Nina Paley 1, Noam Chomsky 0 By Roderick on August 12, 2011 8 Anarchy, Conflation Debate, Humor, Left and Right, Left-Libertarian
I never bought the “corporate control of government” idea. Some corporations benefit from the government because the state has every incentive to see economic power concentrated in beholden hands. It’s like a farmer taking good care of his oxen. The notion that evil corporations pull the strings of the state just enables the ridiculous fantasy that “if we just elected the right people” things would be better. The problem isn’t that corporations corrupt the democratic process or any other such stupidity, it’s that the state corrupts everything it comes in contact with.
It’s true that it’s silly and dangerous to imagine the problem with the state is that it is owned by the corporations. At the same time it’s wrong to think of “the government” as a monolithic alien evil imposing itself on society from some other dimension. The state isn’t “owned” by corporations, it’s made out of corporations. And elected officials, and cops and soldiers, and voters, and unions, and “news”people, and lots and lots of petty bureaucrats and agents. All of them have their own designs and none of them are necessarily less malevolent or stupid than the rest. The state is a complex confederation of assholes.
“The notion that evil corporations pull the strings of the state just enables the ridiculous fantasy that “if we just elected the right people” things would be better.”
Not really. It just signifies what anarchists have always known and emphasized: oppose the state, and you oppose capitalism. It doesn’t mean you resort to “bourgeois politics,” but that you resist the authoritarian tendencies of both. A decent education in history would offer you an idea of the relation between corporate interests and democratic process, from the instability of the 1890s to the New Deal in the 1930s to the present day. The State and Capital are interconnected; their power is mutually dependent.
I never disputed that. My point is that it’s not corporations calling the shots, and its really not a partnership either, unless to use the metaphor again, a farmer is in a partnership with his oxen. The state doesn’t act for the benefit of corporations because of money or class solidarity or any of that, they act in the interests of (some) corporations because those corporations are great tools for the exercise of state power. Furthermore it is a lot easier to control things if economic power is concentrated than if it’s widely dispersed.
As for the passage you quoted I stand by it. There is nothing inherently authoritarian about businesses, even ones that aren’t small scale co-ops or whatever. The state is always evil, it can’t not be. The notion that “corporations are calling the shots” is most often heard from left-statists and the average person who would believe that would infer from it that it’s not the state that’s the problem, it’s that the state has been corrupted.
Big businesses (whether or not organized as corporations) wouldn’t have the wealth and power they do without the state: they’re dependent on it. But the relationship between the state and the economic elite is multifold and complex: some politicians are already members of the economic elite and tend naturally to promote its interests; some politicians are suborned by the economic elite; and some use political power and influence to become members of the economic elite. This set of relationships isn’t a reason to “elect better people.” Rather, it’s what’s to be expected whenever an entity has the kind of power the state has. Whenever there’s a state, it will become a means of creating economic elites, a tool of those elites, and a mechanism by which the membership of elite groups is replenished.
I don’t entirely disagree, it just strikes me as further from the truth to claim that corporations control the state than to state that the state corrupts the realm of commerce. If an honest-to-Ahura Mazda anarchist makes the claim that corporations control the state, fine, I’ll disagree, because as you correctly point out it’s complicated. But when one usually hears this claim it’s from people like the character in the cartoon, they think that politics can be purified.
Which character in the cartoon? The remark about corporations owning the government is made by Mimi (pointy ears), but the one who thinks politics can be purified is Eunice (droopy ears). Mimi is the one who speaks for the author; Eunice usually doesn’t. (Hence the names.)