Controlling Corporations

George Monbiot published an article on dealing with corporate power in early december in the Guardian, titled There Is An Alternative (a reference to the claim by PM Thatcher that “there is no alternative”).

Monbiot notes “[corporate power] is the corrupting influence that prevents parties from connecting with the public, distorts spending and tax decisions and limits the scope of democracy. It helps to explain the otherwise inexplicable: the creeping privatisation of health and education, hated by almost all voters; the private finance initiative, which has left public services with unpayable debts; the replacement of the civil service with companies distinguished only by their incompetence; the failure to re-regulate the banks and to collect tax; the war on the natural world; the scrapping of the safeguards that protect us from exploitation; above all the severe limitation of political choice in a nation crying out for alternatives.”

He suggests various measures:

  • A sound political funding system would be based on membership fees.
  • All lobbying should be transparent.
  • Any company supplying public services would be subject to freedom of information laws

In the case of secretly negotiated trade treaties, he notes “We should democratise the undemocratic institutions of global governance: we should demand a set of global fair trade rules, to which multinational companies would be subject, losing their licence to trade if they break them.”

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We the people

Lawrence Lessig, a lawyer who did some deep thinking on the internet ansd copyright reform, has been lookiing deeply at the problem of corruption in democracies. Though he is focussed on the US system, we can see similar problems in election financing in Australia: consider the recent problems with fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, who were trying their best to not declare political contributions by big corporations.

Perhaps we need to campaign for public funding of all candidates in elections here? Or at the very least, uniform, effective disclosure of election funding across state and commonwealth elections?