Wal-Mart is Larger than Norway...
Any epoch of capitalism allegedly premised on competition is visible only from our rearview mirror. It is a leftist truism that in the process of competition, capitalism destroys competition. Competition, therefore, is transformed into its opposite: monopoly. Capitalism no longer survives by enlarging competition, but rather by forestalling it.
The supreme outcome of the contemporary globalization of monopoly capital has been an amplification of world exploitation, poverty rates, wealth disparities, and food insecurities. Since the mid-1970s the rate of world growth has stalled by nearly 70%. (http://www.nationofchange.org/public-republican-privatization-prisons-an...) And one consequence of decelerating rates of growth has been a turn to financialization by giant firms unable to find sufficiently high return investment outlets in production. Beginning in the early 1980’s large corporations gradually began to rely on speculative investments made possible by highly leveraged assets. Overleveraged capital has resulted in a global financial crisis at a time when state systems everywhere are increasingly subject to the vagaries of the “market” and are forced to subsidize the failures of corporate capitalism through taxpayer sponsored “bailouts.” Leaders at national, regional, and municipal levels have begun to counter—so they say—the resulting fiscal crises by disinvesting in social services and by creating more regressive tax systems, thereby intensifying the effective level of exploitation. Hence, the internationalization of monopoly capital, rather than contributing to the stabilization of global systems, is aggrandizing crises in both the scarcely indistinct private and public sectors.
The repugnance of inequality has become deeper and more entrenched. Today the richest 2% of adult individuals own more than half of global wealth, with the richest 1% accounting for 40% of total global assets. Although the gap in per capita income between the richest and poorest regions of the world fell from 15:1 to 13:1during the golden age of Keynesianism, it increased by 19:1 by 2002. And from 1970 to 2009 the per capita GDP of developing countries (excluding China) averaged a mere 6.3% of the per capita GDP of the G8 countries (the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, and Russia).
The opening decade of the twenty-first century has seen surges of food crises, with hundreds of millions of people chronically food-deprived, in an era of rising food prices and widespread speculation. In a report released last week by The World Hunger Organization 17.2 million U.S. households were food insecure in 2010, the highest level on record, as the Great Recession continues to wreak havoc on families across the country. On a global scale, the World Bank reports that over half the global population lives on less than $2.50 per day and over 800 million people go hungry daily. And according to UNICEF nearly 8 million human beings died in 2010 because they were simply too poor to stay alive. Meanwhile, the U.N. reported in 2005 that the richest 500 people in the world earned more than the poorest 416 million. According to the same report the richest 350 people in the world own assets commensurable to more than 50% of the world’s population. And finally, according to a 1998 UN Development Report the wealthiest 15 people on the planet have assets that exceed the total annual income equal to the poorest 98% of those living on the African continent.
The transcendent irony of the internationalization of monopoly capital is that this entire thrust toward monopolistic multinational-corporate development has been justified at every turn by a neoliberal ideology rooted in the vaulted rhetoric of “free market” competition. Claims like these are specious and empirically assailable.
For example, if Wal-Mart were a country— according to a June, 2011 Report issued by Business Insider— its revenues would exceed the GDP Norway, the 25th largest economy in the world. In less than three minutes Business Insider debunks the mythology of free-market ideologues: Yahoo is larger than Mongolia, Visa is larger than Zimbabwe, Nike is larger than Paraguay, McDonalds is larger than Latvia, Amazon.com is larger than Kenya, Apple is larger than Ecuador, Ford is larger than Morocco, Bank of America is larger than Vietnam, General Electric is larger than New Zealand, Chevron is larger than the Czech Republic, and Exxon- Mobil is larger than Thailand. http://www.businessinsider.com/25-corporations-bigger-tan-countries-2011... The monopolization of big business is endemic to capitalism. And the monopolization of capitalism produces corporatism. And corporatism bastardizes any prospect of establishing accessible and accountable democratic institutions and practices.
Take, for instance, the unrivaled monopolization of the U.S. financial sector. In 1990, the ten largest domestic financial institutions held a scant 10% of total financial assets. Today they own nearly 70%. (Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich asks, “how else could we explain their apparent coordination on charging debit card fees?”) The largest six U.S. banks now hold $10 trillion in assets. http://www.ffiec.gov/nicpubweb/nicweb/top50form.aspx Big banks ought to be partitioned (or destroyed). Perhaps we could learn from the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, a piece of legislation designed not only to encourage economic efficiency by reducing the market power of economic giants like railroads companies but also to thwart companies from becoming so large that their political power would undermine the democratic process.
The “capitalist” aspiration is ultimately one of irreducible self-annihilation. Corporate capitalists consecrate and condemn competition in the same breath and in so doing mistake mirrors for windows, growth for progress, and competition for contradiction.