User “GussieFN”, in response to Logan Ferree, further down his Kos entry on Trent’s challenge to (mainstream) Democrats stating that corporations wield coercive power due to government, and not in and of themselves:
I too wield coercive power due to the gov’t. I can sue someone. I can force them to retract slander (or libel, I always forget which is which) or face penalty. I can shoot them for entering my house, with a legally-purchased gun. I can call the cops when they pee on my lawn. I can get them arrested for punching me. I even have illegal coercive power due to my gov’t. I can use the internet to stalk someone or trade in illegal pornography. I can use the highway system to get away from a bank robbery.
Corporations do wield coercive power because of the government, and wouldn’t without government aid. Yes. Nobody disagrees with that. But so what? So do I. [...]
GussieFN is making some very critical errors here: misunderstanding the nature of coercive power, overrating minor police powers (which minarchist libertarians — like, um, Logan — actually do not oppose except in amount of application), & classifying making an action easier unintentionally in the same category as overt subsidy. Let’s break this down, shall we?
-Access to the court system: GussieFN thinks because one can, in theory, sue someone for slander that they wield the power of the State. That assumes that no decision as to the merit of the claim has to be made, it’s as easy as sue–>win. If it was like that then there’d be so many lawsuits that half the population would have a law degree. Sure, they can THREATEN to sue & possibly get a settlement instead, but that depends on the person being sued thinking that the government is not going to take their side. Fate is still held in the balance when you exercize this “power”, so it’s as likely to work as it is to get you nothing.
That’s not power, it’s luck.
See, when we say that corporations wield coercive power through government, it’s not this kind of power we’re talking about. Technically, everyone has that access, and it shouldn’t really be referred to as a “power” anyway. No, corporate-state power would be more like being able to take someone to court while secretly paying off the defendant’s attorney to “take a dive”, or being able to pick a judge that’s staunchly biased in your favor, or threatening members of the jury with death if they vote against you. Notice a common theme with those? These tactics all involve not using an impartial system to come to a decision, but deliberately rigging it to be unfair.
Using the power of government to direct unearned funds towards themselves, to subsidize operating costs, to limit competition, & to squash internal dissent. That is corporate power. The thing is, it is all because of government power that this is even an option. A truly private business cannot go around with firearms extracting money from people to make their operations artificially cheaper, the State has to do that; a truly private business cannot blockade & shut down competitors, the State does that via lopsided regulations; a truly private business cannot respond to discontent over compensation with force without a government that implicitly GRANTS them that power & is willing to back it up with its own force if deemed necessary. No surprise here: the corporation as a concept started its existence as an explicit agent of the State, back in the glory days of imperialism. The only difference now is rather than the government using the corporation it’s the other way around.
-”I can shoot them with a legal gun!”… I can’t believe this statement was even made, seriously. The government not punishing you for shooting an intruder is in no way whatsoever a wielding of their power — besides, some people do get punished. Ask Cory Maye what he thinks of that…
-Subsidy vs unintentional ease: true, the internet at its absolute roots started as a government project — specifically a military project. But no one today would recognize the Arpanet if you showed them. Saying simply “thank the government for the internet” would be like saying the car was invented in prehistoric times because some neanderthal made a wheel. This is beside the point though: the internet was not created to facilitate stalking or pornography, that it is used for those purposes is chance. The highway system was actually created by the government — for military purposes (notice a pattern?), and as a huge subsidy to General Motors (though in effect the two were one in the same, since the head of GM at the time was Secretary of Defense, after having previously been director of the “War Production Board” during WW2) & is still maintained by government. Yet, again, the purpose was not to facilitate bank robberies — that is, unless you mean the money that car companies got from goosing demand for cars, & the subsidizing of sprawl.
So, the analogy of corporate-state coercive power to anything the average person can seek from govenrment or take advantage of is completely void. A more appropriate one would’ve been the ability of a loud plurality to get laws passed that attack a minority group. For example, the Religious Right’s war on homosexuality. Even that though is only strength in numbers, and for all the screaming it doesn’t have as much effect as it could — thank yahweh. A corporation, by law, is seen as a meta-person, a group that has morphed like Voltron, with the CEO forming the head, into an immortal individual, with all of the rights an individual holds by nature but none of the responsibility. Rectify this, and you’ve solved the problem.
(Cross-posted to Freedom Democrats)