Axios declares CEOs 'the new lawmakers'

In a column that ought to give anyone the willies, Axios co-founder Mike Allen sent out this headline, via email, yesterday (no found link):

1 big thing: CEOs, the new lawmakers

...with this in the fill:

American CEOs, forced into politics by cultural trends and staff demands in recent years, are hitting a new phase — actual lawmakers and rule-shapers, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes.

  • Why it matters: Every CEO has been hit by the radical transformation of what the country demands of its corporations. And with each controversy comes CEOS scrambling, sometimes clumsily, to handle a power many would rather not have.

It's not just Georgia: Corporate America is under growing pressure to put its muscle behind voting rights around the country, Axios' Courtenay Brown and Sara Fischer write.

And this additional commentary, too:

Between the lines: Employees and customers are increasingly looking to corporations to take on a bigger role in social and political issues. Many of them have leaned into that role — and gotten results.

I can't find an actual item from Axios co-founder Jim VandeHei cited by Allen, just the corporate-cheerleading piece by the two Axios writers, but the message is clear as day: We are no longer a democracy capable of choosing our own leaders, we now have rulers, from CEOs of giant corporations, and we don't get a say.

Which, frankly, is disturbing as hell, particularly coming from these guys, with Allen writing this like it's a good thing.

Once upon a time, the far-left used to decry "giant corporations." Today, the giant corporations are all woke, and therefore, according to Axios, our rulers. Never mind elections. Apparently, we can't even boycott them, presumably because they are too big and ominiscent. One thing is for sure right now, yes, they now seem to have power. And it's quite possibly becoming the state.

Which needs so much picking apart it's incredible. Both Allen and VandeHei are very smart guys, and Allen, whom I once shared a panel with, is very nice. But this analysis I see about this being a good thing, or maybe just a trend, has absolutely got to go.

Point number one: A nation of unelected corporate rulers is nothing new. It ought to scare the hell out of anyone who knows anything about history, particularly the history of Italy, Spain or Latin America, where CEOs, too, became the rulers.

It's called the corporate state. Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador, Italy, Spain, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Brazil in one way or another had it up the wazoo. It's sometimes called mercantilism. In Spain and Italy, it was called 'fascism.'

Are we cheering fascism now? Is this the new normal? Like Peronist Argentina, which worked out so well for them? Like Mussolini's Italy? Once upon a time fascism was a bad thing. We fought a war over it. But guess what? Time has passed and wokesters have taken over. All those soldiers and home fighters in the war effort back home, were, according to wokesters, racists, and now need to be erased from history. All that's left is fascism, then. See how this works?

The great Argentine economist Jorge E. Bustamante, author of "La Republica Corporativa" (unfortunately, still no translation into English but it was a best-seller) sat me down in Buenos Aires, no less, in 2002, and explained to me what this was all about. I am not going to try to parse my memory based on the time passed, but I found a tantalizing 1994 summary of his thinking at this ProQuest academic website here:

In focusing on democracy, human rights, and free, open markets, U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere is on the right course. But the narrower emphasis on economic reform and privatization may lead us to omit a key and necessary ingredient in the Latin American reform process: the need to deregulate and dismantle the pervasive corporative system that serves as a barrier to both economic and political reform throughout the area.

The immense, bloated, often corrupt public sector bureaucracies in Latin America, especially the state-owned corporations, surely need to be modernized, rationalized, greatly reduced in size, and privatized. But the freeing up of these historically mercantilist economies, although essential, is only one part of a much larger problem of statism in Latin America. A mercantilist economy is one side of the equation; the other side is state or corporatist control over virtually all social and interest groups as well. In Latin America, a state-run economy has gone hand-in-hand with a corporatist political system; both of these need to be changed if Latin America is to break out of its historic doldrums and underdevelopment.

Most Americans, including policy-makers, have little clear understanding of corporatism and the corporative tradition in Latin America. The U.S. tradition has been so thoroughly liberal (free associations), Lockean, and pluralist that we have difficulty understanding a historical system cast in other molds. But the fact is that, even with all the welcome democratizing and free-market reforms in Latin America in recent years, the countries of the area still retain many features of their corporative past.

Which sounds a lot like the America of Joe Biden and all his corporatist oligarchs. Bustamante wrote much about the interaction between special interest activist groups and big corporations, and explained to me how they all were closely linked to the state, all taking state money and licenses -- in Argentina there was even a beggar's union, and operating on state terms. The activists pressured the corporates on behalf of the state and the corporates influenced the rulers, and the circle continued. 

Now we have a textbook example of that in the CEO of Delta who first helped craft Georgia's election integrity law and then after pressure from Joe Biden, loudly renounced the law as 'un-acceptable' and 'based on a lie,' refering to voter fraud in Georgia, which was a phony leftist narrative claim that Biden himself has a personal interest in perpetrating, given the skeevy circumstances of his "election" to power. Worse still, in this case, this CEO knew it. But he's part of the corporate state now and its need to perpetrate its permanent power.

And he's our 'ruler,' now, as Axios notes, and sure as hell not our elected leader. 

How'd that corporate-state dynamic work out for Argentina? We all know about the economic loveliness of Peronism -- which through government spending, and spending, and spending, depleting the country's entire savings, turned the second-richest country in the world at the turn of the century into a third-world dump.

The corporate effects of corporate-republic, with gargantuan involvement of the state were also notable.

When was the last time you bought an Argentinian-made car? Argentina has a huge corporate-state regulatory apparat within its auto and steel industries. But it's not exactly everywhere. Because the state, activists, and CEOs had such contempt for gaucho farmers and fishermen, they largely went unregulated. Guess what? You sometimes probably buy Argentinian orange juice, Argentinian lemons, Argentinan shrimp, Argentinian wool, or if you are determined, Argentinian steak.

The Axios article by the two reporters linked by Allen is very biased, particularly in what it tries to conceal. They try to frame the issue as one of corporations trying to catch up to "the people" and do the right thing. That's the narrative. But actually, the opposite is true. The corporate-state dynamic is absolutely present here because the corporate leaders are blithely alienating at least half of their customers. The only buyer who matters to them now is the state led by Joe Biden.

As for activists, how many of them nowadays take some kind of federal funding? Yep, corporate state, yet again. Everyone answers to Joe Biden, or whoever the shadowy corporate, political, NGO, or state characters are who control him. 

This is why the corporate state is so hard to get rid of. And why, with its hooks in, leads to underdevelopment. Democrats, CEOs, and activists want this, of course. Axios and others write about this like it's a good thing and not a naked threat to America. Corporate state to them all means power. The only people left out of this cruel immutable structure are the people.

Trump's call to boycott these corporations to force them return to their market orientation and pay attention to their buyers might just be more important than it looks.

Photo illustration by Monica Showalter with use of Needpix and Pixabay / Pixabay License public domain images.

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