A new chart compiled by Reddit has revealed that ten super-corporations have created a near-total monopoloy over consumerism in the United States.
As corporations have grown in power and influence over the last 120 years, they have used this newfound power to circumvent and even overturn laws and regulations designed to prevent monopolisation in the American economy. Today ten corporations (Coca Cola, Kraft, Nestle, Pepsico, P&G, GE, Kellogs, Mars, Johnson & Johnson and Unilvever) either own, own shares in, are the senior partner in, or distribute a staggering level of commodities in the United States and around the world.
Due to the shadowy nature of the corporate web, many consumers may not even be aware that they are supporting a particular corporation. For example consumers may want to boycott Coca Cola, but may not be aware that Coca Cola is the principal disributor of the Monster energy drink. Proctor and Gamble, the largest advertiser in the US, owns such a diverse number of brands that it reportedly serves a staggering 4.8 billion around the world, selling everything from Hugo Boss suits to Tampax tampons.
Nestle, the largest and most powerful food and drink corporation in the world, owns 8,000 different brands, selling items as diverse as baby food and L’Oreal. Nestle is the subject of an ongoing boycott campaign following their outrageous and infamous powdered milk campaign in the 1970s. Nestle marketed their powdered milk in the third world through a glitzy ad campaign involving attractive, white, blonde Western women, promoting the idea that breast-feeding babies was barbaric, and that if they wished to aspire to be more like the affluent West, the women of countries like Bangladesh and India should use powdered milk. Nestle knew full well that the water used by these mothers to make the milk was polluted to such a level that it would almost certainly kill their children, and that even if they could read the sanitisation instructions for making the water safe, they would lack the means to do so. However, as mentioned above, Nestle is so ubiquitous that it is almost impossible to successfully boycott them.
The story is similar when it comes to the media, where the change has been even more rapid and more sinister. In 1983 90% of media in the US was owned by 50 companies. In 2011 that same 90% was owned by just 6 companies; GE, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, News Corp, and CBS. Given the essential nature of a free media in a vibrant democracy, Americans must ask themselves; how can you have a free media when a tiny elite own and control 90% of what you read, see and hear?
Most pertinent of all though has been the consolidation and monopolisation of the banking industry in the United States. According to the Federal Reserve over the past twenty years 37 banks have merged into just four. CitiGroup, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. In 1990 the ten largest financial institutions in America held 20% of the nation’s assets. Today they hold 54%. Twenty years ago American had 12,500 banks. Today it has around 8,000.
This monopoly is not a law of nature. Neither is the existence of corporations themselves. They are entirely man-made, modern entities, with no allegiance except to their shareholders. Apologists for capitalism and neo-liberalism frequently claim that competition is good for the consumer, that allowing corporations a free role in the economy promotes choice and diversity. We can see that the opposite is the case. By allowing corporations unprescendented access to political power and influence, a corrupt system has evolved where there is little to no choice at all in the American economy. If Americans want to change this they can. They can boycott these corporate bullies, highlight their crimes and exorbitants behaviour, and they can send a powerful emssage at the ballow box by supporting candidates who genuinely stand up for the rights of living, breathing American citizens, not soulless, predatory corpoations.