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The Big Answer


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Corporation Nation: How Corporations are Taking Over Our Lives -- and What We Can Do About It

a book by Charles Derber

(our site's book review)

We're Losing Our Financial and Emotional Security, Depending More Than Ever on the Whims of These Corporations

The Amazon blurb says: Foreword by Ralph Nader. In Corporation Nation: How Corporations are Taking Over Our Lives -- and What We Can Do About It Derber addresses the unchecked power of today's corporations to shape the way we work, earn, buy, sell, and think—the very way we live. Huge, far-reaching mergers are now commonplace, downsizing is rampant, and our lines of communication, news and entertainment media, jobs, and savings are increasingly controlled by a handful of global—and unaccountable—conglomerates. We are, in effect, losing our financial and emotional security, depending more than ever on the whim of these corporations. But it doesn't have to be this way, as this book makes clear. Just as the original Populist movement of the nineteenth century helped dethrone the robber barons, Derber contends that a new, positive populism can help the U.S. workforce regain its self-control. (Hint: Trump's populism is NOT the type that will help the U.S. workforce, except when it helps them to the poorhouse.)

Trump's populism is NOT the type that will help the U.S. workforce, except when it helps them to the poorhouse
Trump's populism is NOT the type that will help the U.S. workforce, except when it helps them to the poorhouse

Drawing on core sociological concepts and demonstrating the power of the sociological imagination, he calls for revisions in our corporate system, changes designed to keep corporations healthy while also making them answerable to the people. From rewriting corporate charters to altering consumer habits, Derber offers new aims for businesses and empowering strategies by which we all can make a difference.


Corporate Oligopoly Is Seizing Our Money and Stealing Our Humanity

"America's in deep trouble--corporate oligopoly is seizing our money and stealing our humanity, too. Derber diagnoses the problem and prescribes a cure. . . . Corporate plunder thrives; countervailing forces are weak. It's time to rethink what a corporation is supposed to do beyond rewarding shareholders. It's time to fix things. Derber's answer: positive populism. . . . [it] is global, embracing labor, grassroots community groups, multiculturalism, and the environmentalist agenda in a broad movement where corporations must serve people, not the reverse." (Source: CORPORATION NATION: How Corporations Are Taking Over Our Lives and What We Can Do About It, Kirkus Reviews)

When corporatocracy prevails, democracy takes it on the chin
When corporatocracy prevails, democracy takes it on the chin

Like Robert Reich, Derber insists that corporations must serve people, not the reverse. See Supercapitalism. Reich also wrote Opposing The System. In the latter, Reich is so palpably depressed and frightened by what he sees as the country becomes a corporatocracy, that it's more likely to inspire paranoia than revolutionary fervor in some.

Reich is so palpably depressed and frightened by what he sees as the country becomes a corporatocracy, that it's more likely to inspire paranoia than revolutionary fervor—but let's all hope for the latter anyway
Reich is so palpably depressed and frightened by what he sees as the country becomes a corporatocracy, that it's more likely to inspire paranoia than revolutionary fervor—but let's all hope for the latter anyway

The Supreme Court Collaborated with the Corporatocracy to Disempower Citizens

Special interests cough up lots of money and buy the policies they want and the candidates they want. This was made very easy by the recent (2014) Supreme Court ruling. After the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizen's United case, the movement of the US towards a corporatocracy is complete. Justice Stevens, of the minority dissenting opinion, wrote: "At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt." The ruling effectively drowns out the voices of everyday Americans and allows the buying of elections by the rich.

Here are the bozos that finalized the U.S. democracy becoming an oligarchic corporatocracy
Here are the bozos that finalized the U.S. democracy becoming an oligarchic corporatocracy

We Serve as the Cash Cows for the Dominant Oligarchic Corporatocracy

From our perspective, we (and many others) see this corruption of the democracy as more sinister: it may be that in theory, in a vacuum, the function of both the market and the state is to serve us, not dominate us. But in 2018 United States of America, the opposite is true. We serve as the cash cows for the dominant oligarchy. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.)

We serve as the cash cows for the dominant oligarchy
We serve as the cash cows for the dominant oligarchy

The government is run by an oligarch-controlled corporatocracy that tramples our rights and tells us it is for our own good, but we do not buy this lie. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably ain't a frigging sperm whale! As the rich get richer and everyone else finds their money mysteriously ending up in the wallets of the corporatocracy, to keep the unwary public distracted from the robbery the oligarchy makes sure election platforms dwell on emotion-laden, hot-button issues that get predictable responses from the sheep/public as their buttons are pushed. See:

The government is run by an oligarch-controlled corporatocracy that tramples our rights and tells us it is for our own good, but we do not buy this lie. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably ain't a frigging sperm whale!
The government is run by an oligarch-controlled corporatocracy that tramples our rights and tells us it is for our own good, but we do not buy this lie. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably ain't a frigging sperm whale!

