A provison that protects the biotech giant from litigation passed Congress without many members knowing about it
A provison that protects the biotech giant from litigation passed Congress without many members knowing about it
… In short the military, like the large corporation, is a giant, bureaucratic, irrational, and authoritarian institution which can only survive through parasitism — enabled by the state — on the working class.
… A global superpower founded on the principles of information control and fear and distrust of its own people cannot long endure. We already saw one superpower so founded collapse from the weight of its own internal contradictions. I expect the second one to fall within our lifetimes. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
In the past week, we have been witness to the spectacle of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, events where both parties leave no stone unturned in their attempts to gain the confidence of voting Americans. Perhaps the biggest and best opportunity during presidential campaigns for the parties to differentiate themselves from each other, but the similarities between the two conventions cannot be overlooked. …
… The idea of the “corporation” is just a codification of certain artificial state privileges into law — an effect, not a cause. Corporate power has certainly subsequently become the cause of, or at least compounded, many economic distortions itself, but in principle those distortions could have, and probably would have, been implemented through single proprietorships and limited partnerships if the corporation had never been invented. It’s the impulse (and the ability) to seek wealth and power through government privilege rather than through market competition which is the problem; the corporation just happens to be the best available tool for the job. …
… Government is not and never has been a “counterbalance” to corporate power. In fact, it’s historically been the primary enabler, the symbiotic partner, and a significant beneficiary of that power. The idea that an institution whose employees keep a revolving door spinning between Capitol Hill and the K Street offices of the corporate lobbies, an institution afloat in a sea of corporate campaign donations, an institution groomed to the express task of transferring money from the taxpayer’s pocket to the corporate bottom line, can act as a “counterbalance” to corporate power is absurd on its face. …
Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hayes discuss “the prevailing ethos in America’s elite institutions that have rendered them so corrupted and the seminal episodes that made Hayes abandon his previously held trust in institutional authority.”Source:
Last Tuesday’s vote to recall (or not) Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is just the latest illustration of a positive feedback loop we’ve been in for some time.
Capitalism — the 500-year-old historic system of political economy we actually live under — had heavily depended on the state since the beginning. It was founded on expropriation of peasant land and military conquest of free cities in the original European homelands of capitalism, and expanded through land expropriation and enslavement of peoples around the world. Industrial capitalism was founded, in Britain, on Enclosures and the imposition of totalitarian social controls on the working class. Modern American corporate capitalism was created by the industrial policy of the American state from the Civil War on.
The current model of global neoliberal capitalism is enabled by a legal framework pushed through under Clinton in the 1990s: NAFTA, the Uruguay Round, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, TRIPS, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the Telecommunications Act. This last upward ratcheting of state intervention led to an explosion of corporate profits. Corporate management and the rentier classes have found it a profitable investment to secure the state policies they need to become even more wealthy.
Which takes us back to that positive feedback loop. To repeat, the wealth of the ruling class is derived from rents enforced by the state. And they use part of that wealth to tighten their control of the state, which further increases their state-enabled rents, and so on.
The state has always been “the executive committee of the ruling class.” But in many times and places, it’s had the autonomy to promote the long-term interests of the ruling class as a whole, and the long-term stability of the system, even if it meant lowering short-term profits or the profitability of particular economic sectors.
One function of the state, when it functions ideally on behalf of the ruling class as a whole, is to overcome prisoners’ dilemmas in which individual capitalist rapacity undermines the sustainability of capitalism as a whole. A good example was the Ten-Hour Day legislation in Britain, as described by Marx:
“These acts curb the passion of capital for a limitless draining of labour power, by forcibly limiting the working day by state regulations, made by a state that is ruled by capitalist and landlord. … [T]he limiting of factory labour was dictated by the same necessity which spread guano over the English fields.”
The problem is, as capitalist control of the state becomes increasingly direct and day-to-day, the more state policy approaches the character of strip-mining or slash-and-burn agriculture: Maximizing short-term profitability at the risk of destabilization. And that’s what we’ve been seeing in recent years: The most reckless and rapacious wing of corporate capital has politically defeated the more “progressive” wing, thrown off all self-control, and begun milking the system for all it can get. As privilege leads to more money to more privilege to more money, ad nauseam, the system takes on the character of a runaway machine without a governor.
The good news is, all this means corporate capitalism is unsustainable. The reason for the shift from the “progressive” model of New Deal or Consensus Capitalism to the more exploitative neoliberal model is that the older model failed. It was only able to save corporate capitalism from the Depression in the first place because FDR, Hitler and Churchill “solved” the problem of excess production capacity by blowing up most of it.
FDR and Truman built a permanent war economy that persists to this day for occupying much of the surplus capacity that remained. But even so, Japan and Europe rebuilt their productive capacity by 1970. Since then corporate capital has become increasingly dependent on state-subsidized export of capital, depression of wages, increasingly draconian “intellectual property” law, ever-larger bubbles in the FIRE economy, ever-larger military budgets, and other similar expedients, to remain nominally profitable.
