Ralph Nader *2002*: Businesses are Supposed to Sink or Swim No Matter How Small or Big

Originally from: washingtonpost.com Thursday, July 18, 2002; Page A29, entitled ‘Corporate Socialism’

The relentless expansion of corporate control over our political economy has proven nearly immune to daily reporting by the mainstream media. Corporate crime, fraud and abuse have become like the weather; everyone is talking about the storm but no one seems able to do anything about it. This is largely because expected accountability mechanisms — including boards of directors, outside accounting and law firms, bankers and brokers, state and federal regulatory agencies and legislatures — are inert or complicit.

When, year after year, the established corporate watchdogs receive their profits or compensation directly or indirectly from the companies they are supposed to be watching, independent judgment fails, corruption increases and conflicts of interest grow among major CEOs and their cliques. Over time, these institutions, unwilling to reform themselves, strive to transfer the costs of their misdeeds and recklessness onto the larger citizenry. In so doing, big business is in the process of destroying the very capitalism that has provided it with a formidable ideological cover.

Consider the following assumptions of a capitalistic system:

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2) Under capitalism, businesses are supposed to sink or swim, which is still very true for small business. But larger industries and companies often have become “too big to fail” and demand that Uncle Sam serve as their all-purpose protector, providing a variety of public guarantees and emergency bailouts. Yes, some wildly looted companies that are expendable, such as Enron, cannot avail themselves of governmental salvation and do go bankrupt or are bought. By and large, however, in industry after industry where two or three companies dominate or presage a domino effect, Washington becomes their backstop.

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