(Thinking out loud here, folks, so do feel free to chip in and tell me why I’m completely wrong on any or all points raised… :))
The guys at TechDirt pointed toward a wryly tongue-in-cheek piece at Bloomberg that attempts to nominate Google, Inc as a presidential candidate. Obviously enough, it’s a response to the recent Supreme Court ruling that corporations should have the same “freedom of speech” as a person, something of a reductio ad absurdum… but it throws a light onto the increasing political clout of corporations in the States and elsewhere. A company running for political office is ridiculous (at least on the face of it), but a suite of corporate political rights and powers isn’t quite such an inconceivable idea.
After all, we’re already witnessing the decline in power of the nation-state as a political player, and there are numerous corporations whose yearly accounts eclipse the GDP of many countries. In some respects, it’s bizarre that corporate political power isn’t already enshrined in written legislation… if only because to legislate it would be a tacit admission that it exists, and that its boundaries need defining. As geography becomes anathema thanks to communications networks and climate change migration, the comparative security and reliability of the corporation as sovereign will start to make more sense to populations of rootless, landless and unrepresented people. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some corporations represented in the United Nations within my lifetime… assuming that the UN lasts long enough, that is.
Of course, the potential for corporations to abuse the trust placed in them by their citizen/employees will be immense… but will it be any more so than the potential for nation-states to do the same? Profit is just another ideology, after all… and much as the corporate mindset tends to set my teeth on edge, it’s an ideology with coherent logical underpinnings, which is more than I can say for most of my current political options here in the UK.
And don’t forget the point made by Jason Stoddard, namely that a profit-focussed corporation has no reason to enslave the population and make their lives miserable. Quite the opposite, in fact – corporations want happy people with expendable money in their pockets, and given that those two things are becoming very difficult for governments to provide in some parts of the world, the corporation as focus of political allegiance doesn’t seem as insane as it might at first glance. There’s precedent, too – East India Company, anyone? Hudson’s Bay Company?