The “Revolving Door” between business and government
The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 in the United States; a law that was passed in recognition of the equality of all American citizens, and the abolition of slavery. Most significantly, it states that:
[no] State [can] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law
Corporations in the US were, up till this point, mostly small associations chartered by the government, with strictly specified assignments of limited time periods. However, many had been seeking to gain more power and influence and, soon after the ratification of the 14th amendment, were able to obtain legal recognition from the Supreme Court as “persons”, thereby creating the notion of corporate personhood. Legislation that was passed recognising the rights of all people, signifying the equality of black people was manipulated to gain rights and freedoms for corporations, which has, over time, resulted in the restrictions of the freedoms of ordinary people. Today, corporations all over the world are more powerful and wealthier than many countries. In 2002 the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ranked countries, according to GDP, alongside the wealth of corporations. Many corporations ranked higher than countries, including ExxonMobil, which was ranked 45th, making it wealthier than over 100 countries, including Pakistan, Peru and New Zealand. As well as wealth, corporations are gaining more influence over government policy, gaining almost “state-like” power in their ability to exist multi-nationally and the increasing amount of public services that are being privatised and carried out by corporations.
This “revolving door” between business and government, where an increasing amount of state services are being run by private companies, to the profit of government ministers involved in said companies, seems to be constantly spinning. Corporate interests are becoming closer to government interests, and decisions made by the state can often be seen as being driven by corporate-linked incentives instead of a commitment to public duties.
It was recently revealed that a firm founded by Lynton Crosby, a Conservative Party strategist, had advised private healthcare firms on how best to exploit the “failings” in the NHS. This was revealed in the same week that the government announced they had decided to delay their plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarette packets, stating that more research was needed before implementing the scheme. Lynton Crosby also has links to Philip Morris tobacco. In the aftermath of the NHS scandal, the government hurriedly passed the Lobbying Bill, in an attempt to appear as if they were actually doing something. This Bill will only cover a small number of lobbyists, excluding any in-house lobbying from its reach.
Every government department now has a private element, which means it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold any wrongdoers to account. However, public response to the recent scandal has been minimal, which is also partly due to the lack of media coverage. Too often, the reaction of the general public after a scandal involving government ministers and their business links is initial anger followed by a shrug of the shoulders. There has become an almost expectation and acceptance of the level of corruption and greed that exists within the government, where individual gain is prioritised over the needs of the people, often with a disregard for the well-being and safety of people receiving services. The recent inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga, who died while being deported to Angola from the UK in 2010, revealed that he was ‘unlawfully killed’ by the employees of G4S whose methods of restraint were so aggressive they led to Mubenga’s death. However, G4S continues to retain its many government contracts in security, as do the many other private security firms involved in immigration services, without any attempt to ensure that best practice is being employed.
There are organisations in the UK and internationally who campaign for greater transparency for government and business, but, while links between the two continue to exist, any political will supporting changes regarding transparency and accountability will remain minimal. This government seems intent on complete privatisation, which, while detrimental to those of us making use of public services, is in line with fundamental Conservative ideology. The level of cuts and privatisation have gone beyond the point where they can be justified as necessary to reduce the UK’s deficit. The imminent destruction and disintegration of the NHS, and callous cuts to legal aid serve no purpose other than making a profit for those in government who are leading the policies and their friends in business.
As the author and activist Naomi Klein wrote,
When it comes to paying contractors, the sky’s the limit; when it comes to financing the basic functions of the state, the coffers are empty
The purpose of a corporation is to make a profit for its shareholders. While those profits continue to lead to government, the rapid increase of privatisation will continue to expand into every sphere of society, with disregard for the needs and rights of the people. While the mainstream media continues to almost completely avoid commenting on this expansion with little or no criticism, the majority of public services will be speedily transformed into private, profit-making services, while we are distracted over cooing over the new royal baby or talking about the weather.