Does Big Business Oppose the State?

The most recent corporate internet protests (which implicated or was supported by the likes of Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, and Facebook)  against the Stop Online Piracy Act (known colloquially as SOPA), and the sweeping powers it would allegedly grant to the US,  may strike some observers as another piece of empirical evidence for the argument that business by its very nature is opposed to big government.
A contrasting viewpoint to this has been given by G.K. Chesterton in The Outline of Sanity. There, Chesterton remarked that there will be an imminent fusion of Big Government on the one hand and Big Business on the other. In the book Chesterton said that both Big State and Big Business:
…are already one spirit [and] they will soon be one body. For, disbelieving in division, they cannot remain divided; believing only in combination, they will themselves combine…there will be no doubt about the character of the world which they will have made between them. It will be a world of organisation, of syndication, of standardisation.
In other words, the centralisation of business activity is often accompanied by a centralisation in State administration. This is paralleled somewhat in William Cavanaugh’s Torture and Eucharist. While neoliberals are often found professing their faith in the link between a corporate-saturated social landscape with the minimisation of State, Cavanaugh argues that, as was in the case in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile which was the case study in the book, the position of Big Business is often dependent on a high degree of state intervention in social life.

We experience in the process what Adrian Pabst calls in his article in The Immanent Frame, an inversion of the medieval guild system. Whilst the former sought to prioritise social goods over commercial interests, the state strengthens itself but with a view to ensure commerce subordinates any social good, brought about by the privatisation of gain, the “democratisation of risk”, and the disengagement of finance from any social or cultural end.

The key to resistance against this merger of State and Business, as George Weigel argued in an address at Campion College, is the embedding of the economy within a form of cultural regulation, which is diffused in the varying and more organic institutions of family, church and civil society, and less dependent on the highly mechanistic and coercive enforcement arms of State, as opposed to a highly centralised regime of legislative regulation, where enforcement powers become ceded over to the more estranged organs of central governance.


4 thoughts on “Does Big Business Oppose the State?

  1. My first observation: the Wikipedia icon you've pasted at the beginning of the article looks suspiciously like the Death Star…

    Your article seems to focus on the centralization of Big Business as the initiator in this fusion; I would be interested if you think it's fair to say that the converse is also true, namely, that when the government grows and becomes more centralized, it leads to an increase of Big Business. In other words, is it not fair to say that those who promote greater state regulation and control actually are helping to promote the growth of Big Business (the very thing they are trying to eradicate)? If centralization of Business is accompanied by centralization of Big Government, is it also true that centralization of Big Government inevitable leads to a growth and centralization of Big Business?


  2. As usual GKC has been proved to be prophetic – at least in part, and perhaps in ways no-one in his time could have envisaged. The proliferation of public-private partnerships to achieve the completion of major civil works has served the medium term interests of big business (in most cases, save only the odd tunnel or airport railway) and has served the interests of Government & the State by providing the public good without Balance Sheet burdens. The vagaries of political life work against a consistent evolution of State policy toward combination with big business across the board.Weigel's prescription is no doubt correct, but not easy to sell to our ultra pragmatic and largely “unprincipled “electorate and political community.


  3. Thanks vexilla regis for your feedback. For unknown, the link to Campion College's presentations page (which includes the link to George Weigel's) can be found here:

    I think the fusion is inevitable, so whichever one grows, the other would grow with it. Sometimes, as is the case with sovereign wealth funds, there is no “two” to speak of, as government becomes the business.


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