Dan Popp
Who's afraid of big, bad business?
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By Dan Popp
November 21, 2013

You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. – Eric Hoffer

We're taught from childhood to detest "corporate giants." The avaricious CEO and his all-devouring industrial monstrosity are cliché cartoon villains. But adults should be able to admit that large companies do a lot of good – even forgetting their charitable works. Big firms make things more affordable. They deliver to us an almost infinite variety of consumer goods. So they raise everyone's standard of living. Big businesses employ lots of people. They pay lots of taxes.

So why all the angst over "multinational corporations?" They're greedy! Well, no one has a corner on that market – greed can be found in heart of the lowliest pickpocket, too. They want to eliminate the competition and impose a monopoly! Well, that would be bad, though not as bad as most people think. Contrary to myth, monopolies don't get to ride roughshod over the defenseless townsfolk. Are you really quaking in terror of our biggest monopoly, the US Postal Service?

The people who cry loudest against big business seldom fear big government. Why is that? After all, it should be obvious that overgrown government carries all the dangers of super-sized business – plus tanks. I believe that leftists loathe big business because it's a rival to big government. They, the leftists, want to eliminate their competition. They want a monopoly not just on elected power, but on all power.

Conservatives tend to consider each institution, or power center, as operating in its proper sphere – the church wields a different kind of power than the state, for example. But we could also zoom out to see all power as a zero-sum game. A dominant state can exact tribute from a church; a dominant church may decide who can sit on the throne. Each of us has only so much allegiance, money, energy and time. Whatever I devote to one center of power cannot be given to another.

When we think of power this way, a lot of the puzzle pieces of Obama's Amerika start to fit into place. The administration's various attacks on faith groups, on successful businesses, even on gun owners, all can be explained by the single theory that those in power are unwilling to share it.

The lord thy Godvernment is a jealous Godvernment.

The objection to this view is that business and government are actually working together. Cronyism is another danger of big business, it will be said. But that's a fantasy of the "Occupy" anarchists. A lawful and just government would pose no danger to most businesses, and could offer few rewards (those few being defense contracts). Politicians couldn't be bought if they had nothing to sell.

No, the fact that some companies are in bed with government is not proof that leftists aren't scheming to make those companies crippled wards of the state. "In bed with" and "at war with" aren't mutually exclusive. To illustrate using another power center, we can simultaneously "support" religion with faux charities, and deny rights of conscience to apostates from the state church. We must care for people because of Christian morality – so – all you moralistic Christians can go to hell.

It's a familiar tactic, to betray with a kiss. If you're a power-worshiper, nothing limits you to only one strategy for overcoming your adversaries. You can both subvert them and shoot them.

But big business as a foil for big government?

Consider the Magna Carta. In AD 1215 the nobles (the rich, powerful, one-percenters) stood up to King John. These aristocrats won concessions of liberty only for themselves. But, in creating boundaries for the authority of the state, their rights eventually trickled down to everyone else through the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution (which ironically forbids titles of nobility) and the 13th Amendment.

As a more recent, negative example: The medical and insurance industries allowed themselves to be co-opted, rather than fight nationalized health care. Their loss is our loss. If those big businesses had stood up for themselves (though they would have been pilloried as selfish monsters) we little people would be much better off today.

The best argument for my case – that leftists hate big business because it threatens their own omnipotence – comes from leftists. The progressive Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote:
    For all power tends to develop into a government in itself. Power that controls the economy should be in the hands of elected representatives of the people, not in the hands of an industrial oligarchy. Industrial power should be decentralized. It should be scattered into many hands so that the fortunes of the people will not be dependent on the whim or caprice, the political prejudices, the emotional stability of a few self-appointed men. The fact that they are not vicious men but respectable and social minded is irrelevant. That is the philosophy and the command of the Sherman Act. It is founded on a theory of hostility to the concentration in private hands of power so great that only a government of the people should have it.
The Founders, though, didn't believe that "a government of the people" justifies centralized power. That's why we have the 1st, 2nd, 9th and 10th Amendments, for starters. But Douglas made an admission. The colossus identifies what it fears by what it condemns – as well as by what it corrupts: Marriage. The family. Churches. The Tea Party. The NRA. The AMA. AARP. Self-sufficiency. The military. The media. The automakers. The rich. The schools. The banks. The work ethic. Workers. Energy producers. The Boy Scouts. Any possible speed bump in the road to totalitarianism.

If this is so, then opponents of big government should consider ways of supporting and shaping rival power centers – including businesses and industries. "The concentration of power in private hands" may be just what the doctor ordered.

But isn't big business dangerous? Of course. Almost everything on this fallen planet is dangerous. But which is the more rational thing to dread; an entity that cannot force you to buy its products, or one that can – and does?

© Dan Popp

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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