2.8. Why Big Corporations Almost Always Get Their Way

It’s inevitable, when you look at how globalization has proceeded.

The past couple weeks, we’ve been talking a lot in these videos about the government, and the economy.

And with good reason. They’re the two most influential institutional systems in our society.

But there’s another major actor out there: the people.

It’s useful to think about how the relationship between governments, economic actors, and the people of the world has evolved over time.

Back in the day, governments had pretty close to total control over the economy and their people. There were very few free markets. And the people didn’t have many freedoms either.

But starting around 1750, the economy and the people started to break away.

Democratic revolutions gave people more freedoms. And at the same time, the Industrial Revolution ushered in modern capitalism.

It resulted in less power for governments, which was generally a good thing. But it also created new relationships, and new tensions.

The new capitalist economy was exploiting a lot of workers, making them work long hours for little pay, spurring calls for communism—which neither governments nor businesses wanted.

So, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the government stepped in with new laws and regulations to reduce economic exploitation.

A lot of businesses, of course, cried that those regulations had gone too far—while a lot of people felt they didn’t go far enough. But regardless, those interventions helped keep things from getting out of hand, and maintain a stable balance of power between those three big groups of actors.

But starting in the 1970s, this balance started becoming unstable again.

The triggering factor was globalization. The economy had always been global to some extent, of course. But after World War II, it reached a new level of integration. And the explosion of digital technologies in the past twenty-five years has accelerated this process even further.

In short, the governments of the world are divided. The people of the world are divided. But the global economy isn’t divided.

That’s led to international corporations getting the upper hand in their dealings with governments, since they can threaten to move jobs overseas if they don’t get their way. Governments have had little choice but to comply. And their people have suffered the consequences, as businesses have reshaped the government to serve their own interests, instead of the people’s.

There’s no one cause to all of our problems. But this imbalance that’s tipped the balance of power to economic elites and given them the upper hand over governments and ordinary people is as close to one as it gets.

There’s only one way to fix it. We can’t break up the global economy. And that means we’re going to have to make the governments and the people of the world more unified.

That means we’re going to have to figure out how to achieve a level of global cohesion, cooperation, and integration that we’ve never reached before.

The people and governments of the world need to join forces and go big to keep the power of economic elites in check. We need to be globalist, not nationalist, in our approach.

That’s the only way the people of the world will be able to get their governments working for them again.

 

This is the 36th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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