Derber Outlines Pragmatic Solutions for Halting Corporate Power

Corporation Nation: How Corporations are Taking Over Our Lives -- and What We Can Do About It outlines real, pragmatic solutions for halting corporate power while still promoting economic growth and profitability. Environmentalists and unions aren't predestined to be at odds, not when they can unite against the common enemy and take positive action to force greedy, merciless corporations into their proper, subordinate role to public government. Derber eagerly advocates careful legislation, but more importantly grassroots activism. Derber's solutions include educated consumerism, socially-responsible investing, and the cooperation of non-profits.

He also wants us to practice self-awareness about your place in the corporate world; educate yourself and others like a populist activist; don't let corporations take over your schools, hospitals, or social services; buy smart—not getting sweatshop products but instead get union backed stuff; invest only in socially conscious companies and join organizations with that intent; support worker owned businesses or locally owned businesses; support UNITE which is a coalition of labor unions; organize like an activist to change companies in your area that are not acting like good citizens; vote populist and join populist organizations; utilize employee stock ownership plans.

If everyone gets trained to be obedient consumers and no one organizes grassroots movements and becomes activists that makes sure corporations act like good citizens, expect the future to be totalitarian fascism
If everyone gets trained to be obedient consumers and no one organizes grassroots movements and becomes activists that makes sure corporations act like good citizens, expect the future to be totalitarian fascism

Like the Original Populists, We Must Dethrone the Robber Barons

Derber addresses the unchecked power of today's corporations to shape the way we work, earn, buy, sell, and think—the very way we live. Huge, far-reaching mergers are now commonplace, downsizing is rampant, and our lines of communication, news and entertainment media, jobs, and savings are increasingly controlled by a handful of global—and unaccountable—conglomerates. We are, in effect, losing our financial and emotional security, depending more than ever on the whim of these corporations. But it doesn't have to be this way, as this book makes clear. Just as the original Populist movement of the nineteenth century helped dethrone the robber barons, we can do the same.

Getting conglomerates to pay their fair share in taxes (the opposite of Trump's greedy tax scam) will be like taking a banana from a 900 pound gorilla—we must do it very carefully
Getting conglomerates to pay their fair share in taxes (the opposite of Trump's greedy tax scam) will be like taking a banana from a 900 pound gorilla—we must do it very carefully

". . . it is a poignant story about a society—our society—that has been taken over and is now dominated by a force that is arguably more powerful and more resistant to overthrow than the most Draconian autocracies. This is the collective force of the nation’s huge, expansive multinational corporations. It is a poignant story because it tells of the loss of autonomy on the part of ordinary people like you [and me]. And it conveys a sense of hopelessness about the prospects of ordinary people, intellectuals, the labor movement, government. or any other element to combat the Juggernaut — this despite Derber‘s hopeful subtitle and associated chapters that explore ‘what we can do about it.' At its best, Corporation Nation: How Corporations are Taking Over Our Lives -- and What We Can Do About It is Michael Moore’s Downsize This! minus the laughs. At its worst, it is a repetitive harangue against the economic elite, a harangue that the author clearly believes will awaken America's 'populist' [roots]." (Source: Corporation Nation: How Corporations are Taking Over Our Lives -- and What We Can Do About It, Jay Welnsteln, JSTOR, Eastern Michigan University)

The United States had become the most unequal country in the developed world — with the gap between rich and poor growing disturbingly vast
The United States had become the most unequal country in the developed world — with the gap between rich and poor growing disturbingly vast

We're in a Second Gilded Age—Worse Than the First

The Bosses of the Senate by Joseph Keppler
1889 in the Gilded Age: This is the Senate of the Monopolists by the Monopolists and for the Monopolists

"With the 1990s came a second hint of a new Gilded Age: the revelation that the United States had become the most unequal country in the developed world — with the gap between rich and poor growing disturbingly vast. By the mid-nineties, not only was the gap the largest in fifty years, but as the United Nations reported, 'the United States is slipping into a category of countries — among them Brazil, Britain, and Guatemala — where the gap is the worst around the globe.' . . .


