Contaminants from the Corporate State

Affirming the old aphorism that actions speak louder than words, the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta asserted that “the revolution consists more in deeds than words.” Malatesta saw that “each time a spontaneous movement of the people erupts,” there is an opportunity for progress toward society without authority.

A similar idea is encapsulated in the Samuel E. Konkin III’s notion of the “counter economy,” all of that economic activity that exists in defiance of the state’s hierarchical control. Where the net results of people working within real market relationships — arrangements free from outside coercion — are adaptability and local-community strength, the product of hierarchy and compulsion is irresponsibility.

Corporate misdeeds, flecking the news at fairly regular intervals, have taken a place among the prosaic features of life in the state’s brand-name world. From environmental disasters to those of a financial nature, the “corporate scandal” has become so unremarkable within modern life as to be thought of as something other than scandalous.

When the appropriate degree of indignation is articulated, it is typically as an occasion to plea for the nostrums of the state. The idea, debunked though it has been in tragedy after tragedy, is that a twist here and a pull there ought to be enough to give us the kinds of accountability and efficiency we want. The statist credo of violence, with all of its component parts, has once again been confuted by recent events in one of the world’s richest ecosystems.

“A court in Ecuador,” reports BBC News, “has fined US oil giant Chevron a reported $8bn (£5bn) for polluting a large part of the country’s Amazon region.” When Chevron swallowed up Texaco ten years ago, it also imbibed a potation of liability stemming from Texaco’s use of Amazon distributaries as toxic dumps. Cataclysmic ecological disasters like those inflicted by Texaco in Ecuador are the hallmarks of statism, not anomalies of its economic system.

Responsibility and stewardship won’t — indeed can’t — result from a system where a tiny elite controlling huge hoards of resources doesn’t have to literally pay for its deeds within the marketplace. And companies like Texaco never do; they instead avail themselves of the privileges of statism that force workers to pay their way — workers who have no other options in the state-restricted economic framework.

Though the economic systems of statism are diverse, they all rely on (more or less obvious) violence against individuals as a way to make sure the Bosses get a free ride. Working people, mostly without realizing just how much, pay through the nose to defray corporate costs, allowing the engorged multinationals to preponderate.

The mistake is to take their size as some kind of prima facie evidence of adherence to the voluntary, consensual principles of genuine free markets. The Herculean powerhouses of the state’s corporate economy, rather than emerging in their swollen forms through the processes of free exchange, grow due to their exemption from those processes. Through a potpourri of interferences in the marketplace — from arbitrary regulations to both direct and indirect subsidies — the state forges a hospitable habitat for gratuitous size and scope of power.

Our continued evasion and avoidance of the state’s privilege economy, whenever and wherever possible, is the corrosive force that will build toward Malatesta’s spontaneous eruptions. Part of this is real labor organizing through voluntary, free market unions. Such peaceful unionization, what Bakunin called the “embryo of the administration of the future,” can rupture the compulsions of the state and replace it with responsible organizations of free people.

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist