This is apropos of our discussion of subsidies. It came via Common
Courage Press's "political literacy course," available by e-mail. See
publisher Greg Bates's comment on this strategy, at the bottom of the
message. The point here is how the "free" market is terrain owned by
certain interests. And how the very organizations (corporations) who
invoke "competition" to justify their M&As, takeovers, "downsizings,"
etc., in fact do what they can to drive competitors out.
>Information about this email course appears at the bottom.
>Who Owns the Playing Field Called "The Free Market"?
>By engaging in competitive struggles that make them serve the consumer
>better in a free market, corporations enrich society.
>That's not what they teach at business school. Corporations have many
>inventive ways of stacking the deck to avoid competition--and bilk
>consumers, according to Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, co-authors
>of "Corporate Predators: The Hunt for Mega-Profits and the Attack on
>Democracy." One is price fixing, where competing businesses set prices
>together. Dwayne Andreas, former CEO of the agriculture giant Archer
>Daniels Midland, put it best when he told some of his competitors how he
>viewed them and consumers.
>"We are not going to be manipulated by these god damn buyers… They can be
>smarter than us if we let them be smarter… They are not your friend. They
>are not my friend. And we gotta have 'em. Thank god we gotta have 'em, but
>they are not my friends. You are my friends. And I wanna be closer to you
>than I am to any customer 'cause you can make us … money."
>The competitor is our friend, the customer our enemy.
>Another method, again outlined by Andreas, is subsidizing giant
>corporations. Socialism for the rich:
>"There isn't one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free
>market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches
>of politicians. People who are not from the Midwest don't understand that
>this is a socialist country."
>Consider these techniques for rigging the market and enriching business at
>the consumer’s expense:
>*Keep competition at bay by extending the life of patents so you keep
>prices high and continue bilking customers. In 1997, drug maker
>Schering-Plough, who spends $2 million per year on lobbyists, asked
>Senator Frank Lautenberg to add a provision to a bill that would extend
>the patent on a class of just seven drugs. The plan was foiled when the
>advocacy group Public Citizen exposed the scheme.
>*Donate gobs of cash to politicians who can vouch for your interests. Take
>the gambling-industry-funded attack ads on politicians who criticize what
>gambling spokespeople like to term "family entertainment," which
>successfully stifled the grassroots movement into limiting gambling
>expansion. Examples include video-gaming interests in South Carolina,
>which contributed $400, 000 to defeat David Beasley, the Republican
>governor and critic of gambling, and which donated $500,000 to the
>Republican National Committee to run attack ads against Democratic
>Governor and gambling critic Parris Glendening.
>*Get the government to give you the rights to drug research gratis.
>Bristol-Myers Squibb obtained rights to the anti-cancer drug Taxol for
>free. It spends 40 cents per milligram to produce it. The customer,
>usually a cancer patient, forks over $8.50 per milligram.
>*If the free market of ideas worries you, send a chill down the spines of
>printers who are printing the magazines that expose your products as
>dangerous. In 1998 in Britain, Monsanto, a company engaged in genetically
>modifying crops, found out that an issue of the Ecologist focusing on the
>company was due to be printed shortly. Though Monsanto denies having
>anything to do with it, the printer--who had been printing the Ecologist
>for 26 years--said it feared being sued for libel and suddenly and
>mysteriously shredded the entire 14,000-copy run it had printed. The
>Ecologist was forced to print elsewhere.
>*Another favorite tool to stave off competition is buying your
>competitors. This handy-dandy trick is being used in banking (Chase
>Manhattan and Chemical Bank), in TV (Time Warner buys CNN, TBS, TNT), and
>telecommunications (Worldcom snatches MCI from the jaws of British
>*Finally, it's important to prevent consumers from suing you so that when
>your crimes are exposed you don't face the consequences. Lobbyists for
>years have tried, and so far largely failed, to cap damages awarded to
>plaintiffs who win lawsuits. But they keep trying, for example, to limit
>liability on goods with long lives like elevators, and to increase the
>burden of proof. This would insure that crime keeps paying.
>If profit is the goal, free markets and responsibility for faulty or
>dangerous products are to be avoided like the plague.
>For more ways that corporations stack the deck, from tobacco companies
>seeking limits on liability to how the International Monetary Fund has
>become a corporate welfare machine, see Corporate Predators: The Hunt for
>Mega-Profits and the Attack on Democracy.
> Also available is a Beyond the Book Interview with the authors, "The Raw
>Power of Corporate America"; see
>TOMORROW: When is it okay to go on welfare?
>This is the free Political Literacy Course from Common Courage Press: A
>backbone of facts to stand up to spineless power. Email 38, October 27
>1999. Week 8: More on Corporate Crime
> Homepage: http://www.commoncouragepress.com
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About Common Courage Press: a small publisher in Maine, they publish
many authors who can no longer find publishers in the mainstream. In
part because other publishers are afraid to print and distribute
critiques of corporate power structures. Marc Lappe, of the Center
for Ethics and Toxics, tells a wonderful story about that. He tried
to find a publisher for his book /Against the Grain/, which among
other things criticizes Monsanto. Publishers interested in the
manuscript wanted to know how much insurance he was carrying to
protect them from a Monsanto libel lawsuit. Well, nobody but a
corporation or an author backed by a mega-publisher could afford
that...so he started despairing of finding a publisher.
At some point he connected with Bates, had a meeting with him, and
expressed interest in the manuscript. Marc asked Bates, so what about
litigation insurance? Bates said, "Oh, we've taken care of that
already. You're covered." Marc was very impressed--wow, not only were
they interested in his ms., they'd thought ahead to this and somehow
managed to get litigation insurance? He said as much to Bates, who
replied, "Don't worry. We've got your litigation insurance all
covered. You're covered. We're covered. Everyone is. It's called the
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
Don't forget that most men would rather protect the possibility of
becoming rich than face the reality of being poor. --John Dickinson
(in the musical /1776/)
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