Now it may or may not have any connection with the debate about the pros and cons of the “Occupy …” movement in Australia or elsewhere, but the following story by Cory Doctorow from techblog BoingBoing is both fascinating and disturbing, as much for the superb associated image as the facts:
The network of global corporate control (PDF), a study published in PLOS One, analyzes the ownership structures of the world’s corporations and finds a tightly-knit cluster of 147 entities control 40 percent of the world’s wealth. Not only is this creepy inasmuch as it puts a lot of power into a small number of hands, but it also suggests that the governance of much of the world’s wealth is closely correlated, so one disaster could sweep like wildfire across them all …
“In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network,” says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.
Not as instantly striking as the “1 percent/99 percent” meme but at least as interesting.
And then there’s this story:
Leaks of U.S. proposals for the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) reveal that the Obama administration has reversed reforms designed to enhance access to affordable medicines made during the George W. Bush administration and is instead demanding new rights for pharmaceutical firms to challenge pricing and other drug formulary policies used by many developed countries to keep down prices. The leaked draft text raises multiple concerns, including the following:
EMPOWERING BIG PHARMA TO ATTACK COST-SAVING DRUG FORMULARIES
This is a new proposal to empower pharmaceutical firms to attack the medicine formulary systems that New Zealand, Australia and other developed countries have used so successfully to reduce sky-high drug prices. …
NEW MONOPOLY PATENT RIGHTS FOR BIG PHARMA THAT WILL UNDERMINE ACCESS TO MEDICINE
The leaked texts show that U.S. officials’ recently-announced medicines “access window” is window dressing for piling on monopoly privileges for Big Pharma that will in fact undermine access to medicine for millions. This U.S. intellectual property proposal, which rolls back initial reforms made in a trade pact that the Bush administration signed with Peru only four years ago, would lengthen pharmaceutical monopolies, eliminate safeguards against patent abuse, grant additional exclusive controls over clinical trial data and favor the giant pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly interests at every stage.
You don’t have to be a mung bean-eating, air-headed Socialist Alliance type to be worried about such trends. You can be a classical liberal believer in the virtues of capitalism and free trade (like me) and still think that things have gone too far in some respects. The interests of major corporates don’t always coincide with the public interest, a proposition that should be self-evident but apparently isn’t, even to some of the highly intelligent and well-read readers of this blog. Shrill corporate opposition to the mining super-profits tax, cigarette plain packaging and poker machine pre-commitment laws are obvious examples of sound public interest policies portrayed as evil or incompetent by the corporate sector and its media shills. Maybe, just maybe, the “Occupy …” protests might be part of a necessary correction despite their chaotic and often silly aspects.