This week it was announced that the Walt Disney Group have agreed a $52.4bn deal to purchase assets belonging to the 20th Century Fox group, in a deal which could create one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. We live in a world where organisations like these control an alarmingly large part of what we do, how we act and in the case of Disney what we watch on a regular basis and arguably more so than any government.
It got me thinking, if corporations keep growing at an exponential rate, both in terms of revenue and worldwide scope how would this impact the political and sociological future of the world.
What if Amazon wanted to buy the U.S. Government? What if Tesco’s became the worlds sole food provider? How would having an internet essentially governed by Google affect freedom of expression?
At its heart the modern corporation is a very similar animal to a government. It has responsibilities to both its stockholders and its employees. In the wider world it acts in a way to enhance its reputation, it conducts mergers and acquisitions in the same way that a nation conducts wars and colonisations and it can fall in the same way that a government can fall.
But a corporation, like a government is only as good as its leaders. However there is one very vital difference, a large number people can vote out a government whereas a director or CEO of a corporation cannot be voted out en masse, only their fellow directors can cast them out.
This may be a slightly negative view of the impact of corporations on the wider world, indeed many corporations engage in philanthropic efforts to better the lives of ordinary citizens, have charitable arms and benefit mankind.
Look for example at Space X, which has revolutionised the space programme by introducing the first reusable rockets and is proposing to place individuals on Mars by the end of the 2020’s. If Space X wanted to take over NASA and make it a truly international organisation, I would cheer but what if Space X chose to colonise mars and only allow its employees to go there to the detriment of others?
Would planets be renamed in line with corporate objectives? Would it be Disney’s Pluto rather than just Pluto? Will we see the Starbucks galaxy?
What if Tesco’s was the only supplier of food and suddenly hiked up its food prices to a point where it encouraged famine? Could a government effectively respond if Tesco’s was the countries principle employer?
At the moment there are various laws and mechanisms which prevent one company from effectively instituting a monopoly of the provision of goods and services over any given sector, so in a sense Amazon could not totally own the online delivery sector.
Laws are subject to changes in circumstances like anything and if the world suffers an economic similar or larger than that suffered in 2009 when the banking sector collapsed then governments may have to change their policy to allow these types of mergers to take place.
Using an earlier example, what would happen if the U.S government collapsed and couldn’t sustain itself, could it fall prey to a hostile corporate takeover, like so many other firms within the corporate sector. Could we then see the United States of Amazon?
If we have a world where five to six corporations effectively control two thirds of the world’s economy and those organisations fall prey to attack from outside sources, as we saw during the recent ddos attack then the world will never be more vulnerable to catastrophe.
Imagine a world where google runs the internet and someone attacks google and you have something of an idea about the impact that this could have.
This also does not preclude the possibility of a corporation acting nefariously. What if a company with a large sector of employees decided to cripple the economy of a country where its competitor operates in order to potentially reduce the potential acquisition cost of that competitor. What effect would that have on the economy and what could the government do to stop them?
Just suppose that a government starts acting against the interests of the corporation. How low could a corporation sink to protect its interests?
If its target were not a competitor but a government it could shatter the public image of that government by engaging in media spin, further destroy the economy of that government by refusing to do business with it and eventually cripple it by encouraging its employees in that country to strike.
In the film Blade Runner 2049, the Wallace corporation has business interests that affect governments and all the people of planet earth. Its founder Niander Wallace, establishes a monopoly on the use of replicant technology acting through the use of government agencies (in this case the LAPD) and through the use of external agents to stop the dissemination of technology which might affect this monopoly.
It may seem like the future but if the current trend of big corporations continues it could become the present.
Google, Microsoft, America, Amazon, General Motors, Pfizer, Tesco, Walmart, Russia, State Grid, Exxon Mobile, The UK. Could a corporation achieve what no dictator has done and take over the world? Potentially the answer is yes, and that is a scary prospect.