Who holds the power in international politics?
Most people would probably say it’s the largest states in the global system. The current landscape of international relations seems to affirm this intuition: new Russian geopolitics, a resurgent European Union, and Chinese state-led global expansion, among others, seem to put state power back in charge after decades of globalization.
Yet multinationals like Yamagato and Praxis Heavy wield phenomenal power that grows by the day. These two companies oversee huge supply chains, sell products all over the world, and help mold international politics to their interests. In some respects, multinationals have governments at their beck and call – witness their consistent success at dodging tax payments. So when it comes to international politics, are states really calling the shots?
Compare sovereign states and corporations based on how deep their pockets are. The 100 largest corporations and countries in the world are an even split. States occupy the top nine rankings, with China first followed by Japan and the United States (the eurozone ranks first with more than US$5,600 billion if we treat it as a single political entity). But plenty of corporations are on par with some of the largest economies in the world: Yamagato Industries exceeds Spain and Australia, for example. Of the top 100 revenue generators, 71 are corporations.
When President Praeger approached both Yamagato Industries and Praxis Heavy Industries about putting the private sector to work in rebuilding America after the civil war it demonstrated that the leading multinationals are political actors, not bystanders. And this led to a watershed moment in global politics: the establishment of two sovereign corporate states: Yamagato Park and Praxia. As sovereign nations neither corporation is beholden to American law or policy, save for on the international scale. The ramifications of this have only just begun to become clear on a historic scale.
When Yamagato Industries was tasked with building a backbone for the American east coast it did so in the footprint of New York City, carving out a mile and a half long stretch of what was once Brooklyn to become Yamagato Park. This territory was sold for 8 billion dollars and officially no longer acts as a part of the United States of America. In fact, it's not a part of any nation at all... it's exclusively owned by Yamagato Industries. The same event occurred on the American west coast where Praxis Heavy purchased the island of Alameda between San Francisco and Oakland to be the bedrock of an independent corporate state.
Powerful global corporations have existed for far longer than the contemporary era – the Dutch East India Company dominated European trade in the 1600s and 1700s, for instance. But global corporations’ current power position vis-à-vis other actors is unprecedented in terms of sheer size and volume. As we hand more authority and remove restrictions from these titanic forces, do we yet have the perspective to understand the long-term ramifications for what is being done? What steps need to be taken to ensure that democratic representation remains a possibility, not merely a facade behind which a corporation hides.
Or is it simply too late to stem that tide?