The Elite Consensus: When Corporations Wield the Constitution
by George Draffan, Foreword by Richard Grossman & Ward Morehouse
AVAILABILITY: Readily available
Publication Date: January 2003
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Topics: BUSINESS AND POLITICS; CORPORATIONS-UNITED STATES-POLITICAL ACTIVITY; DEMOCRACY
Description: 'The Elite Consensus' goes behind the veil of giant corporations - Enron, Bechtel, Halliburton, Monsanto, Pfizer, and others making our daily news - to show how the "system" really works.
Draffan describes how corporations leverage power through think tanks and business groups to form an undemocratic system of governance over citizens. He outlines the normal, everyday ways these institutions shape the national investment and political policies, portraying how a shadow system of corporate power effectively governs. The corporate agenda is served equally by conservative, liberal, and libertarian philosophies, according to Draffan. Corporate power, he writes, descends from the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court grants of "personhood" and Bill of Rights protections to corporations.
Unlike muckraking books about scandals in one industry or another, Draffan focuses on the mechanisms of power wielded by the entire network of corporate players. "Today's corporate leaders received a head start from the men of property who wrote the Constitution," Richard Grossman and Ward Morehouse, cofounders of POCLAD [www.poclad.org], wrote in their foreword that succinctly summarizes the book's analysis. 'The Elite Consensus' names names. It reads like a playbill of actors on the stage of domestic and foreign policy who "wield the Constitution" to their own ends. It gives profiles of those players - think tanks, business groups and non-profit organizations - whose "experts" are regularly quoted in the media promoting corporate agendas with no reference to their corporate backers. A valuable guide for activists, citizens, journalists, scholars and students, the book reveals the interconnections between these organizations and their revolving-door relationships with government.
Interestingly, the book includes the Brookings Institution - tax-exempt think tank commonly considered liberal or centrist - whose board includes corporate CEOs from AT&T, Chase Manhattan, Kissinger Associates and Bank of America, a former director of the World Bank Robert McNamara, and directors and trustees of major foundations.
"Corporate-driven think tanks and educators enjoy the prestige of university appointments where corporate agendas are developed and disseminated," writes Draffan, Executive Director of the Public Information Network, Seattle, WA. "Corporate foundations decide which charities and which environmental groups get funded. Investment bankers control more money than the World Bank and their unregulated speculation in national currencies has plunged Latin America and Asia into financial crises. Governments have become mere salesmen promoting multinational corporations, which are the 'muscle and brains' of the global economy."
'The Elite Consensus' traces corporate funding of think tanks and organizations like the Business Roundtable, Chamber of Commerce, Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), International Chamber of Commerce, Heritage Foundation, Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, United Nations, and other non-profit corporations.
Draffan describes how a single corporation - General Motors - affected the economies of both Mexico and the U.S when it laid off 99,000 U.S. workers between 1992 and l996. He said General Motors became the largest private employer in Mexico by moving its operations south of the border. U.S. union workers were replaced by lower-paid contract and temporary workers making Manpower, Inc. - a temporary employment agency - the largest employer in the United States.
The political cartoon on the book's cover by nationally noted political artist Matt Wuerker illustrates the book's theme: the conflict between "We the People" and corporate power. His caricature of the Capitol building and Washington Monument shows a billboard hiding the buildings of corporate organizations whose power rests on the U.S. Constitution, supported by the building blocks of the 1st and 14th amendments. Constitutional amendments meant for citizens are the "rights" corporations use for themselves in the courts, as the book details. Wuerker, whose cartoons can be seen on the POCLAD website, can be contacted at www.mwuerker.com.
Anyone who was affected by the recent power blackout, lost a pension in a corporation that went belly up, or lost a job in a company whose work was sent to a country with cheaper labor, will want to read this book. Public indignation at the Enron and other corporate scandals indicates the public is hungry to know more about what is going on behind the scenes.
George Draffan is a forest activist, public interest investigator, and corporate muckraker. He is the co-author of 'Railroads & Clearcuts' and 'Strangely Like War'. For the past fifteen years he has provided research services and training to citizens and public interest groups that are investigating and challenging corporate power. Some of his work can be found at Endgame, a project of the Public Information Network (www.endgame.org), which he directs.
About POCLAD: A dozen activists formed POCLAD (www.poclad.org) in 1994, to research and write about constitutional, legal, corporate, and people's movement history and since then have held over 200 "Rethinking the Corporation, Rethinking Democracy" public meetings. POCLAD continues to develop vital research and analysis for the years ahead: reading lists, pamphlets on critical issues, a thrice-yearly publication By What Authority, an anthology on corporations and democracy [Defying Corporations/Defining Democracy] videos, PowerPoint presentations, and workshops for activists engaged in struggles with individual corporations. POCLAD's work provides a framework and historical analysis of the Constitution and the role it has played in the political struggle between "We the People" and corporations. The Elite Consensus is the latest addition to the POCLAD body of publications.
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