William Astore
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
Generally speaking, major corporations prefer minimal pay and benefits for workers, a largely uncritical and powerless workforce and minimal taxes, as well as unlimited power for themselves, which they can then employ to influence elections and maximize profits.

What Do Corporations Want?

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In the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision from January 2010, we learned that corporations are citizens, entitled to the freedoms and rights we as ordinary American citizens enjoy. “Corporations are people, my friend,” insisted Mitt Romney to a group of hecklers on the campaign trail.

So, if corporations are people (a special class of people with lots and lots of money and influence and power), it's fair to ask what they want. Do they want the same things as the average citizen? Do they want decent pay for all, adequate health care for all, a solid education for all, and democratic structures that foster individual creativity, informed dissent and equitable power-sharing?

To ask these questions is to answer them. Generally speaking, major corporations prefer minimal pay and benefits for workers, a largely uncritical and powerless workforce and minimal taxes, as well as unlimited power for themselves, which they can then employ to influence elections and maximize profits.

In a word, they want control.

A largely unsung movie that captures this dream of corporate control is Rollerball (the original version with James Caan). It depicts a future in which there are no nations -- only major corporations like Energy, Housing, Transport, and Food. And these “majors,” explains an executive played memorably by John Houseman, make “decisions on a global basis for the common good.” They provide. And all they ask of ordinary folk, Houseman intones, is gratitude in the form of silent compliance, a tacit agreement "not to interfere with management decisions."

But James Caan refuses to play along. Confronted by his ex-wife Ella, now married to a member of the executive class, Caan thinks back to a dim past when people had a choice between “nice things or freedom; of course, they chose comfort.” “But comfort is freedom,” Ella objects. Corporations are providers who merely want “a kind of incidental control over just a part of our lives,” she concludes.

Refusing to be bought off, Caan triumphs in a violent sport whose rules are specifically designed to maim or kill him. (Think of this year's Hunger Games.) And we leave the theater celebrating his defiance.

Americans admire plucky individuals, those who cry “Give me liberty or give me death.” But how much liberty do we truly have when we cede so much power to corporations? When the supreme court of our land essentially empowers corporations to thwart democracy and to buy elections?

In the spirit of Orwell, we recognize the tyranny implicit in the phrase, “All citizens are equal -- but some are (much) more equal than others.” Yet despite this we've made it the law of the land. How much longer, then, until we're singing, like the crazed spectators in Rollerball, our very own corporate anthems?



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6 comments on "What Do Corporations Want?"

FredFlintstone

May 24, 2012 5:41pm

"how much liberty do we truly have when we cede so much power to corporations?"

There you go again with that Bacevich blame it on the masses crap. Is that the enlightened ex-Pentagon toady view now? Shit, why don't you morons get an education?

Riconui

May 24, 2012 3:22pm

We don't have to look too far to see what it is they want. We can just listen to their proxies like grover norquist who would like to drown government the bathtub. Or St. reagan who told us that "government isn't the solution, it's the problem". They simply do not like having to compete with government for control, They don't want to govern, they want to rule. They find the intrusive nature of government inconvenient to their maximization of profits and they especially do not like having to answer questions about their activities or being made to feel that someone else might have anything like power to influence the decisions they make. They are not comfortable with having someone with authority to call them to account for the damage they do to communities or to individuals and they do not like being held to account for their mistakes. Too bad. Those are all human traits, but these are not humans.

They either truly believe or they are pretending to believe their own BS about "free" markets and laissez faire, (while hoping that they are never forced to actually do business in such a way) having all the answers and making the distribution of wealth fair and equitable, and incredibly, blaming the inequity in our current economy on the presence of government regulations. Sadly, if one predicates their view of the economy on the obsequity and ignorance of the American public, they are going to be right about 50% of the time. There's a big part of the problem.

Rebel with a Cause

May 24, 2012 3:08pm

What makes the people in those corporations tick? I just can't understand it!
Maybe I'm lucky. I certainly wouldn't want to control other people's lives and wreck the planet to get filthy rich. Even though I'm painfully aware that I too contribute to pollution! But big oil won't let us run cars on hydrogen, even though it's technically possible. And agribusiness pumps chemical shit into the food supply! I could go on for days but what's the point? Bottom line is that in order to survive we have to get rid of these sicko's by whatever means available before they destroy everything!

Norman Allen's picture
Norman Allen

May 24, 2012 2:53pm

Corporations like to create a world of MATRIX where anyone who questions their reality is immediately unplugged from the society and discarded into a pile of dung. Complete control of humans is their goal for the benefit of the corporate board members and its officers....

Ronni85

May 24, 2012 1:00pm

"They" want total control. They want control over WE, the People, and they want control over all of the elected officials, with that, they control the country.
Isn't "their" supremely stupid court a wonderful entity. They do not even know what their prime responsibility is anymore.

Jeffrey Hill

May 24, 2012 12:16pm

Corporations want ALL of the Money (and that's NOT enough) and ALL of the Power to Dictate to Everyone what they can and can't do!

And they won't be satisfied with that because they are sick bastards!