Theory Post: Reforming the Interaction of Government and Corporations

As my research and writing on this blog has evolved, I’ve come to realize that Monsanto is merely a case study for a much bigger political problem at hand: the need for a major reworking of the way corporations and government interact.

The way corporations exert influence over government can be simplified to one tactic: money. Corporations like Monsanto are able to influence the government to create legislation that works in their favor through financial influence and, although they cannot finance specific candidates directly, through contribution to PACs. In a 2012 Huffington Post article, John Whitehead provides one example of this type of financial control that corporations exert over the government. He describes the National Government Association’s annual summer meeting in Williamsburg where governors from each state and territory as well as their staff are “treated to amusement parks, historical sites, championship golf courses, five star dining, an al fresco concert and a rousing fireworks finale.” The article goes on to explain that the NGA recieved a total of $3 million in donations toward this event and others – which the article calls, “enough to buy a few corporate fellows a place at the table in Williamsburg.” Even with current policy, corporations are clearly able to use their financial advantage to their politcal advantage in ways other than contributing to a specific candidate. The issue is a complex one, as it walks a fine line between limiting free speech and 1st Amendment rights, and allowing the wealthiest few to control what is supposedly a democracy in which everyone is equal.

The solution? Personally, I would argue for the solution posed by Ray La Raja and Brian Schaffner in a recent Washington Post article. While it might sound counterintuitive, the article suggests that instead of allowing corporations to make huge donations to PACs and super PACs, legislation is created that only allows corporations to donate to politcal parties. Basically, while many of these PACs and special interest groups corporations donate to put an emphasis on issues that allow them to tailor themselves to the interests of the wealthy and big businesses, political parties actually have incentive to appeal to a wide range of people. The article argues that allowing groups that only work in the interest of the wealthy, funded by a huge sum of donations, only increases political fragmentation in addition to allowing the wealthy and corporations to maintain control of the government.

Obviously, the issue of the interactions of big business and the government is a complicated one, and many different idealogies come into play. However, a solution such as the above could allow for a common ground that causes corporations like Monsanto to have less influence over the government, while not limiting free speech rights.

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