Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by DEEP, Mar 30, 2014.
Have you ever played Shadowrun?
You couldn't be more mistaken, but as I said, I'm not going to hijack the thread by pursuing this topic here. Suffice to say that I was not implying that corporations are evil. I would argue the contrary.
I was a tax director for a major pension provider for 12 years. I also serve on the board of three not-for-profits. And in my current role as a specialist in international tax issues, I regularly review the records of major corporate boards. I have a very solid understanding both of how they are supposed to work in theory and how they actually work in the real world.
Corporate boards are rarely, if ever, accountable to the shareholders, because the boards select their own members and always present the shareholders with a single slate of candidates. When was the last time your saw a board with contested slates at election time? What few efforts there have been in reforming corporate governance have been due to huge institutional shareholders.
I appreciate your desire to make your point, then shut down any response by proclaiming "that is not the purpose of this thread," but I don't believe the tactic is any more legitimate than the statement that a corporation is not accountable to its shareholders.
The OP discussed a storyline based on a government being replaced by a corporation, and the presumably oppressive treatment of citizens that would (automatically) result. It's a perfectly legitimate discussion to compare and contrast the structure and operations of a government as opposed to a corporation, and would be useful to someone writing a fictional story line.
There a many misconceptions about corporations, what they represent, how they operate, and your comments prove that. Saying "the government is accountable to the governed, which is not the case with a corporation," shows a lack of understanding of the relationship between a corporation and its shareholders. Corporate governance is accomplished by "electing" a board of directors (legislators) according to corporate bylaws (constitution), and the corporation is run for the benefit of the shareholders (fiduciary responsibility).
But that's not what this thread is about.
You're proving my point. It's so easy to simply replace the word "corporation" with "government" in your statements and the effect is the same, precisely because corporations and governments are identical twins in terms of structure and effect.
When was the last time you saw a national election with contested slates at election time? Sure, there are exceptions, but no more exceptions than occur in corporate environments.
Boards present the shareholders with a single slate of candidates, and legislative bodies present the electorate with a single slate of candidates.
Reforming corporation governance has been hindered due to huge institutional shareholders, reforming crony capitalism has been hindered by huge institutional political action committess. You point to the (evil) institutional shareholders, while turning a blind eye to the massive influence of union money on U.S. politics, as if the influence of one is holy and sacred, but the influence of the other is kind and beneficial. Yes, there are right-wing funding sources as well that have the same smothering effect on self-governance.
This is not the purpose of this thread, which was about a concept for a work of fiction. If you want to argue about corporations and government, please take it to the Debate Room.
Who the hell are you to shut anybody up?
You're arguing your points just as much as I'm arguing mine.
Are you the Purpose of Thread Police? Were you appointed to this position by someone in authority? Or did you appoint yourself? Do you have a decoder ring?
Show me your authority to order me or anybody else around.
I'm simply pointing out that if you want to express your views on corporations and government, there is an appropriate place - over in the Lounge, in a section called the Debate Room. And I'm asking you to show some respect to the OP by not hijacking this thread, which is about the viability of an idea for a work of fiction.
@DEEP - if you decide to pursue your idea, you'll need to refine it as others have pointed out above. I suggest that you read as much as you can on the commentary surrounding the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and Sen. Al Franken's push for a Constitutional Amendment declaring that a corporation is not a "US person" under the law. You will likely find less drastic and more credible ways to portray corporate control than the ones you currently have in mind.
Tone it down, folks. It doesn't break the forum rules if members point it out (politely) if a discussion starts veering off-topic and suggest the OT discussion is taken to the appropriate area / thread. There's no need to take it personally much less resort to abusive behavior (which is against the forum rules).
If you wish to discuss the similarities / differences between corporations and governments, as long as it's done within the context of the OP's story, it's on-topic. If it turns into a discussion that is outside of the OP's scope, i.e. just general discussion of the subject without regard to the story in question, it's off-topic. Anyone wishing to discuss the subject in a broader context could, of course, open a thread for that subject in the Debate Room.
Keep it clean and enjoy the discussion.
Ask yourself political questions:
Is there a sense of democracy- can other companies (parties) challenge and ask for a vote?
Is the government an autocratic, totalitarian tyranny like North Korea? Or do they let people govern themselves?
What laws are in place and how are they enforced? Police, military?
You could check out real-world examples. For example, there were mining towns in the USA where people were paid in 'scrips' and these scrips could only be redeemed at company-owned stores. The houses they lived in were company owned as well. Perhaps if people in your story were not 'paid' in general currency, but only paid in coupons, that would certainly make them trapped and enslaved in a practical sense.
I don't know how your 'world' would handle outsiders, but while people in these company towns were not physically restrained from leaving, they would have left owning nothing. If they were unable to secure employment somewhere else (due to a blacklist?) they were unable to support themselves or their families. I suspect many of them just couldn't see a way forward to any other kind of life.
On a side note, this is sounding quite interesting. Be sure to take some of the commenters' ideas in whilst writing. I'm definitely intrigued by this dystopian- sounding story!