It’s now reached the point where it can only remain profitable by abandoning even the pretense of democracy and asserting naked control of the political system, as demonstrated in the recent ALEC scandal and Tuesday’s vote in Wisconsin. The plutocracy is transforming the American political system into an undisguised banana republic on the model of the Marianas Islands under Abramoff and Delay. Michigan’s undertaken the kind of kleptocratic looting associated with Boris Yeltsin, forcing municipalities into receivership and giving away tax-funded infrastructure to crony capitalists.
So at the very time corporate capital is most dependent on the state for subsidies and to suppress competing self-organized economic models, and the state itself is being bankrupted by these demands, the system is stripping itself of the legitimizing veil that has heretofore secured public compliance. This won’t end well for them.
Sadly, if not surprisingly, some on the right-wing fringe of the libertarian movement are jumping all over themselves these days to defend the American Legislative Exchange Council — ALEC — as a lobby for “limited government” and “free markets.”
Competitive Enterprise Institute chief Fred Smith characterizes the attack on ALEC (a “free market group” of “CEOs willing to stand up for free enterprise”) as part of a broader move to “drive all market voices from the marketplace of ideas.” He frames the conflict as ALEC’s attempt to “expose … capricious legislation,” versus radical attempts to “silence” ALEC (“Letter to the Editor — An Attempt to Drive Free Market Voices from the Field,” Wall Street Journal, April 25).
Ron Bailey at Reason (“Leftwing Pitchforkers: Kill the Limited Government Monsters!” April 26) calls ALEC a “limited government think tank” whose chief offense for the Left is supposedly “advocating free markets.” As evidence, he links to accusations by The Nation that ALEC promotes a “vast procorporate strategy” and writes “‘model’ legislation designed to boost the profits of its corporate members.” So apparently big business interests secretly collaborating with government to boost their profits = “free enterprise.”
Participants in the “marketplace of ideas” generally try to maximize public attention to their ideas. When they draft legislation in their own interest, in settings designed to minimize the chance of public notice, terms like “railroad job” are more appropriate. Contra Smith, it’s ALEC that’s tried its best to keep the debate “silent”— and its critics who’ve done the “exposing.”
Let’s take a look at some of the “free market” interests involved in ALEC and their “limited government” agenda: ALEC’s “model bills” are written mainly by corporate lawyers representing firms like Exxon-Mobil, Pfizer, and the Corrections Corporation of America.
Let’s start with Exxon-Mobil. The oil industry’s probably not the best examplar of libertarian values. In general terms, extractive industries like fossil fuels and mining have a long history of collusion with murderous regimes around the world, when access to resources is impeded by local populations living over them. Hence the crimes against humanity in Nigeria carried out at the instigation of Shell, and in Indonesia under its earlier name Royal Dutch Shell. Exxon-Mobil, in particular, colluded with the Indonesian government in carrying out human rights violations at Aceh (e.g. providing the government with excavation equipment to dig mass graves for those murdered by an Indonesian military unit hired by Exxon-Mobil).
In the United States, ALEC strongly supports state capitalist projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline, and “fracking” and mountaintop removal operations. The former would be impossible without eminent domain to secure rights-of-way. The latter depend heavily on privileged access to vacant land preempted by the state, and on safe harbors created by regulatory preemption of common law liability standards for groundwater and air pollution and other environmental harm (just look at respiratory disease stats for kids in schools close to mountaintop removal actions).
You probably wouldn’t expect the agenda of private prison corporations like CCA to carry a whole lot of “free enterprise” street cred. And you’d be right. First of all, the model of “privatization” exemplified by private prison companies, with revenue directly provided by the state or profits guaranteed by the state, is more accurately called “corporatism.” And second, the private gulag industry has a huge vested interest in policies (like Arizona’s “Papers, Please” law, written by CCA’s busy scribblers) that keep as large a share of the population as possible under lockdown.
The private correctional industry, somewhat unusually for “limited government” types, sees the decriminalization of consensual activity as bad for its business model. The GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut) 2011 annual report warned that “demand for our correctional facilities and services” could be reduced by less restrictive drug and immigration law. An industry whose profits depend on America having a larger prison population than Red China — pretty “libertarian,” eh?
Another major item in the ALEC agenda is so-called “tort reform.” Now, most libertarians favor replacing the regulatory state with a vigorous system of tort law. The most effective way to punish pollution and other forms of corporate malfeasance is to make wrongdoers pay full civil damages for the harm they caused. The “loser pays” rule, the centerpiece of virtually every so-called reform package, would cripple any such system of civil liability by making civil action insupportably risky for all but the very rich.
Adam Smith, writing almost 240 years ago, could teach these modern-day “libertarians” a thing or two: “Men of the same trade seldom meet together” — let alone go hunting with Dick Cheney and Antonin Scalia — “but that it ends in a conspiracy against the public.”
ALEC’s proposals represent “free enterprise” in much the same way that a chain gang from one of their “private” prisons represents “free assembly.”