Major news this morning from London as G7 Finance Ministers in London have agreed to a joint effort to possibly create a minimum 15% corporate tax on multinational organizations. Though media coverage is working restlessly to cover this myopically as an aside in President Joe Biden’s push for an infrastructure bill, this is a much larger piece of news that signals a fresh attempt to restructure the disastrous and inhuman relationship between the corporation and nation-state.
As discussed previously in Dispatches From A Collapsing State, the hypercapitalistic order of the past forty years has manifested in a strange new moment where the multinational corporation has, while aided by neoliberal policies, grown so large that it has effectively dwarfed the nation as the defining body in human culture. Over the decades, the corporation has used the state as a body to feed off of, to subsist on its social programs, tax cuts, and helpful legislation, not to mention obsession with free-trade, that allowed corporations to dissolve impediments such as regulatory bodies or pesky human rights limitations, and instead create a system wherein “secondary” countries could be used for inhuman labor and “first-world” bodies might continue consumption of cheap goods.
This has left even major nations, such as the United States, far behind in terms of modernization or human projects like healthcare, education, and infrastructure, as corporations have seized the levers of politics and culture, reducing political bodies and politicians to rubber stamps and charmless PR agents. That arrangement has grown so out of balance and ludicrous that the wealthiest men of the world now singlehandedly control their own space programs and operations designed to either launch us into the stars or plunge us into virtual reality frontiers, all of it with an eye to post-human, post-political ends. Today’s announcement is an attempt to reshuffle the cards, but it may very well be coming too late in the game for it to be effective.
There’s reason for hope, if measured. The only means of actually reining in corporate greed was for these global operations to work in concert. Capitalistic competition has always meant the moment a nation raised its taxes there was another there ready to lower theirs in order to profit, and this agreement is the equivalent of an arms reduction deal that calls for a truce in that competition. That being said, there’s an almost certainty that the competition at the heart of this will mean the agreement will never come to fruition or will eventually be undermined by an actor recognizing the opportunity for profit and power.
And, on that note, it should not go unsaid that this agreement would not have been possible had the political, economic, and social structures not reached a point of crisis. Starved of funds and resources, the neoliberal project has created a generation’s worth of austerity, creating unhappy, desperate, frustrated masses that have lost trust in their institutions to the point that violence and discord are growing, spreading, metastasizing into full-on assaults on the halls of power and democracy. This moment is untenable and even the most ardent loyalists to the capitalist system have begun ringing the alarm that we are careening, at undeniable speed, toward a major meltdown should some realignment not happen.
This is a canary in the coalmine moment. The G7, as a body, has always been dedicated to supersizing profit and protecting free-market systems. To even discuss this, much less come to an agreement, means that the situation is as dire as some of us have warned and possibly even moreso. And, even with the most powerful nations in the world agreeing, we have to understand that it is far from a done deal. Corporations, as self-interested bodies, will fight this tooth in nail, attempt to buy the larger economic bodies with profit and power, and undoubtedly sink unbelievable amounts of money into persuading citizens that all of this is a major conspiracy on behalf of evil individuals and will result in tyranny. They will astroturf rebellions and surely sicc their attack dogs - the Republicans and corresponding far-right groups around the world - in an effort to raise resistance and fearmonger.
Stories like these tend to be huge but pass like blips. We may in fact be witnessing the nation-state beginning to defend itself, at long last, against the corporation domination, but even that defense might be too little too late and, as these things tend to be, mostly self-interested, shortsighted, and operated without the good of the people in mind. It might be a moment of reckoning, a last-ditch effort to calm the masses, through minimal, ineffective public investment, before an explosion occurs.