
  31. Co-operation amongst giant corporations has created a de facto planned economy.
  32. The corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) designs legislation for US states.
  33. Corporate-sponsorship in schools – equipment, teaching materials and corporate fizzy-drink machines in schools, to get ’em young; in the US, corporate advertising is shown to children during lessons.
  34. Regulatory capture – corporate capture of agencies meant to control them.
  35. The introduction of GM crops means that our food supply will move towards being completely controlled by the corporate sector.
  36. The Global Redesign Initiative will allow the corporate sector to control the UN
  37. Metaregulation that enforces the prioritisation of corporate interests over public interests – e.g. the UK Deregulation Act.
  38. The ‘Sharing Economy‘, which sounds good, but actually allows corporations to suck even more money out of our communities.
  39. Legislation that criminalises whistleblowers and journalists who expose corporate wrong-doing – e.g. EU ‘Trade Secrets‘ legislation.
  40. They own more-or-less everything.

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