Let’s take a moment and exaggerate, a little, the possible effects of unlimited corporate involvement in U.S.-style democracy. We could have the war industry buying presidents and launching us into illegal wars. We could have the bottled-water industry buying senators and pushing for weakened water standards so that our rivers, streams and even tap water is poisoned and we’re forced to buy purified water. We could have a private prison industry buying hard-liner law-and-order candidates that push for more and more prisoners and hence, more and more prisons.
Seriously, where I live in Guadalajara, Mexico, a fair city of about 4 million, we all buy our water from Coke. Three times a week I walk to the corner store and fork over $2 for a 20-liter jug that allows me to safely wash my mushrooms, make my tea and hallucinate. In a very unscientific survey of some friends, we determined that we average about $5 each per week for water. Each year, in this city, we spend about $1 billion just for water.
Surely for that same amount of money over a period of 30 years we could treat the local waterways, regulate pollution and fix the infrastructure. But no, instead, because of corporate governance in the world today, Coke gets $1B a year. That’s slightly more money than Haiti’s entire national debt — which ironically at this moment the world is debating whether or not to forgive.
Now imagine, if you will, your own fair city. Corporate cronies from marketing to distribution are currently dreaming up schemes of how to get you to be like us and buy your water in little jugs. It’s good for business. After all, bottled water has been one of the fastest growing new segments of the U.S. economy for more than a decade now. Investors are counting on us.
Try to fully understand this concept: corporate involvement in the way the world is structured. In the United States business law allows you to do business as a limited liability entity. Limited liability means that if you are going to kill someone, or take it down a notch and just say compromise something, that in the future you might be found guilty of — well, why not do it in a limited liability way and therefore collect your revenues without fear of punitive repercussions.
Now this will take some imagination but follow with me if you will to some future world where the people have run out of resources. Their water is dirty, there are no fish. The wildlife has all migrated to unpopulated places so there is nothing left to hunt. Nothing to eat but factory-farm cows and nothing to drink but factory purified (and why not, Prozac-tainted) water (hey corporate cronies: I want my cut for coming up with the idea). Okay, so these people, out of a desire to survive, re-order their society. They take all those dollars and they clean up their environment. It’s a tough and dirty and difficult task, but it’s possible — humans are extremely creative and resourceful when it comes to survival; think of us as large cockroaches. And so they will, in order to survive, clean the water and fix the things that are broken. At that point, they will seek damages — it’s in our nature as Americans. If something is wrong, someone must pay.
How convenient — limited liability. Multiple investors with diversified portfolios means we’re all indicted. The corporation thinks up a crime — selling war toys to children, for instance — and as consumers and investors and simply tax-payers, we’re all involved, perpetuating a crime against ourselves.
As true prognosticators of doom let us welcome in the new error of unregulated corporate spending in U.S. elections with wagging tails and open arms. There will be no end to the greedy ways business-people dream up to compromise our world in search of the dollar. We saw what a great idea unregulated banks was. With Bush Jr. Supreme Court appointees Alito and Roberts the nay-sayers were warning the wrath of 50 years of bad decisions that would change the world forever. If John Roberts, born in 1955, serves as long as John Paul Stevens, he’ll be around until 2040. The fun has yet to begin, boys, put on your helmets. The guys at Coke are dreaming up the future.
Yet, really, all we’re doing is postponing the inevitable as we take this form of unregulated capitalism to it’s end — concentrating wealth into the hands of the fewest, which always, historically, results in injustice and then, too, rebellion. Yes, friends, this move one step closer to the end of the road is a good one.
The truth is the hidden (and often not-so-hidden) influence of corporate greed in U.S. politics has long been a fact. How else could the most influential nation in the world be the number one contaminator, number one in prison population, number one in consumerism, number one in war spending and corporate welfare as a whole. How else could scandals like Enron, KB&R, AIG, BOA, the Corrections Corporation of America, take place if not with the bribed influenced of our leaders.
Little do we remember that we’ve trod these paths before. In the 1880s our founding fathers' and fore-mothers' fear of the European corporate powers they’d fled finally were over-run and corporations were given free rein. In response to their new freedom, they created monopolies.
Some say fascism is a state that is aligned almost completely with corporate interests. What’s amazing after last week’s Supreme Court ruling further reducing the restrictions on corporate government alignment, is that there is anyone willing to vocalize their support. Like me. But then again, maybe I’m just a Republican, urging on this on-coming, almost inevitable disaster with this experiment we call Democracy. — Joshua Greene, former Free Times staff writer