FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mafia Economics

by

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” is one of the most famous lines in cinematic history. It is the set-up for the scene in Godfather where a big shot Hollywood producer wakes up with a bloody horse’s head in his bed.

In less than 10 words it also perfectly sums up how the rich and powerful get their way. Use of the tactic has certainly never been limited to Mafiosi.

In fact, countries possessing military might have made “offers they can’t refuse” all through history to less powerful nations or regions.

But today’s ultimate practitioners are giant corporations that dominate the world economy. The 0.1% wealthiest people on the planet use their control of these corporations to impose their will on the rest of us.

Their “offers we can’t refuse” go something like this:

“Cut pensions, chop government jobs, privatize everything you can, or we will start a run on your currency and sink your entire economy.”

“Sign this ‘free trade agreement’ or we will pull all our investments from your country and move them to places that have agreed to everything we want.”

“Cut our taxes or we will fund a political party that will.”

“Build this pipeline if you want jobs.”

“We don’t care about democracy, satisfying us is more important that satisfying the will of the majority.”

“Weaken unions, or we’ll take our money and run.”

“Ignore global warming, or we’ll make sure you regret it.”

“If we don’t like your response or you protest too much, maybe even at all, we will use the violence at our disposal, including that of the governments we own, to crush you.”

But it’s not just threats. Like Don Corleone, the corporations also have politicians, judges, journalists, academics, lobbyists, personalities and many others on their payroll to lie, obfuscate, corrupt, manipulate and who knows what else in order to get their way. Both the wise Mafia Don and the effective corporate CEO understand that power comes in many forms. The use of violence needs to be minimized. Better to save it for when there is no other way to impose your will, or it loses its effectiveness. And too much looks bad. (Witness Iraq and Afghanistan.)

But here’s the thing with both organized crime and our economic system in general. There’s always some competitor  — be it a long established rival or neighbourhood punk/upstart capitalist — willing to employ whatever means necessary to steal your territory. If you get soft you risk losing everything.  If your profit margins are less than your competitors their power will grow while yours stagnates.

As the movie (and its sequels) vividly shows, there can be no Mr. Nice Guy Mafia Don. The logic of organized crime makes it impossible. To be successful — to survive — lying, cheating, bribing and ultimately violence is necessary.

The same is true of our wider economic system. While violence is usually confined to governments that the corporations control, in both worlds hands get dirty doing whatever it takes to succeed because the system demands it.

This is why environmentalists who look for capitalist solutions to global warming are either extremely naïve or in the pay of corporations. This is why union leaders who fail to see the fundamental contradiction between workers’ and capitalists’ interests often sell out to the bosses. This is why in the long run there can be no capitalism with a human face.

If the 0.1% who own and control most of our economy want to keep their power they will act as capitalists have always acted. They will grab as much profit for themselves as they can and pass the environmental costs onto the rest of us while doing so. They will try to reduce wages to increase their profits. They will manipulate democracy to get their way. They will attempt to overthrow democracy if it threatens their existence. They have no choice. Greed, self-interest and a relentless drive to increase profits are the foundations upon which the capitalist economic system is built.

Only when the vast majority of us, the 90% who work for a living, come together to use our collective power to create a new democratic economic system will anything change.

Only greater power can overcome the might of the Mafia Don or the corporate CEO: The power of the people who actually do all the work that makes up our economy.

Gary Engler is a Canadian journalist, union activist, novelist (The Year We Became Us) and co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite (www.newcommuneist.com).

 

Gary Engler is a Canadian journalist, novelist (The Year We Became Us) and co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite (www.newcommuneist.com).  He is currently working on the first great hockey novel tentatively titled Puck Hog.

More articles by:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It.
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail