Ziabatsu: A Japanese conglomerate, especially a powerful family-controlled monopoly before World War II.
François Mauriactax once said “Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are; but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.” When what you read is provided by corporate funded “think tanks” and a decreasing numbers of media outlets, effectively concentrating the voice of a few individuals at the expense of a plurality of thought, you may have free speech but no free exchange of information, no independence in media, free of corporate messaging.
Activists today are easily distracted by issues of race, gender, sexuality, abortion, or the latest drama of anger or hate while the corporate class works tirelessly to rewrite tax code, employment standards and manipulate the legislative process through mediated access through organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The first step is to understand how the global economy works, the Gold Standard, Bretton Woods, and globalization. Mark Blyth does a great job of explaining the process. You can find a video here.
The rise of Corporations
In the colonial era, corporate entities like the Hudson Bay Company were central to facilitating collective action, association, and economic activity.
A few historical turning points where corporate lawyers and judges made crucial decisions establishing corporate rights, and transforming the nature of both the corporation and the rights of the working person. The first key turning point came when corporations were to be understood as associations of persons. In this view, corporate rights were limited, and ultimately derivative of the rights of their (human) members.
Then advances in corporate rights thru legal innovation and transformation forged property and liberty rights to these same corporations and in the process narrowed democracy for the human members of society.
Crucially, these rights emerged from “liberal” and “conservative” courts alike as both have been harnessed in the interest of the corporate class. The coup I am describing has taken place not with rifles, pitchforks and gallows but with lobbyists, lawyers and tax accountants.
Both the associative and person hood views of the corporation served as grounding for subsequent cases finding specific property rights and protections against government pressure, and later liberty rights including speech rights for corporations.
Tools of Corporations: Mass immigration
The Corporate media and Corporate lapdogs who find themselves in political power love immmigration, the reason is quite simple. When you study the labor market impact of immigration the analysis indicates that immigration lowers the wage of competing workers: a 10 percent increase in supply reduces wages by 4 percent.
George J. Borjas
Kennedy School of Government
Tools of Corporations: Family Trusts
Inherited wealth dynasties grow due to an inadequate tax system and hiding of wealth in dynasty trusts. Members of the inherited wealth generation are rigging the rules to get more wealth and power.
Other key findings from the report include:
- Dynastic wealth grows much faster than the wealth of ordinary families. The 27 families who were on the Forbes 400 list in 1983 had a median increase in their net worth, adjusted for inflation, of 904 percent over those 37 years. In contrast, between 1989 and 2019—the most recent year available—the wealth of the typical family in the U.S. increased by just 93 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.
- The wealth of the very top grew even faster. The five wealthiest dynastic families in the US have seen their wealth increase by a median 2,484 percent from 1983 to 2020. For example:
- Wal-Mart inflation-adjusted increase of 4,320 percent.
- The Mars candy dynasty 3,517 percent over the past 37 years,
- Cosmetics magnate Estée Lauder growth rate of 2,465 percent.
- Wealth for dynastic families has grown significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the top 10 families on the Forbes dynasty list have had a median growth in their net worth of 25 percent.
- Dynastically wealthy families wield a great deal of political power, and use it to further their interests. dynastic family members spend millions lobbying for favorable tax, labor, and trade policies, give to candidates, campaigns and PACs, serve on policy advisory boards; and even serve in government themselves.
- Dynastic families wield a great deal of philanthropic power and can use it to further their self-interest. The report examined more than 248 foundations set up by the top 50 families, housing more than $51 billion in assets. These fund groups work to reduce taxes on the wealthy and roll back regulations that constrain corporate profits. Some funnel millions to donor-advised funds, which can fund dark-money political advocacy. And in a few cases, family members have used them to compensate themselves.
The report includes a number of recommendations, including greater oversight of taxation, wealth taxation and abolition of certain kinds of trusts.
The report concludes: These trends are alarming for the health of a republic that aspires to widely held prosperity and opportunity. If we stay on our current trajectory, families of inherited wealth will exert ever more control over public policy and the public pocketbook. But we can choose to move in a new direction: to enact economic policies that strengthen society as a whole, ensuring equal opportunity and dignity for all, not just the very few.