"Corporate Socialism"

Sound like a pinko conspiracy? Well, Ralph Nader sees it as a pretty fair description of what we already have. "Safety net" hardly begins to describe the extent of the care our government takes for the welfare of big business, while "self-reliance" remains the best representation of what it offers to the individual. It's all part of the package Republicans and, increasingly, Democrats call the American way. The fact that Washington has been allowed to get away with such cynicism, and in fact to even boast of the basic "All-American" rightness of such theory and practice, should reveal just how low we have sunk as a people.

Nader's well-argued overview of the current state of American capitalism and how it got there, while uncharacteristically brief, is amazingly satisfying. It is also a critque by a defender of capitalism and ignoring such sanity would be folly for its practitioners and acolytes.

The relentless expansion of corporate control over our political economy has proven nearly immune to daily reporting by the mainstream media. Corporate crime, fraud and abuse have become like the weather; everyone is talking about the storm but no one seems able to do anything about it. This is largely because expected accountability mechanisms -- including boards of directors, outside accounting and law firms, bankers and brokers, state and federal regulatory agencies and legislatures -- are inert or complicit.

When, year after year, the established corporate watchdogs receive their profits or compensation directly or indirectly from the companies they are supposed to be watching, independent judgment fails, corruption increases and conflicts of interest grow among major CEOs and their cliques. Over time, these institutions, unwilling to reform themselves, strive to transfer the costs of their misdeeds and recklessness onto the larger citizenry. In so doing, big business is in the process of destroying the very capitalism that has provided it with a formidable ideological cover.

[Here he posits five "assumptions of a capitalistic system"]

"Corporate socialism" -- the privatization of profit and the socialization of risks and misconduct -- is displacing capitalist canons. This condition prevents an adaptable capitalism, served by equal justice under law, from delivering higher standards of living and enlarging its absorptive capacity for broader community and environmental values. Civic and political movements must call for a decent separation of corporation and state.

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Published on July 20, 2002 7:26 PM.

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