1. DEEP
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    DEEP New Member

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    World where corporations run everything?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by DEEP, Mar 30, 2014.

    So I'm currently developing the setting for a Sci-fi story set in the distant future, and I'm pretty interested in the idea of corporations ruling cities and having no central government. For example, a corporation that purchased NYC or Chicago would now own the people, the businesses, etc. and with no government to report back to/orders to follow, that company could change it and mold it however it pleases. Of course, the corporations are now responsible for everything the government used to regulate. However, I'm kinda at a loss as to if my portrayal is realistic.

    The way I envisioned it technology kept advancing and giving several corporations more and more economic and political power to these corporations to the point where they were more powerful than the government itself (money is power type of thing).

    I figure there's probably something I'm missing here, but I'd really appreciate any type of advice or just a fresh new perspective on this.

    Thanks, and sorry if my writing was kind of choppy.
     
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  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, welcome to the forum. The concept is realistic. There are other books out there with similar themes, not that you cannot make an original work. It will depend on how you write it and what you choose to focus on as to whether it will interest readers.

    By 'own the people' does that mean they cannot seek work elsewhere?

    I haven't read this book but it's on my to read list:
    Dystopian Novel, The Water Thief, Imagines the Corporate-Controlled Future of America
     
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  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    On top of what Ginger said, check out the novel that glorifies such an idea: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. That is, of course, only if you think you can stomach 1,200 pages of ideological clap-trap.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I love you, wolf boy. ;)
     
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  5. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    To some degree our world is run by corporations.
    Just think about Unilever, or Nestle. They own practically everything.
     
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  6. DEEP
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    DEEP New Member

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    You guys are awesome!! By "own the people," I meant they are trapped in that city. They'll work in the city and aren't allowed to leave unless given special permission (which never happens). I'll definitely have to check out the books.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This sounds a lot like present-day America...

    Even if something like this hasn't happened in the real world, that doesn't mean you can't write about it and make it believable. It's your job as a writer to make the reader believe. If you don't believe what you're writing, neither will the reader. I recommend doing some research on political theory. That should make things a bit easier.
     
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  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I read a science-fiction story in Analog magazine back in the 1970s that postulated a future in which corporations had their own armies and would fight wars against each other. I don't remember the author or title, but it was an interesting concept. Imagine Ford's armies attacking Microsoft's, only to have Exxon's navy intervening until Coca-Cola's airforce starts bombing them ...
     
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  9. Patra Felino
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    Patra Felino Active Member

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    You could quite easily lead up to such an eventuality by extrapolating the current global financial crisis until one or more countries go completely bankrupt. This happened to Iceland; might easily have happened to Greece, Ireland and Portugal; and could feasibly happen to the US.

    Then, a half-decent economist could put together some way for corporations to have to bail out the country/ies concerned, in return for control.

    Don't know how much you want to get into the details, but so far it sounds more feasible than the average sci-fi idea to me.
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This conjures up all sorts of plot ideas using the different options for motives for these wars: territory, market share, resources....
     
  11. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Purchased the city from whom? I'm not "buying" this premise at all.
     
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  12. DEEP
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    DEEP New Member

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    Yeah that's kinda what I was looking for. I know I'm missing some things so I was hoping for some ideas/opinions. I got a lot of great info though so I have a clearer direction to go in now. :)
     
  13. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I'd say you're missing quite a few things. If there's no government, corporations would have to enact the laws, enforce the laws, operate schools, and maintain subways, bus systems, airports, train stations, water, sewage, electricity, trash collection, etc.--all in addition to the businesses.

    How would it come about in the first place that private corporations took over the NYPD? There are about 50,000 active and retired police officers in New York City. Who said Boo! and scared them all away? You say the citizens are "trapped" in the city and can't leave without permission. How are they trapped? There are more than 8 million people in NYC. Who's going to stop them if they try to leave? Long Island has 600 miles of coastline. Is it plausible to suppose that a corporation (or city government, for that matter) could seal off that much coastline?

    If cities were owned and controlled by rogue corporations rather than legitimate governments, how would they operate in a world where there are legitimate governments? How would the rogues survive economically if they were cut off from trade by other cities, states and nations? Look at Cuba and North Korea for answers.

