June 22, 2009

The rise of Corporatism !


The latest news on corporate merging are seeing on Sunday June 21st Xstrata, an Anglo-Swiss mining giant, proposing a “merger of equals” with Anglo American, a big London-based miner. The combined firm, worth some $70 billion, would become the world’s third-largest mining company.
After FIAT missed merging with Opel we are seeing a restructuring of the corporate world never seen before. Until 2007 such giant mergers would have been prevented from occurring due to anti-trust laws put in place exactly to avoid that a giant corporation can control a entire sector of the economy and potentially pose a systemic threat should it fall.
Anti trust laws are officially still there but it appears that everyone has forgot about them, there are no inquiries, no contrary voices, not even a doubt on the possible consequences of such consolidations.
The paradox of this story though is not Europe but USA.
USA was the inventor of anti-trust laws to prevent the abuses and dangers of the robber barons era when Rockfellers, Astors and company were de facto controlling the economy and consequently the country.
Anti-trust laws have always been at the forefront of the political discussion whenever a big merging was taking place, today is exactly the contrary, US government is not only taking equities in the corporations but dictating merging and acquisitions justified by the current economic crisis.
Chrysler forced to join FIAT, Bank of America forced to buy Merrill Lynch, these diktats unthinkable few years ago are common practice in the new economic scenario.
Of course, governments will tell us that all is for the greater good of the national economy, that is something they had to do, that they had no choice otherwise we would be now fighting for food scraps in the streets. I love when they use the apocalypse card!!
So now we have few key corporations in key sectors, equally leveraged or controlled by the governments, not competing against each other but many times joining forces to regulate the sector and control the flow of cash, and either controlled or having as stock holder the government.
First those companies controlled by the government have an unfair advantage against free companies, regardless of the good intentions and fair speeches, the government cannot afford to lose more money in unsuccessful business so if necessary will do its best to make revenue either tricking competition out or taking it out with a merger. First victim of the lack of competition and merit is the Free Market which is agonizing in USA.
The merging of corporations and state let us not forget is called Fascism. Benito Mussolini believed that fascism should have really been called corporatism, because corporatism is when government and business are intertwined.
Too much power is being concentrated in too few hands, we have been here before and it did not go well.
We created laws and rules to prevent this concentration of power from happening again and it is scary how few months of economic decline can let us all repudiate our principles and ideals.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and we are definitely walking on it now.
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