I forced my Corporate Governance class to sit through excerpts of the execrable documentary The Corporation yesterday so that they could see for themselves the absurdity of the anti-corporation movement. Doing so was quite timely, because we're hearing the same sort of silliness from the Occupy Wall Street crowd, as Doug Mataconis observes:
On Friday, this group of a few hundred people that purports to be the vanguard of some populist movement issued the ambitiously titled “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” purporting to set forth the reasons they’re protesting:
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
This “corporations run the government” meme has been around since the 1970s, and it’s no more true now than it was then. As Rick Moran points out, if corporations really ran the government would we have an EPA, OSHA, SEC, the EEOC, the FHA, the Department of Labor, or any of the other number of state and federal agencies regulate corporate behavior? If corporations truly “ran” the government, then why would any of these organizations exist?
Corporations do influence the government, of course. But then so do labor unions, the legal profession, the medical profession, special interest groups based on one form of racial or ethnic grievance or another, and lobbying interests ranging from Iowa corn to Texas oil. The problem isn’t corporations, the problem is that we have a government that has its fingers in nearly every aspect of the economy. That means that policy makers have the ability to pick economic winners and losers every day, and it’s only natural that those policies would be of concern to the people that they’re going to impact most directly, the businesses affected by them. That’s lobbying and petitioning the government for redress of grievances, not “running the government.” This kind of reflexive anti-business mentality seems to be quite common in some sectors of society, but it has little basis in reality and seems firmly entrenched in resentment and envy rather than an honest examination of the country’s political system.