In another bout of trying to flush out an idea by writing it out, I wanted to explore an idea I’ve been mulling over: corporations as micro-nations unto themselves.
If one thinks about it, one can almost envision it. Departments can be seen as statehoods or in a smaller scale, local municipalities. There are laws, social conduct, norms, and other aspects that almost mimic a government entity. But they aren’t. They negotiate treaties like a government entity. But they aren’t.
As they have done in the past, companies use their influence to change laws in the lands they operate. And with businesses operating internationally, they often influence trade negotiations as well. Their employees even travel freely among countries, so long as they are operating under the business’ interests. And nations treat companies with large enough influence often times with seeming greater regard than its own citizens. Sometimes more than other nations.
I’ve seen varying reports of employees in companies describe their employment in ways that eerily resemble how people would describe living under different regimes. In fact, we often use the phrase “regime change” when describing leadership shifts in companies themselves. And they range from brutal dictatorship-like to veritable utopias where everyone seemingly works in harmony. It’s in this way too that people live with a sort-of dual-citizenship, both being a citizen of the country that live and the company they are employed. Each having rights within those worlds that sometimes are exclusive of the other.
What good does it do us to live in this way? Beholden not to one, but two lords in our life? Failure to live correctly in one can me failure in the other. Even more perverse is that we’ve begun to allow companies to purport the idea that failure within them creates the risk of failure of the stability of a nation. Particularly of that nation’s economy. It’s where the idea “too big to fail” has come from. Is that really true though?
I don’t believe so. Poorly run governments and companies alike deserve to fail. But there is also the problem of new trends towards international oligarchies where one company owns any number of others, or a limited number of companies control an industry. This allows them control against new entrants to a market, protection against innovation, and more power against laws that might arise against their interests, further compounding this issue of the risks failure may provide.
Here we cry bitterly for either more corporate control, disguised as corporate freedom, or more government control. Is either a viable option? What about people? What about less control for either and letting the people control them both? It’s a bit sounding like anarchy… or Libertarianism at best. Some control is needed over these realms. Where is the balance found though? We cannot keep letting the tentacles of each side get more tangled with the other. Eventually, something will need to change. Challenging the sovereignty of these micro-nations is a good place to start. But can we do so without giving the government more control?