Giant corporations and democracy

The trickle that wasn't

Corporations stand for abuse

During the colonial period and on into the early days of the nation, Americans wisely didn’t trust corporations. In particular, people remembered the abuses by the British East India Company. They were also concerned by the corruption of government associated with the grants of special privileges awarded to corporations.

Hence there were few corporations here when this country was founded. However growth in corporations accelerated in the early 19th century, but these corporations were still subject to some control by the governments that granted their charters. As time passed, more money changed hands and, eventually, giant corporations with seemingly unlimited power were created.

Several presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower have expressed great concern about corporations. In addition, Thomas Jefferson said: “I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it’s [sic] birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and to bid defiance to the laws of their country.”

Today, it is hard to realize that there was a time when giant corporations didn’t exercise a large degree of control over our lives. Unfortunately, these large transnational corporations, particularly in the financial sector, have used trade agreements, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to expand their power around the world.

The latest example is the little known Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that includes eleven nations around the Pacific Rim. Japan has also recently applied to be included. It is called ‘NAFTA on steroids’ and represents the latest power grab by transnational corporations.

Secret discussions have been going on since March 2010 and the 17th negotiating session will take place later this month in Peru. The agreement contains 26 chapters with only five of them concerning traditional trade issues. The corporate sector is involved and well informed, but the public and Congress are being kept in the dark.

Some key concerns about the TPP include the lack of transparency; the expansion of intellectual property rights beyond previous agreements; the ‘investor-state’ settlement system that gives corporations the right to sue governments and to override democratically enacted laws; and the elimination of more banking regulations and allowing capital to move in and out of nations without restriction.

Please contact your representative and senators and voice your opposition to this challenge to democracy. For more info, visit

Ron Forthofer

Ron Forthofer Ph.D. is retired Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, Texas; former Green Party candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado 

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