Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Against Corporate greed we need to be in a big battalion

‘Banks are pretty good at getting round rules,’ a senior financier recently told the Guardian, ‘if there are restrictions on us paying bonuses, we will be looking at paying some other kind of allowances.’

Meanwhile, among all the noise about Google, Amazon and Starbuck’s miserly contribution to the national exchequer in Britain, we hear from Senator John McCain 
that even the saintly Apple corporation is ‘among America's largest tax avoiders.’ 

You want to take these guys on?
You're going to need the clout that only size can give.
There seems to be a mood developing in a number of countries to try to rein in corporate greed. That’s the greed of the corporations themselves, uninterested in paying more than a minimal amount in tax to the jurisdictions in which they operate, and the greed of the people who lead them, passionately interested in maximising the amount they can take out of the companies they lead.

The US has the economic might that would allow it to make a move in this direction, but it’s probably best not to hold our breaths: those same corporations are also the biggest donors to political campaign funds. While they control the ability of politicians to get elected in the first place, there’s not a lot of chance of getting the politicians to control their behaviour. I’ve argued it before, and I’ll argue it again: ban political advertising on TV and suddenly you’ve cut the cost of political campaigns and, at a stroke, massively reduced the power of lobbies to dictate policy to elected officials through their wallets.

The US has the muscle to take on the corporations. Now it needs to find the will. 

Curiously, another body that probably has the muscle, simply because it represents such a huge market, is the European Union. It has recently shown signs of having the will as well, as it starts to look at bankers bonuses and at tax regimes. Could be interesting to see what happens in the next three or four years.

Because what’s at stake is fundamental: who shall run our societies, the citizens who inhabit them and make up their electorates, or just that tiny privileged handful who control the big corporations? Right now, the power of the latter leaves very little say to the former.

What’s curious in this context is to see that it’s precisely now that there is such a groundswell in Britain to leave the EU. Bob Crow, General Secretary of National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, was recently arguing the case for departure, from the left, but the most strident voices are coming from the right.

Most people campaigning against the EU, and certainly Bob Crow, would argue that they are forcefully opposed to excessive corporate power. But if Britain were to leave, it would on its own be far too small to exert much authority, it would lose the ability to influence the EU’s decisions, and it would weaken the EU’s own stance by depriving it of one of the main economies currently in its fold.

Big corporations run the world. To take them on, we need the power that a big bloc gives us. Far from giving up our rights by being in the EU, we join 350 million citizens in giving ourselves the clout to stand a chance of defending them.

The Europhobes demand a referendum on the subject of Britain’s membership, proclaiming that simple democratic principle dictates that there should be one. What they ignore is that if a referendum were held and it led to Britain’s exit, it would further erode any democratic control of the forces that shape our lives.

Surely not exactly what they intend, is it?


Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

Students in the U.S. are beginning the work with a divestiture movement against big oil. That's a start we could be supporting in our own stock portfolios. It won't be easy. I tried years ago and my broker pretty much ignored me while I went around blissfully believing I wasn't supporting the oil companies except at the pump. (With my Prius I tried really hard to make that as support as small as possible.)

David Beeson said...

Yes, you're right: a lot can be done at the personal level, as well as that of the state. The two together would really start to build the pressure. But congratulations on your action, in the meantime.