We live in a world today that is somewhat dominated by capitalism and consumerism, and so we rely heavily on MNCs and the products they produce to go by our daily lives, with products such as gas, food products, clothing, etc. Looking at the top 25 MNCs that are more powerful than many countries, mentioned according to Foreign Policy, you see Walmart as the top company. I personally visit Walmart at least twice weekly because of its convenient location and prices, and I suspect thousands of others do so too. So how is it that an MNC or a company, that is a retailer, becomes stronger, or more powerful, than several other countries? Would such a scary phenomena change the world indefinitely?
Parag Khanna makes an interesting argument that sovereignty and government laws are not the only thing that matters anymore, but we are mostly more controlled by supply and demand, which indicates that the power of globalization and capitalism has shifted power from countries to MNCs. And the reason is, because of that, some MNCs, such as Apple and Walmart, are worth more than some countries. For example, Khanna mentions that “the cash that Apple has on hand exceeds the GDPs of two-thirds of the world’s countries” (Khanna, 2016). Moreover, MNCs do not only gain power because of its consumers, but because of their political agenda. For example, Google, in 2017, spent around US$18 million lobbying politicians and lawmakers, which got them to be the number one lobbyer in the world (Green, 2018). Therefore, it is not exactly just an economic factor that strengthens MNCs, but political ones as well.
My question here is, should we be worried about such a phenomena? Is it okay for us to be living somewhere and know that MNCs have more power than such country? Are MNCs taking over the world? Again, I raise the importance of the rise of globalization, and how it is affecting all of us daily. Globalization has paved the way for capitalism, and the rise of capitalism has made it very easy for MNCs to climb the ladder of power. Corporations are becoming more central players in global affairs, and are getting more involved politically, rather than just economically. If MNCs are able to lobby politicians, and one company can have more money than the GDP of two-thirds of the world combined, then they have enough power to take over the world. MNCs are already becoming stateless, so is it possible that at one point, us – citizens – become stateless, or have our laws put by MNCs?
Green, A. (2018, September 18). Are multinationals now more powerful than the nation state?). ‘ Retrieved from https://www.spectator.com.au/2018/09/are-multinationals-now-more-powerful-than-the-nation-state/
Khanna, P., & Francis, D. (2016, March 15). These 25 Companies Are More Powerful Than Many Countries. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/15/these-25-companies-are-more-powerful-than-many-countries-multinational-corporate-wealth-power/
I believe these questions about MNC’s and states and their perceived or true relative powers have many significant variables in determining whether one is more powerful than another. The answer cannot be simply answered as one side has more power than the other and instead it needs to be analyzed and interpreted from the different contexts that they coexist within. For example, if an extremely wealthy and influential MNC like Apple is operating and trying to impose itself politically within an unstable and dependent economic and institutional state then I believe Apple can exert its monetary and influential power and greatly impact the functions and outcomes of that given state. Thereby threatening the foundation and ‘stateness’ of that given state. However, a more stable and say more ‘developed country’ has greater economic independence and institutional will power to omit any serious detrimental actions of which this same MNC could try and impose within this state. Thereby, I believe strong foundational states across the globe are not threatened or less powerful than MNC’s, however, MNCs can be threats to less developed and weak states. However, with this being said, it is clear MNC’s over the past 100 years have drastically increased their economic and influential power within states and the international sphere but I believe this growth is no threat to the established modern states.
With this being the case, however, I also think it is important to not see MNC’s and states as potential threats or nuisances to each other but rather how both their strengths and power can and do benefit each other’s status within the international landscape. Fundamentally, MNC’s can and do help improve any given countries capability of partaking in trade and the process of globalization. Under most circumstances, trade and increased economic value improve local societal struggles like poverty, welfare, and other economically burdensome struggles. Meanwhile, these states and particularly strong states provide MNC’s with important safe havens and ‘trade springboards’ that allow them to participate and take advantage of particular markets and therefore grow their business domestically and internationally. Overall, the threat and understanding of power distribution between MNC’s and states is overblown and instead it is more important to understand how to foster a mutually beneficial agenda between the two entities considering states and MNCs will not be disappearing within the international landscape anytime soon.