A protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership held in Washington, DC, September 23, 2013. (Photo: Ellen Davidson / Backbone Campaign)
Mark Karlin | Truthout | December 6, 2015
The following is a Truthout interview with Susan George, author of Shadow Sovereigns.
Mark Karlin: How are corporations taking upon themselves the role of nations as “shadow sovereigns”?
Susan George: Corporations have no desire or need to govern directly – plenty of cooperative politicians or civil servants are prepared to do that. They do, however, want to define the structures, oversee the legislation and make sure that those who govern are always mindful of their wishes. This can be done with money to elect the “right” people (especially in the United States), and through lobbies, super-lobbies that represent entire industries rather than just individual corporations and institutions, such as the US Chamber of Commerce and BusinessEurope that prepare the negotiations of international treaties. Lewis Powell – later a Supreme Court justice – could in 1971 accurately state in a report for the US Chamber of Commerce that “few elements of American society have as little influence in government as the American businessman.” Those days are truly long gone!
Your fourth chapter is subtitled, “corporate troops invade the United Nations.” Is it indeed possible that the United Nations as a concept may become subservient to a grid of global corporate control?
Here again, CEOs don’t want to wear blue helmets. Blue flags are another matter. A company can drape itself in the UN flag of the “Global Compact” cheaply just by paying a small membership fee and signing on for a few principles of human rights, labor rights and the environment. No one will ever check if they are respecting them. The UN has given instructions to its specialized agencies to have contact persons whose job is to organize cooperation with companies. The agencies without central UN budgets such as the World Health Organization are often dependent on outside money from entities like the Gates Foundation. As a result, Bill Gates has given the keynote speech at the annual World Health Assembly twice (and Melinda Gates once). These used to be attended only by government officials but now companies from many sectors – food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals etc. – participate in various UN activities.