    When NYC was taken over by private corporations, did the federal government just stand by and watch it happen? Where was the New York state government? To make your premise remotely believable, you'd have to address all these questions and a good many others besides. The goal in fiction is to create a plausible falsehood. Yours is still a very long way from that goal.
     
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  14. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    The movement to privatise government functions is well underway right now. US prisons are largely private. Most public services are private or subcontracted out to corporations. Almost half of the US military effort consists of private logistical contractors.

    It would not be too hard to foresee a situation where everything is privatised except the actual legislative functions themselves, and the lawmakers eventually become so dependent upon corporate financial support that they legislate themselves out of existence. There might still be a figurehead government, but if employees vote as their corporations tell them to, and any aberrations are "fixed" by cheating, the corporations will effectively run everything, including the military.

    Have a look at the "Sten" series by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch.
     
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  15. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Thus far, OK.
    This is where you go off the rails. How would lawmakers "legislate themselves out of existence"? And how would this lead to the sort of prison cities that the OP outlines, where citizens are "trapped" and can't leave without permission? Private businesses don't succeed by imprisoning their customers.

    Sorry. I'm just not buying these descriptions.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  16. DEEP
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    DEEP New Member

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    Thanks for all the great questions!!. This was exactly what I was looking for and gave me more ideas to flesh out the setting.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Just some ideas these issues bring to mind.

    One, customers, excellent point. Businesses have to have customers and employees.
    Two, you eliminate legislators by making them irrelevant, or by military coup.
    The current revolving door between our own government and industry might evolve into some other form.​
    Three, you limit movement by limiting options. You can leave the city but the only job available to you is in the city.

    These are just thoughts, undeveloped, one issue leads to another so there's no doubt these are flawed.
     
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  18. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I'll wait for the Netflix movie. o_O
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    And a painfully bad novel to boot.
     
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  20. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Amen to that!
     
  21. MrReliable3599
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    MrReliable3599 Member

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    Yes it does.

    If you look at the classic definition of a corporation - artificial enitity, limited liability, unlimited life, ability to generate revenue and make disbursements, transferability of interests, legal right similar to an individual, ability to sue and be sued - there really is no conceptual difference between a corporation and the U.S. government.

    There are many people who knee-jerk corporations as inherently evil, but jerk the other knee assuming government is inherently good. The fact is there's no difference in the nature of the two. Thinking that politicians who have the power to pass laws (or increasingly, make Presidential proclamations from the Rose Garden in lieu of passing laws) are just better, kinder, more compassionate people than corporate owners and executives reveals a lack of understanding of the structures, not to mention human nature.

    I'd bet there's a judgement along the lines of "corporations evil, government good" weaving its way through this storyline.

    The fact, and nobody's going to convince me I'm wrong, is that if somebody goes down on a busy sidewalk, lots of people are going to walk past and pretend not to notice. You can't tell me it's any more likely to be a liberal bureaucrat than a religious conservative that stops to help. Nor any more likely to be a corporate executive as compared to a government politician.

    I quickly grow weary of any expressions of moral superiority from either side.

    I make sure your story has an angle different from "corporations evil, government good." Otherwise it's going to be nothing more than forwarding a political opinion in story form.
     
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  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In theory, the government is accountable to the governed, which is not the case with a corporation. We could debate when, how and why the distinction has broken down, but that is not the purpose of this thread.
     
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  23. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    There's a world of conceptual difference, but I won't hijack the thread to debate that point. I've had my say on the silliness of the original premise, and that'll do for me.
     
  24. MrReliable3599
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    MrReliable3599 Member

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    Saying corporations are not accountable to the shareholders in the same manner the government is accountable to the governed is one of those positions that's very difficult to respond to without sounding antagonistic.

    I don't believe you have an understanding of how corporations work. We'll leave it at that.

    Saying "There's a world of conceptual difference," but 'I'm not going to tell you what that difference is', is, well, sure, sure.

    The attempt is clearly to separate the concept of corporations vs. government in order to maintain the "corporations evil, government good" mantra. The fact is, you will only think the government is good if your guys are in charge. Let's talk facism?
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    [side track story] I found a first edition of 'Atlas Shrugged' at our library book store. It was among a small group of old books someone glued together to make a display artifact that sat on the top shelf of the book shelves, potted plants in between.

    I couldn't get the books apart without damaging them so I bought Atlas Shrugged along with the book it was glued to and took them home to separate. Total cost, $2. [/side track]
     
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