Fixing Capitalism Means Taking Power Back From Business (Links to an external site.)

David Rothkopf has written a book about the rivalry between big business and government. His article talks about how government has seen its power erode in the past several decades, while big business’s has increased.

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Globalization has enabled big business to pit one country’s government against another one to companies’ advantage. Originally, big business was supported (and centuries ago, even created) by governments and received special powers. (Interesting side note: The 14th amendment, created to protect the rights of former slaves, has been invoked more often–288 versus 19 times between 1890 and 1910–to protect and extend the rights of corporations than to do likewise for African Americans.) Recent court cases continue to expand the rights of corporate “individuals.” Big corporations have more money and power than most countries have and they have used both to their own advantage: “The current argument that larger government impinges on rather than protects or advances individual liberties is a far cry from the ideas that fueled England’s Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution. It ignores the fact that the void created by smaller government is often not filled by ‘liberty.’ When matters like the global environment or regulation of derivatives trading are left entirely to market forces, for instance, outcomes tend to serve the most powerful because markets neither have a conscience nor do they ensure opportunity.”

This type of conflict has happened before, but typically some substantial technological, social, or other disruption has occurred. Capitalism no longer has communism or socialism to keep it in check on a global basis. So it is expanding and securing its own power through oligopoly or political influence. Inevitably, big business will have to take a more significant role in providing social services if companies become more powerful than states. As the tension of this evolution continues, a period of great volatility could ensue.


It is ironic that the argument of a capitalistic free market (and its invisible hand) is being used by big businesses to become more powerful and that this development requires big business to become a provider of social services.

1) When people are opposed to “socialism”, but they are perfectly willing to give corporations more power than even the government has, what do you think people are ultimately against? Being nice to people? Being generous? Inclusive?

2) Are “Freedom” and “Socialism” mutually exclusive? Present some fascinating commentary and arguments

3) Are people who argue for free markets committed to the ideal only? What alternatives could exist that make markets work better for regular people, rather than Jeff Bezos?

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