If you want corporate accountability you have two choices:
- Keep corporations small
- Let government get big
You can’t regulate Big Business with Small Government. Take your pick.
Well, neither. No one needs a huge government full of cronies of the industries who they are supposed to be watching. Inevitably, those people hire more cronies in government and then you have a system where both industry and government is monopolized by the few.
Eeep! That is dystopian, to my way of thinking.
Can we not have a system where corporations are always less than people? And government never has enough power to be worth buying?
But even without cronyism and government corruption, a bare-bones regulatory mechanism couldn’t possibly hope to keep tabs on a bunch of multinational mega-corporations.
You want to make sure that some multi-billion dollar industry isn’t cheating on environmental regulations or abusing intellectual property or skirting antitrust laws or violating equal employment standards or doing any of the other things we don’t want them to do? Then somebody’s going to have to hire a bunch of health inspectors and regulators and prosecutors and whatnot.
I think you just described the setting for Snow Crash.
On the other side of “above the law”:Thrown Out of Court
How corporations became people you can’t sue.
Stories documenting Americans’ fabled zeal for lawsuits are legion. There’s the one about the old lady who sued McDonald’s over a cup of coffee that was too hot, or about the guy who took Anheuser-Busch to court because his six-pack failed to deliver visions of beautiful women clad in bikinis on a balmy beach.
Yet while anecdotes about frivolous litigation have risen to the rank of cliché, the number of lawsuits brought by Americans has actually been falling for decades. The latest data shows that, on a per capita basis, the total number of cases commenced in U.S. district courts fell by 11 percent between 1996 and 2013, personal injury cases by 58 percent, and civil rights cases by 29 percent. At the state level, the number of tort cases filed per capita between 2001 and 2010 dropped by 23 percent in Texas district courts, by 29 percent in California superior courts, and by 30 percent in New York supreme and county courts.
Yabbut that could all be done by industry organizations! There obviously wouldn’t be any corruption, cheating, or cronyism in those organizations because … um … because the invisible hand of Ayn Rand would automagically keep everybody honest. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
I don’t understand why large companies need more regulators. If we had the same amount of economic activity, divided across hundreds of thousands of small companies, how could we possibly need fewer regulators? There are what, like 4000 oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico? So if they were owned by 2000 mom and pop shops it would be easier to regulate than 10 or 15 huge companies? Multiply that across fifty different geographies and industries?
My cousin worked for a 20-odd person tannery as their “environmental inspector”. His job mostly consisted of figuring out how to bury chemicals in the ground without getting caught.
The same people who are willing to lie, cheat, and steal at a 20B company are the same ones willing to do it at a 2M company.
Huge corps have all kinds of problems (regulatory capture etc.) but they’re actually EASIER to keep an eye on if we’re so inclined.
The same reason they need more managers. The more complex the organization, the harder it is to get to the bottom of all the things they’re up to. Also, if an issue goes to court you’d better hope you’ve got a legal team who can match the guys you’re prosecuting.
But a 20B company can commit shenanigans that a 20M company couldn’t dream of, like flaunting antitrust laws on a global scale or swaying national elections.
While you’re correct that it doesn’t necessarily take less inspectors, etc., to regulate a bunch of smaller companies, the problem isn’t a question of more or less inspectors, its about how easily regulators can be co-opted and captured. Smaller companies have less money to throw around and less power, and thus they will have less ability to overpower regulators or buy them off via revolving door, etc. Its not as if smaller firms automagically equals less corruption, but just like its hard to coordinate the masses towards a common goal, its harder to wrangle a bunch of competing firms towards a single goal than just two or three.
What bothers me so much about the era we live in is that its not like this shit is new. We went through all of this before, less than 100 years ago. We used to know that monopoly/oligopoly was dangerous and undemocratic. But now the neoliberals have managed to turn reality on its head and get people believing all sorts of shit that just isn’t true. Contrary to what arrogant contemporaries think, people in the past were NOT stupid, and we are not more sophisticated. If anything, we’re more naive and susceptible to bullshit narratives that ignore the dynamics of power. We’d better relearn our history fast, because once the practices that have exploded since '08 (mainly outright lawlessness of large firms) become cemented into our reality it might be too late for us to change things.
My experience has been that government organizations vastly prefer large (although not necessarily huge) organizations as they have the staff and experience and most importantly, money, to properly comply with government regulation. Smaller business are constantly trying to cut corners instead hiring the lawyers and other staff to properly handle paperwork.
Regulation to a large degree is a fixed cost, or at least its subject to large economies of scale. To properly comply with all regulations from all departments at all levels of government is going to require a significant amount of labor from experienced (read expensive) staff who are conversant with the regulations, and stays up to date with all standards.
Small business owners, instead of ponying up the $100K, which may well be more than the annual revenues of the organization will constantly try to do it themselves, or worse, ignore regulations. Overworked government officials must then try to puzzle out and enforce conformance.
Larger businesses require more regulators, but in a vastly smaller proportion to their revenues.
In my experience when people complain about “big government” they usually mean an ever-increasingly complex central government, not a bunch of people working strictly at the local level. It’s that “complex central government” kind of regulation which is required to regulate large organizations like multinational corporations.
Just as you can’t rely on a small-town deputy to take down Al Capone, you can’t depend on a bunch of local functionaries to effectively regulate a multi-billion-dollar industry. It requires coordination and resources that bunch of little guys just can’t match.
(sigh), yes . . . .
It seems like part of the problem is a still lingering fear of communism, and since capitalism “won” the cold war, now we have to let it have its way with us, consequences be damned. To hear some people talk, any regulation is just a sign of totalitarianism, and any taxation is just redistribution of wealth, and there’s no grey area in between.
You say that as if redistribution of wealth was a bad thing.
We need more of this, that’s for sure:
I have an idea how to minimise the danger, and fear of, big government…
Fucking crowdsource it, dammit. These days we have the means to create direct democracy.
There was a cartoon in my high school history book that’s always stuck with me. When I saw it I realized how little things had changed. The only difference was that at one time newspapers were willing to print such cartoons because more of their money came from subscribers than advertisers.
Yeah, I’ve seen so many cartoons like that from prior eras. We’ve become so naive we think at least some of the trusts of today, companies like Apple and Google, actually care about us.
I’d rather not be included in that comment, having witnessed the last 25 years or so with a sense of growing horror at this abominable villainy…
…Somehow, I think good old Gough is emblematic of the whole damned shamozzle of ostensibly attempted democracy…
Once in a blue moon, along comes a guy who actually, obviously, is there for the people, but still nonetheless he has a one or two critical failings which might have brought him undone, and bam! just for good measure, he gets completely fucking shafted by the scumbag brigade in the end anyway.