Hanging out with a new friend, we were talking and he said something along the lines of "hands down, anything the government can do, corporations can do more efficiently," which of course is the code phrase that translates to "I am a Libertarian." He preferred to identify himself as an anarcho-capitalist. So, more than a few drinks in, we got into the issue.
I brought up specific situations where companies have taken over roles that our society typically left to government and described the result, that there are some areas where you can't have the only incentive be the bottom line when it comes to the public good. Privatized armies, privatized health care, privatized prisons, privatized fire protection - it all works most efficiently as profit making machines that will cut corners when it thinks it is able in order to make more money. The difference is that companies, especially the big ones, are a bunch of transnational fiefdoms that answer only to the profit margin. His response is that this is fine and only doesn't work because of government regulation - the guiding hand of the market would work more effectively than the government could, that if people didn't like the way a company worked, they would use the services of a different company. I responded that companies with enough money would do the cost benefit analysis and when it was cheaper to just own the media than fly right, they'll own the media. Told him about the Monsanto growth hormone piece being shut down because Fox didn't want to hurt an advertiser and subsequent whistle-blower lawsuit that failed because the higher court decided that it was not against the law to lie in the news, that it was protected as free speech.
The gist of the argument, essentially, is the question of who you want in charge. The government at least is accountable to people. Companies do not want accountability, they want total freedom from accountability, and it's their influence on the government that is behind movements for less accountability and more control. They pushed for retroactive immunity for wiretapping US citizens during the Bush Administration, corporate lobbyists pushed for a health care reform that keeps insurance companies around as middle-men, they pushed for the broad language in the new Defense Authorization Act that explicitly legalizes the extraordinary renditions we've already been doing, and they're pushing for SOPA and PIPA, which hands the fate of the internet to the media and Hollywood establishment.
Not that government isn't complicit, but it's corporate money that's corrupted government. This is the gist of the Occupy movement and an issue with the ground roots Tea Party movement - really, it's something everyone is concerned about. That's why Gingrich, seeing his numbers slip, and everyone els, wishing they HAD numbers, jumped on Romney for his work with Bain Capital and for being a millionaire in general. The Republican establishment, but especially the GOP funders, cried fowl and demanded the candidates turn down the populism; ostensibly because they were writing the DNC's campaign plan. The traditional Republican money-sources reminded the candidates that they did not want an examination of Big Money, the kinds of things Bain Capital did and the kinds of privilege Romney has. Capitalism in general wants to only be thought of as the thing that gets you a job.
It should be a primary issue, but it won't be, contrary to the warnings of Ailes, Beck, and Limbaugh. Romney will win the nomination, despite the best efforts of the Republican party, and Obama will walk the populist line to beat him, but Obama is just as much in the pockets of Big Business as any other candidate - just different businesses than Romney. Except Big Finance, so I'll bet Obama won't hit him so hard with the Bain Capital pension-fund & job-killing machine angle. Still, it's a conversation we need to have and the primary campaign is a good opportunity. What is the role of an economic system? What is the role of corporations? If companies get together to shut down an organization's source of donations because they don't like what they're saying, is that kind of censorship ok? What happens when companies, "too big to fail," do the things that we won't let governments do because we're rightfully afraid of them having too much power?