What is the best way to organise society? That question has been around since we started to be able to talk. In my world I like to add “what is the best way to organise society so it develops resilience and sustainability”.
I have pointed to writers like Aldous Huxley who, in his book “Brave New World revisited” , argues that our urbanization brings forth the desire for “the good order” and that the desire for “the good order” gets misued and turns into some kind of dictatorship. In Huxley’s case the Brave New World he refers to is his vision of a future Britain, where every child is produced in a test-tube to ensure genetic suitability.
One aspect of “the good order” is the idea that corporations are a good way to organize our activities. The basic design is neat: shareholders take the risk and share in the rewards, the corporation contributes to society by paying tax, and the corporation provides people with what they need and with jobs. So pervasive is the the idea that corporations are the best way that they can become the standard solution for a myriad of problems. Problems with healthcare? Privatise. Fed up with looking after support staff like reception, cleaning, etc? Bring in a company to do it. Got a business problem? Bring in a consulting company. Want a job? Look for a company to work for. Need new technology developing? Give a research grant to a company. The list goes on.
All corporations get income directly from the individual pockets of citizens (nowadays called consumers) or indirectly via authorities spending on behalf of citizens (like selling arms to a nation’s defence). Now, in this system corporations line up to compete for capital and to compete for the income from consumers. They also need to compete by pressing prices down and income up.
However, once you let this piece of societal DNA code loose – this corporate legislation – it may have unintended consequences. This is the idea of COPORATOCRACY – when corporate influence grows so large it manages in practice to side-step democracy and influence decision-making only for the good of the corporations. Corporacracy can go so far as to convince citizens that it is better to live in a corporacracy than a democracy – with arguments like “you get cooler gadgets and definitely better cars”.
Are we in that situation already? The recent US decision to allow corporations to spend limitlessly and anonymously on political campaigns would point to that we are dangerously close. And is this the situation we want? Maybe it is right, that our societal evolution should go from democracy to corporacracy.
To help you judge for yourself I list the characteristics of corporations below – against each one you can ask the question – has this gone too far out of all proportion to the point where it is actually threatening the way we live?
They need to grow. Growth brings the ability to pay equity owners a dividend, it brings economies of scale to push costs down, it makes the corporation more present and able to reach wider markets. It also means more taxes paid and a rise in popularity with local authorities.
They need to control. To ensure costs are kept down, to ensure competitors do not take their markets , to ensure consumers keep a friendly view of them – a level of control is needed.
They need to monetise. If anything is free it should not be fun. People having fun without paying is a lost business opportunity.
They need to inspire awe, to keep competitors away, to keep customers from complaining, to keep authorities from regulating them etc.
They need investors and consumers to believe in them. If you adopt the corporate model – where for example you get your milk from a corporation and not from a farmer – then you need to believe in that product is OK and that the corporation will do what it says it will do. You need to accept that the corporation has the power to deliver so you need to give the corporation the same level of trust you earlier put in the man who ran the local shop or the local farmer.
They need to standardise and repeat. Standardization means it is easier to control, and also reduces costs. The world run by corporations is one very much standardised. And they need repeat sales to keep the income flowing in to pay investors.
They need to communicate basic messages often. They will define concepts for their own benefits and convey messages as truths, regularly to keep up a profile and customers coming back for more.
They need to constantly get more money out of their system, for example by cutting input costs, raising prices or getting more out from what they put in.
For more on this topic, see my article on how Copenhagen city planning and architecture now reflects a complete sell-out to corporacracy.