There are certainly models available for corporate pseudo-slavery. You could have debt bondage, where individuals are forced to work for the corporation in order to pay off their debts. This would work especially well if debt is inherited. Forced labor as a punishment for crimes is a form of slavery which exists today in the United States. Your future people could also be trapped in contractual bondage from birth if laws were changed to allow for the signing away of a child's rights (a simple enough matter if the corporation is the one which makes the laws). Each person's contract could have a provision mandating that they sign their own children into bondage as well when they are born, making the cycle permanent.
In all three forms of slavery there is some expectation of compensation, but that could come in the form of nonconvertible company scrip, usable only to purchase goods from their master corporation and other businesses which have some agreement with them.
What I'm wondering is, how does a corporation-owned society differ from a totalitarian state? What would be the purpose of the company that owns Chicago? If everyone is a slave, who are its customers? Wouldn't it be easier just to control the means of production and then build trusts to eliminate labor mobility? Most people would be content with having the freedom to quit their jobs without ever actually taking advantage of it since they would never be employed again, and company scrip could also be used here to hinder mobility.
A "shareholder" class could exist which has freedom of movement and is paid with a universal currency which allows them to purchase the goods and services that these corporations produce. It needn't necessarily be large, but it has to be enough to justify needing such control over workers.
That sounds much like the plots of Robert Asprin's Cold Cash War and Frank Miller's Give Me Liberty.
Assuming it isn't a single monopoly per country, one difference from a totalitarian state might be intense struggles between corporations for "market share", a kind of under-the-blankets warfare with certain mutually agreed rules to prevent the excessive loss of profits. Corporate espionage, employee stealing, and advertising "wars" already exist and happen.
In many totalitarian states power is shared among a loose group of individuals of which the head of state is merely the member who has the most. Because decision making and power struggles among elites in these states are even more opaque than they are in the West the state can appear to be monolithic and all-powerful, but in reality there have been very few examples where all power flowed to a single locus (these tend to be found in states with strong personality cults and in those where civil society is too small or damaged to have any power of its own). If the corporocracy presents a united front to the public and keeps its subject population in bondage then they are still authoritarian.
What the corporations want also remains a problem. What does a city-owning corporation do, and for whom does it do it? If the corporation is still profit-oriented and the people are enslaved then they aren't the market, and they can't sell to any other populations since they're also enslaved. With no government to issue universal currency, what form does profit take? If people are slaves then how would headhunters do their job? Slaves can't just quit unless they want to risk death.
Perhaps a bit of a different perspective. You could look at history to see how this might have played out. If you were to consider the Catholic Church analogous to your Corporation, look at the conflicts they had with governments and states - power seeking, particularly say 12th to 18th centuries. And much of this hinged on pivotal very strong characters (e.g., Henry the 8th is the obvious first example, but I believe it was King Francis that "encouraged" the Pope to begin the Albigensian Crusade). And Pope Urban maniputlated governments for the crusades/ Another example of plays for power were a small number of monarchy's pressured the pope to dissolve the Jesuit order in 1790s when it was at its peak. The point here is that much of the conflict (and likely the characters) that you are thinking about occurred in the European past. And that might be great model for how some of the conflicts between corporations and government might go... And there are plenty of example where the church coerced governments to do as they pleased.
The Catholic Church controlled a significant amount of territory in Italy during the medieval and early modern eras, so it would be better to understand the Church as a minor military power with a significant amount of cultural influence (such as having a role in legitimizing regimes) that waned with time.
Lol you mean like today? I kid, I kid..
For advice: Just look at today in America. Everything is pretty much run by the corporations, even our politicians are being bought out one by one. So if you really wanna make it realistic just base it off of what is happening now and imagine to yourself what it would be like if it got worse.
The Idea that corporations run the world is a very realistic one especially seeing as economy plays such an important part in life. look what happened with the GFC which was caused by companies owing money and not to mention stocks. Corporations already are close to being more powerful the governments so the idea isn't far fetched, I'm currently writing a novel where Corporations basically overpowered what the governments of the world said which led to almost the collapse of humanity within 24 hours of a calamity happening.
You could look at the Caldari State as a model:
I kinda think corporations and banks are currently the tail that wags the dog.
DANG IT, this was the concept of my world too HAHA. Though in mine corporations war with each other in a mob like manner killing anyone who stands in their way and the protagonist is an inventor who can bend the fabric of space. There also is a central government but it's very weak at this point.
Actually, in the absence of any government regulation, corporations would never need to revert to moblike violence. Look at what they do now - form conglomerates, underprice smaller businesses, luring away their competitors' best people and stealing trade secrets (eg. hacking into corporate databanks).
Distant future. And they ask if it is realistic.
For the business runs all aspect ... try now. Many major businesses don't answer to the government which is too busy shoving their pockets full of [corrupt] business-earned money to care what happens to the "little guy". If they did answer than the countless scandals wouldn't exist - let's see, off the top of one's head. The 50 cent piece of metal that would have kept the Crown Vic's gas tank from blowing up about a decade ago and which was only replaced after people got hurt. The latest thing with VW, etc. Most businesses only answer when and only when someone gets hurt otherwise everyone turns a blind eye - including government.
If you want to find a realistic city find one that is pretty much gone to the dogs - I think Detroit or was it Chicago [one of them has had entire areas simply pack up & move out] has been pretty much floundering for the last couple of years now with people leaving in droves. A city desperate to be "revitalized" like that would accept pretty much any "condition".
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