The U.S. Markets Evolved into Something Akin to Las Vegas Gambling Casinos

The money markets look more like a
Las Vegas gambling operation than an efficient market
The money markets look more like a Las Vegas gambling operation than an efficient market

"In markets dominated by long-term investment, stock prices may closely mirror underlying real value. But as trading patterns become 'hotter' and turn over nearly the market’s whole value in a matter of weeks or months, the money markets look more like a Las Vegas gambling operation than an effcient market. Isolated speculators can do little damage, but when very short-term turnover becomes the norm, investors have little time or incentive to consider long-term value, and the markets evolve into what John Maynard Keynes called 'a whirlpool of speculation,' or what some call today’s 'bubble economy.' . . .

When very short-term turnover becomes the norm, investors have little time or incentive to consider long-term value, and the markets evolve into today’s 'bubble economy'
When very short-term turnover becomes the norm, investors have little time or incentive to consider long-term value, and the markets evolve into today’s 'bubble economy'

"The new financial markets and the superbanks have evolved together as part of a radical deregulation of the nation’s financial system. In the New Deal, the Glass-Steagall Act and other linchpins of a new highly regulated banking order protected consumer bank deposits from some of the speculative losses that had ruined millions of Americans in the Great Depression. Over the last fifty years, memories of the great crash have faded, and a new era of deregulation has emerged that puts many more millions of Americans at risk. The money markets exploded in the last decade through the vehicles of mutual funds and brokerage houses that were not subject to the same tight regulatory controls as commercial banks — and their new array of exotic global speculative instruments resisted close federal monitoring."

Speculators had so much fun getting rich they created the 2007-2008 market crash where the little guys got screwed and the banks and speculators got bonuses and golden parachutes we paid for
Speculators had so much fun getting rich they created the 2007-2008 market crash where the little guys got screwed and the banks and speculators got bonuses and golden parachutes we paid for. See Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class—And What We Can Do about It.

Hence the speculators had so much fun getting rich they created the 2007-2008 market crash where the little guys got screwed and the banks and speculators got bonuses and golden parachutes. Guess who paid for these? That's correct—it was you and we and the little old lady who lives down the lane!


A Rising Tide Should Lift All Boats, But in the U.S., It Swamped Most Little Boats

“A rising tide should lift all boats. But too often in our modern society, as Charles Derber skillfully points out, millions of Americans are left out or left behind . . . Derber's analysis and recommendations should be read and heeded by all who believe that free enterprise can be fair enterprise too.” —Senator Edward M. Kennedy

The great American middle class has become an anxious class—the odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees
The great American middle class has become an anxious class—the odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees

"The great American middle class has become an anxious class – and it’s in revolt. Before I explain how that revolt is playing out, you need to understand the sources of the anxiety. Start with the fact that the middle class is shrinking, according to a new Pew survey. The odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees. Two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Most could lose their jobs at any time." (Source: The Revolt of the Anxious Class, Robert Reich)

If we have to be obedient little consumers, isn't it fair that corporations have to be socially responsible public citizens?
If we have to be obedient little consumers, isn't it fair that corporations have to be socially responsible public citizens?

The overall problem with living in a greedy corporatocracy is that the corporations control us when it needs to be the other way around—they will never be motivated to change unless acting in the public interest becomes mandated and unavoidable. The author likes to dub the replacement of workers with contractors as "job genocide." Possibly overly dramatic, but essentially true nevertheless. The corporations commit this movement to contract work and temporary workers to save money and improve the bottom line. But it makes lives of workers utterly and unfairly insecure. This is a crappy way to treat citizens. Derber's "positive populism" is global, embracing labor, grassroots community groups, multiculturalism, and the environmentalist agenda in a broad movement where corporations must serve people, not the reverse. FDR's New Deal made the corporations act like citizens, not adversaries, and part of the solution, not most of the problem like in 2018. A rising tide should lift all boats, not sink millions of boats and swamp many others. Corporations have quietly and efficiently consolidated their economic muscle and merged it with political power, and the sucking sound you hear is swamped boats that are now sinking.

Corporations have quietly and efficiently consolidated their economic muscle and merged it with political power, and the sucking sound you hear is swamped boats that are now sinking
Corporations have quietly and efficiently consolidated their economic muscle and merged it with political power, and the sucking sound you hear is swamped boats that are now sinking


This is a book that shoud be read by anyone who is in the least bit interested in global economic affairs, the malevolent conditions of sweatshop labor, and flight of capital—money that legally or illegally leaves a country for use or deposit in another country and almost never returns
This is a book that shoud be read by anyone who is in the least bit interested in global economic affairs, the malevolent conditions of sweatshop labor, and flight of capital—money that legally or illegally leaves a country for use or deposit in another country and almost never returns