Submitted by Chris Travers
Corporations, these days, seem to rule the world. They have undue
influence on national policy and they seem to dominate every aspect of
our life. The harsh fact is that they have this influence because we
have given it to them and we are now at a time when if we don’t stand
up, our options may slowly become more and more limited.
So how can we fight? As the recent health care reform attempts have
showed, when reform is attempted, industry groups will turn it around
to their advantage, and eventually make off as bandits. Not only was
this the case with health care reform, but also the issue with the
Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008 (aimed at regulating companies
like Mattel after a series of recalls, but effectively making it far
harder for small businesses to make it in the area of toy
manufacturing and therefore handing Mattel more, rather than less,
control), and the Food Safety Modernization Act, which encourages
consolidation of food growers and manufacturers in the name of food
safety (despite the fact that increasing the scale of production at a
factory makes it far harder to guarantee safety).
There is a first rule to understand however: “The control of the
production of wealth is the control of life itself.” — Hilaire
Belloc. Belloc defines wealth broadly to include useful changes to
our environment and the production of necessities. Corporations right
now largely control the production of wealth, so they do control our
lives. Can we take it back? I believe we can. I do not believe it
will be easy though. It will take a lot of sweat and blood, stress
and strain, but it can be done if millions of people are willing to
make the sacrifice in terms of a way of life and seek to deprive the
large corporations of their markets and labor.
Production of wealth requires three things: land, labor, and capital.
We provide the labor when we work for a corporation. We provide the
capital when we purchase stock in a corporation directly from that
corporation (secondary purchases in the stock market do not capitalize
a firm directly although they do support that capitalization
indirectly), or when we purchase products sold by or produced by the
corporation. Additionally when we borrow money from banks or when we
loan them money, we provide capital— banks win either way.
Unfortunately corporate labor, particularly for the poor, is heavily
subsidized by social welfare programs such as Section 8 Housing and
Medicaid. These programs allow larger companies to pay workers less,
while the middle class makes up the difference in taxes. The
lower-wage folks then are paid far less than they are worth and that
labor subsidized by the government and hence the middle class. The
overall thrust of social welfare programs is then to shift wealth from
the middle class to the very wealthy while ostensibly helping the
poor. I believe however that the social welfare system can be coopted
and used against the super-wealthy as well if we are willing to change
We must change the system and change the norms of American life. We
aren’t fighting against Walmart or Microsoft. We are fighting for a
new, non-corporate-dominated way of life. In this regard it is
important to state exactly what the enemy is: The enemy is the
system. The enemy is not a single corporation or a group of them.
When our businesses are hired by corporations we should accept and do
our work professionally. But the money we get out should be poured
into the right channels so that they will deepen…..
The first thing that must be done is to bank with small, local banks
or with credit unions. Banking with large chains of banks strengthens
these banks which are already too big to fail. One must break out of
the mega-banking network in order to stop feeding that beast.
The second thing we must do is foster self-employment both among
ourselves and in others. Self-employed can still be brought into
corporations as consultants (and as such we should do our best to help
them), but as self-employed one has a lot more freedom.
A third thing we must do is support very small businesses with our
purchases. This includes not only small merchants but also artisans.
Sure a hand-made paring knife made by a master smith may be expensive,
but it will last a long time and it supports artesanal crafts.
Additionally groceries should be purchased at farmers’ markets and
from local, humane sources of meat.
A fourth thing we must do is work to help those who are on public
assistance become self-employed in their own right. This reduces the
value of the social welfare system to corporations and it increases
the value of the welfare system to the poor. This therefore makes
other changes possible.
If we could get the number of self-employed in this nation to double,
or better yet triple, our nation would be transformed fundamentally
for the better. As G. K. Chesterton said, “Too much capitalism does
not imply too many capitalists, but rather too few.”