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Can Governments be Openly Controlled by Corporations? Science Fiction Thinks it's Possible

We have all said it at one point or another, or at the least heard it, Government is controlled by big money. But if this really is the situation, it is done so behind closed doors and always with a public facade of not doing so; then what would happen if one day government decided it no longer cared about its image of independence from the corporate world?

Then most likely we would have a government openly controlled and run by corporations and other enterprises, for the benefit of the few. This has been illustrated most clearly in Space Merchants written by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth back in 1958.

The world in which the story takes place is one that we can be scared of as easily (maybe even easier), than they were back in the late fifties when the book was first published. Big companies have taken over the American government, so much o that Congress is no longer composed of state elected officials, but instead it's comprised of the representative of big companies, such as DOW, General Motors and General Electric; the president of the United States is a figurehead, with no real authority whatsoever, advertising companies rule the industry and social classes are determined by your profession.

So far this world is not something we have not feared (with the exception of advertising not being as powerful now as it once was), but the real cherry on the cake is the dreadful environmental devastation brought about by the total lack of government control over industry and their ever greater need for more resources.

Another example is found in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. In this story the plot is so much bigger than in Space Merchants that the issue of corporate control of government is not as big (in terms of pages devoted to it), but it is pivotal to the development of the first colony on the red planet; in this not so future Earth multinational companies have become something bigger and scarier, they have become Supra-National Corporations, they are above governments, they can basically do whatever they please, and that has led to overpopulation, toxic waste poisoning, famine, and countless other misfortunes that are the trigger for the expedition to Mars; an expedition from which, win or loose, the people involved will never return.

The truly frightening and at the same time astonishing thing is that all the stories I have come across that deal with a scenario in which government is controlled by corporations, paint this as a catastrophic event, as one of the worst thing that could happen to our democratic societies.

Do you think that of government falls under the open control of economic powers the world will be such a nightmare? or is it possible to find a positive side to economic control over government?


  1. Found you on book blogs and *subscribed.* :-D

    I'm sure there's probably a positive side to economic control over government (since I tend to believe in the whole yin/yang philosophy) but I sure as heck don't see any silver lining from my current viewpoint. The system seems terribly broken and corrupt ...

  2. Nice to have you with us Vamchoir. I've been looking for some of that silver lining myself but without much luck so far, which is making me doubt the ying/yang thesis on this one, at least until someone points me in the direction of that good side.

  3. I think it all depends on the type of government you wish to run. Having economic dominance in a socialist state could provide more of a balanced mean with the money made from massive corporations, whereas I feel this would be harder in a more direct run society, such as a democracy. This money could be used for, if the businesses voted on it like congress, with shares of votes being assigned based on money made or whatnot, retirement, the military, if it wasnt already contracted out, roads, schools, ect. But this is all with a half glass full look. Money tends to equal power, but if businesses acted "civil", there could be more spent towards to public good. The government is already a business with the way it spends out taxes, this would just be a more literal approach to it. Of course, like all forms of governments, its all about the people in charge and how they act. The world has seen corrupt democracies and dictatorships that have lasted years under seemingly stable climates. I like the work, keep it up :)

  4. I realize the types of governments are hybrids, but think about how it could be used. I think there is a way, however, the way we all see big business tends to lead us in a darker direction. It's possible, but I wouldn't want to see schools named after companies in order to cheapen construction cost.

  5. @alktriofan2003 I like some of what you say, but the idea of a business run communist government seems to be contradictory in itself, but I think I can see the idea behind the thought: corporations run government, and they're the only ones allowed to have businesses, in exchange the take care of the citizen's basic needs... could work, at least as the setting for a good story, not sure if it would be a dystopia or a utopia.

  6. Let's face facts. The Laws of Physics do not give a damn about economics or the human race. They do not care if we get our equations wrong.

    It is 43 years after the Moon landing ad we are supposed to believe economists do not know about "planned obsolescence" in cars? Well even if most economists don't Galbraith wrote about it in 1959.

    But what happened to the depreciation of those cars? We buy them and economist add that to GDP. But we drive them and they wear out so they DEPRECIATE. Where does the depreciation get subtracted? Oops, economists do not talk about NET Domestic Product. They did their algebra wrong. They only subtract depreciation on the supply side.

    Do the politicians know about this?


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