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The corporate criminals killing off democracy

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(Cartoon by Mark David | @MDavidCartoons)

With corporate criminality essentially unchecked worldwide, Dr Evan Jones diagnoses democracy as an 'unachievable work in progress'.

AFTER WORLD WAR I, chaos ensued. The pre-War mentality of universal improvement under enlightened leadership had given way to finger-pointing. The Soviet Union loomed large. A handful of Westerners saw in the USSR the future of humanity. However, officially, the USSR became the bogeyman. Rather than examine "our" own conscience, it became, rather, "look over there".

The finger-pointing stopped during the war-time 1941-45 military coalition, born of necessity. But the finger-pointing of the Cold War began even before the last shots were fired and the atom bombs dropped. The Soviet Union offered endless substance for criticism, but the deflection from self-examination on "our" side escalated.

More, the evils of "communism" became a handy tool both for overthrowing governments abroad and for repression at home — cover for an escalation of the evils of Western "liberal democracy" itself. Noam Chomsky honed in on this neglected truth in a 1981 article aptly titled ‘The cold war is a device by which superpowers control their own domains. That is why it will continue.’ (using France as a case study). It took dissident Western historians to point the finger inwards.

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Horrors — the West needed new enemies. U.S. military interventions abroad continued apace. A bloodless academic article titled ‘Introducing the Military Intervention Project: A New Dataset on U.S. Military Interventions, 1776–2019’, publicly available, estimates the figures.

The authors claim that:

'… the U.S. has undertaken almost 400 military interventions since 1776, with half of these operations undertaken between 1950 and 2019. Over 25 per cent of them have occurred in the post-Cold War period.'

These figures probably don’t include interventions by proxy, which further swells the numbers. Under the fairy tale of spreading democracy and liberty (the latest rubric is "responsibility to protect"), the U.S. (led by psychopaths) beats a destructive path globally to retain unipolar hegemony (the so-called "rules-based international order"). The road to human betterment has been commandeered for contrary purposes.

U.S. animator Walt Kelly penned in 1970, in the mouth of his character Pogo, the now hackneyed phrase: ‘We have met the enemy and he is us’. Assange (and others) have, by other means, reiterated the point. It can’t be over-emphasised that Assange’s torture encapsulates the West’s crimes and the West’s guilt. Until Labor gains Assange’s liberty, nothing else it does puts it on the positive side of the ledger.

There is another important dimension to the moral impasse in which we find ourselves. This is the elephant in the room, staring us straight in the face! It is the joint stock limited liability corporation and its rights and power under the legal fiction of "corporate personhood".

The "corporation" is antithetical to democracy — period. Never mind that it is the central economic institution underpinning that much-praised but murky system known as "liberal democracy". Indeed, corporate personhood became standard Western fare before universal adult franchise was achieved in any country. Democracy, from the start, has been an unachievable work in progress.

Corporate resources overwhelm access to and influence on elected officials. Corporate influence in the U.S. has been enhanced by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v Federal Electoral Commission — its implications outlined here.

In particular, freeing corporations to make unconstrained political donations is based on the libertarian argument that a corporation is merely a collection of consenting individuals. The argument is fallacious — the corporation is a separate entity, the whole point of corporate personhood.

Corporate "persons" have greater capacity and liberty under lax laws and regulations to commit crimes — and of a large-scale nature. I have pursued this issue at greater length in a 2018 article, Systematically Corrupt Capitalism. The capitalist system is not merely structurally exploitative but is essentially a racket.

Consider the case of Chevron, which knowingly engaged in massive environmental despoliation in Ecuador. U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger oversaw a successful large-scale damages claim against Chevron in 2011. Undeterred, Chevron then went after Donziger himself, using a corrupt judiciary as vehicle.

Consider the case of Rio Tinto, which, in May 2020, knowingly destroyed 46,000-year-old rock shelters, a sacred site, in Western Australia’s Hamersley Range. Just another day in the office.

Of dominant relevance here is that the real persons directing the fictional corporate person are responsible for such corporate criminality but are effectively untouchable. A real person is allowed, indeed compelled, to shed one’s humanity at the door. Human betterment becomes a dead letter.

Western propagandists claim that the displacement of autocracies by "democracy" is the vehicle for a better world. Hence Biden’s recent preposterous "democracy summit". A far larger dividend could be had by cleaning up chez nous and centring on inhibiting the intrinsic imperative of the corporation sui generis and its head honchos towards criminality.

I have lent an ear for over 20 years to bank victims relating their experience, involving subsequent trauma, contributing to my own depression regarding the state of the world. Small-time spivs get nailed (with much sensationalist media coverage), whereas corporate senior staff criminals (with their legal teams and missing-in-action board members) remain immune — with no media coverage.

Which brings us to the number one current concern: climate change.

One is vaguely aware of the unseemly influence of the fossil fuel lobby on Australian politics. The "mining lobby" in Australia has impeded governmental action on climate change and on diversification from fossil fuel resource dependence in general — see, for example, articles by Christopher Knaus and Mike Seccombe. More from Adam Lucas here, in comprehensive academic mode (copy available from this author). Lucas calls this state capture "soft corruption". But soft corruption fronts for hard corruption.

It turns out that the oil majors knew decades ago that they bore responsibility for significant climate change, but they carried on with business as usual. Shades of Big Tobacco and its known causal links of nicotine to cancers.

Of deeper significance is that the fossil fuel sector remains unrepentant, effectively dictating the "response" itself to climate change. We are told that likely new technologies associated with "market-based" solutions are the (only feasible) answer to climate change so that that sector remains in charge and dictates terms to elected governments and "responsible" international bodies.

The annual Conference of the Parties (COP) conferences have been clogged from the start by fossil fuel corporates. In character, the UAE’s state oil boss has been appointed to oversee COP28 in December 2023. The practice is known as greenwashing.

There is no likelihood that the power of the corporation and its imperative for criminal activity is going to face significant resistance and opposition in the immediate future. The armchair speculators regarding the perfectibility of man are well and truly dead and buried.

Am I not justified in being permanently depressed?

Time to go and dig in the garden and watch a cheery episode of Gardening Australia.

You can read more on this subject here.

Dr Evan Jones is a former political economist.

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