Thursday, June 14, 2007
“The corporate institution is able to metastasize its power through mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, unilateral contracts, and to evade law enforcement, taxes, and other restraints through fleeing jurisdictions, lobbied loopholes, legal wars of attrition or ‘disappearing’ its own existence,” Ralph Nader said Friday at “Taming the Giant Corporation,” a conference hosted by the Center for Study of Responsive Law that ran from Friday through Sunday. The result, said Nader, has been “the supremacy of corporate commercial values and controls over community civic values and voices.”
The Washington, D.C., conference drew about 200 activists, scholars, and advocates to the Carnegie Institution‘s lovely Beaux Arts Administration Building, where about 30 experts gave presentations examining the evolving forms of corporate power and discussing how to “subordinate corporate power to the will and interests of the people,” according to the conference program.
The three-day event featured 10 panels whose purposes included: identifying how corporations have expanded their power and abused it; how policymakers, advocates, and communities can reduce the influence of corporations; and what institutions can do to offset corporate power.
Members of the first panel, “The Great Constitutional Deficiency: Corporate ‘Rights,'” pointed out that “corporations are not people” and have no rights under the Constitution.
“Corporations have no authority to make our laws and define our culture,” argued Richard Grossman, co-founder of the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy. “So when they govern, democracy flies out the door.”
A Friday afternoon panel on “Subordinating Corporate Power” featured a rousing call from James Brock, a professor of economics at Miami University in Ohio, for citizens to “reclaim the language corporations have stolen to gain power.” Brock claimed corporations “are winning the fight against antitrust because they’ve taken the terms ‘efficiency’ and ‘consumer welfare.’ Efficiency isn’t an excuse for economic power to go unchecked if it means you’re going to charge $5,000 a pill.”
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, added that executives “stole the words ‘free trade’ and used them to excuse corporate scandal.”
While many students in attendance found the presentations informative, some felt the conference did not adequately prepare them to take action against corporate power in their daily lives.