“What if leadership is not a phenomenon determined by the ability of an individual? What if the leader does not actually cause outcomes? What if the central role of the leaders is designed to perpetuate a myth of control and to provide false hope for salvation?”
- Rick Barker
McCain has made a name for himself in part by advocating for campaign finance reform, and yet his campaign has been plagued by the scent of little scandals; his campaign manager and chief adviser have taken heat for their prior lobbying work. Conflict is inevitable when people pretend to have control over forces larger than they are.
Obama, although cleaner on the issue of contributions from corporations, is nonetheless in his own kind of denial about market forces and the power of corporations.
McCain and Obama have joined the parade of well intentioned politicians who simply haven’t admitted the central fact of our time: the corporation is today’s dominant institution. The corporation defines the norms and goals of our modern world as surely as the church did medieval times or the state did the 18th and 19th centuries. The state has about as much influence over the corporation as the early guilds had over the medieval church.
McCain, like Obama, has tapped into the fact that most 70% of Americans tend not to trust big companies. (In the EU, about 60% of Americans tend not to trust big companies.) By contrast, only 44% of Americans tend not to trust the UN.
Fortune 50 (not 500) employ nearly 8% of the American workforce even though they make up, by raw number, only 3/10,000th of a percent of the companies in the US.
Americans tend not to trust big companies for a variety of reasons but still find themselves reliant on them for jobs, products, financing, and services.
Big companies define more than the workforce. They define the work norms, the products we use, salaries, the media products we consume, and the focus of anyone intent on success. If they chose to relocate overseas, communities lose jobs and tax revenues; states and countries compete for corporations and are increasingly unlikely to dictate terms to corporations.
The dominance of the corporation is big deal that doesn’t get mentioned. If politicians did mention it, they’d be unable to sustain the myth of control over the events that control people’s lives. People continue to prefer the story that evil doers (be they terrorists or greedy CEOs) are making our lives bad to the more probable story that every period of history is defined by forces and trends larger than any individuals. As any surfer will tell you, sometimes it makes more sense to ride waves than fight them.