A Corporate Attorney Speaks to How Corporations Rule the World
Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 10:53AM
Lee Van Ham in Steve Gehring, corporate attorney, corporate rule

Steve GehringI was shocked when I first read the book, When Corporations Rule the World. That was 20 years ago. Ever since, I’ve been asking, “Well, if corporations are the real rulers, do I want to spend much energy on the political election process? And how do citizens’ views prevail in legislation when corporations rule the legislators?” Today, the Republican leadership pursues power with a mean-spiritedness toward most citizens and Earth while rewarding wealth held by rich people and corporations. For us to counter what governments are doing, or help them do what we want them to, we need to understand what those who govern are driven by. 

In my book, Blinded by Progress, I wrote a chapter on corporations, entitling it, “Creating Economic Frankensteins,” in which I turned to a corporate attorney, Steve Gehring, for his thoughts about corporate rule and how it works. Steve is a partner with the Cline Williams firm in Nebraska. His practice areas with corporations have been alternative dispute resolution, business organizations, mergers, and acquisitions. His achievements include being named “Best Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers 2012 Corporate Law. He is also listed in “Best Lawyers in America” (Woodward/White Inc). So I turned to Steve again for this interview.

Not enough of us behave how we would if we really grasped that more than any U.S. president or world leader, large corporations, their CEOs, and boards keep the MultiEarth worldview in place. They profit from it even if it destroys the liveability of the planet we live on. Hence this interview.

Q. In 1995, David Korten wrote the book, When Corporations Rule the World, do they? Did he overstate their power? 

David Korten did not overstate either his title or his premise about corporations ruling the world. Obviously political bodies and elected persons make decisions about budgets, the military and social programs. Virtually all of these, at least in the United States, are directly influenced by corporations. As long as politicians have to fund campaigns, corporations will provide most of the funding and their lobbyists will influence most important decisions that are made by those elected persons.

Most first world economies are directly or indirectly controlled by multinational corporations. The corporate weapons companies are directly producing virtually all of the military hardware, all of which they design to sell to their domestic nation and then, hopefully, to second and third world countries. On the consumer side, Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft tell us what we need and then sell it to us. Modern multinationals are like the Borg in Star Trek; “Resistance is futile! We will assimilate you!”

Q. What are some of the strategies that corporations find most effective in expanding their rule? 

Corporations are perpetual, driven exclusively for profit motive and are not required to have any conscience. These tools, coupled with an endless supply of ammunition (capital) allows them to be endlessly creative in their strategies. Over the past 20 years, the ability to create demand, market through the internet and social media and exert enormous political influence seem to me to be the most effective. 

Q. My education on how government works is mostly irrelevant today—at least at the federal level. When we hear the word democracy used in speeches, what does it describe about how things really get done? Under corporate rule, do the words “oligarchy” and “corporatocracy” describe the U.S. government better than democracy?

Education on government and democracy we received in the 60s IS almost irrelevant today. The process works the same, i.e., the people vote for representatives to do their bidding in Washington. Sadly, however, information gleaned from polls and interviews shows that the majority of folks do not have, or really care to have informed opinions. They are mostly swayed by vitriol and negativity in social media sponsored by gigantic corporate interests.

When these so-called representatives are elected, many come with no sense of republican government where spirited, but respectful dialogue leads to workable legislation hammered out through compromise. Oligarchy is a good phrase. A small group of entrenched party-in-power people have their aides do initial drafts of legislation, which is then tweaked to meet the interest of the lobbyists paid for by the corporate interests. The rest of the Congress people won’t take the time to read and understand the serious legislation, like health care reform, and vote as they are told.
Q. What does corporate rule do to elections that give no alternative to it? The 2016 election exposed a deep confusion among people who want to vote for an alternative to corporate rule. Many see corporate rule, for example, making Free Trade Agreements that hurt them and their regional economy. But the two parties don’t give us a way to vote against what we don’t like or for what we do, do they? If we want to vote against corporate rule, how do we do it? 

You are right about the deep confusion in the 2016 election. It is extremely difficult to find electable national candidates who are not either bought and paid for by multinationals or a product of the entrenched Washington system. Donald Trump was, however, that rare candidate. He cleverly saw and attracted a whole group of voters neglected by the Democrats, who felt beat up, disenfranchised and mad. Sadly-ever so sadly- they totally misunderstood their candidate and what he meant by Make America Great Again. He is completely lacking in the political experience, intellect and integrity to get it done. He wants to take us back to Ozzie and Harriet, but they are dead and they cannot be resurrected. So, with Mr. Trump, a whole lot of people did vote successfully against corporate rule but they got the wrong person. In Congress, you are correct-we had no way to vote against corporate rule. As long as elections costs tens of millions of dollars and we won’t choose federal funding, we will get mostly bought and paid for hacks or billionaires who fund their own.
Q: What suggestions (advice?) do you have for a party, or at lease candidates, running agains the real rulers, the corporations?

Lee, I think it is going to be very difficult, so long as Citizens United is the law of the land, for non-wealthy candidates to be elected or be elected and not compromised. If one has to raise at least $10-15 million for a House seat, it can’t be done with $20 contributions. If corporate interests contribute in the seven figure range, they will expect to have influence. If the candidate resists, there will be no re-election. I hate to sound so negative, but I think that’s where we are. We need some constitutional amendments, but that’s another topic for another time.



For more of Steve Gehring’s thoughts on corporate rule, see Blinded by Progress, pages 55-92. You can purchase it as an ebook or print copy by clicking here.

Article originally appeared on OneEarth sustainability amid climate change (http://theoneearthproject.com/).
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