Perhaps the most far reaching but little understood transformation in the late twentieth century has been the growth of multinational corporations. Under the guise of free market economics, modern corporations have assumed enormous economic and political power. Corporate libertarians have equated corporate growth with the public good, but as David C. Korten argues, increasing corporate power results in an enormous transfer of power, wealth, and resources from the public to the private sector. Unresponsive to the public will, corporations have placed their immediate self-interest over the public good. In WHEN CORPORATIONS RULE THE WORLD, former USAID official and Harvard Business School professor Korten examines the social, economic, and environmental consequences of the uncontrolled growth of multinational corporations.
The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have all facilitated the growth of multinational corporations. The new global economic environment has resulted in a massive transfer of jobs and capital and a drain on natural resources. Corporate expansion has been fueled by the disconnection of money from value in a predatory financial system, by corporate mergers and buyouts, and most of all by the illusory idea that unlimited growth is possible in a finite global environment. The corporate agenda of maximizing short-term profits often works against the common good, especially when corporations externalize their costs and export jobs and capital. A healthy society requires more than greed and self-interest to sustain itself.
With the unlimited growth of global corporate power, Korten foresees the emergence of a new corporate colonialism resulting in the loss of national sovereignty, economic dependence, and continued environmental and social decline. The corporate goal of global consumerism on a Western scale is simply unsustainable, Korten warns, without catastrophic social and environmental consequences. The coming “Ecological Revolution” will require a new corporate vision of social responsibility.