(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout) For some people, particularly the young and the old, the local mall or big-box retailer or superstore is an important part of their social lives. They get exercise by walking up and down the aisles, greet friends they see only there, and have a special and often inexpensive meal. They notice what’s on sale and what’s new in stock, making both intentional purchases and the occasional impulse buy. Are Superstores and Malls “the New Downtown”?
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout) Arizona changed its law after 1886 so that the word person would include nonliving as well as living legal entities: “‘Person’ includes a corporation, company, partnership, firm, association or society, as well as a natural person.”[1]
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout) Although we have much that we might change about our government and business, it’s clear that we also have a great and noble heritage on which to build and many great leaders in whose footsteps we can follow. Unlike America’s Founders, however, we don’t have to start from a blank piece of paper. The Founders set the principles for us, and they inspired the world over—from the French Revolution to Tiananmen Square. Our job is to pick up the torch of liberty. In this chapter we ask, “Is this a biased view, or do others see a problem, too?” This time we look to three powerful proponents of capitalism and free enterprise: a billionaire, a Nobel laureate who was chief economist of the World Bank, and Business Week magazine. The Charitable Billionaire
(Image: JR / Truthout) The people have got to know if their president is a crook,” U.S. President Richard Nixon told a national television audience on November 11, 1973, when asked at a press conference if donations from the dairy industry had caused him to reverse his position on dairy price supports. He added, “Well, I am not a crook.” A bit over two years earlier, however, Nixon had a meeting at the White House with representatives of the dairy industry, who had apparently just given him a $2 million campaign pledge. With the tape running on March 23, 1971, Nixon said, “Uh, I know…that, uh, you are a group that are politically very conscious…And you’re willing to do something about it. And, I must say a lot of businessmen and others…don’t do anything about it. And you do, and I appreciate that. And I don’t have to spell it out.”
(Image: JR / Truthout) In researching this book, I ran across an astonishing piece of writing from our nation’s early years. It’s a fitting prologue for this chapter. In May 1831, a young French aristocrat named Alexis de Tocqueville arrived in the young nation of the United States of America. He was here at a pivotal time in American history. In the “Revolution of 1800,” Thomas Jefferson had ousted John Adams’s minority Federalist Party (largely made up of what Jefferson called “the rich and the well born”) and shifted control of the government to the Jeffersonian Democrats. To de Tocqueville (and most Europeans), American democracy was still very much an unproven experiment. De Tocqueville himself was skeptical that the American Experiment would last, as he thought that the “natural” state of man was to live in an aristocracy, but he was fascinated by the idea of an aristocracy made up of the workers. He was both skeptical and hopeful.
(Image: JR / Truthout) Equal trade, fair trade, honest, decent trade requires reasonable balance between trading partners and strong domestic economies. When that happens, Adam Smith’s model works pretty well: prices for labor, materials, and finished goods all settle near the area where they “naturally” should be. But as we’ve seen from the immensely imbalanced statistics on distribution of wealth in chapter 19, something is not working the way Smith envisioned. Wages appear to be dwindling, and the number of strong, healthy competitors appears to be shrinking. Want a copy of the book? Receive “Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became ‘People’ – And How You Can Fight Back” as a thank-you gift with a donation of $35 or more to Truthout.
(Image: JR / Truthout) In the absence of the controls recommended by the Founders and early state regulation, corporations have continued to grow in size and power without limit. But they haven’t done it just by creating new wealth in the economy. Much of it, instead, has been accomplished by increasingly consolidating existing wealth, moving it out of the hands of the middle class and into the hands of the top few percent of Americans economically. Of course, some new wealth has been generated, but nowhere near enough to explain the observable facts.*
(Image: JR / Truthout) There are resources and there are resources. For corporations, resources include raw materials, labor, the property and the equipment they use, the talents of the people they employ, and cash. For humans, resources include air, water, food, shelter, clothing, health care, and the means of exchange to ensure these.