Up until modern times, individual greed suited the village, the city-state, the feudal system, the nation. Each nation provided for the betterment of its people, through internal and international trade, war, and mercantilism. The greatest of history’s ancient capitalists were the nation builders who attempted domination of their known worlds through conquest. All failed prior to the industrial age because the energy required to capitalize the value of their worldwide sphere of influence was greater than could be compiled by the organization of vast armies. Worldwide domination could not be accomplished by 1,000,000 or so manpower.
The captains of industry that emerged from the industrial era did what no other capitalist had done since the dawn of time. They controlled not only the energies of man, both bodily and intellectually, but enslaved energy from the bowels of the earth to multiply man’s productivity a thousand fold. Through industry, they could grow industrial empires to eventually harness not only the energies of their nations but of the entire world.
Early in the industrial revolution, this power was contained within the geographies of the nation states. Prior to WWI, colonization fed raw materials from other nations through machinery contained within industrialized nations. Wealth was dispersed to machinery workers and taxed for the benefit of the nations to support their under classes. While the enslaved hydrocarbonic energy of industry had the power to grow exponentially to dominate the world, its time had not yet come. First, hydrocarbons had to be tested by the unbridled desires for nation building that had dominated the centuries before.
Captains of statism still controlled the lives of mankind. These leaders of nations did not yet understand the ultimate power of industry. They thought it could be transformed to once and for all dominate the path to world economic power that had been unsuccessfully attempted by all the previous conquerors in history. This newfound harnessed energy that multiplied man’s output could perhaps be used to capitalize the world’s value through worldwide domination using energy to multiply the power of assembled armies to more than 1,000,000,000 or so hydrocarbon energy enhanced manpower of warfare. Theirs was the grotesque hydrocarbon experiment that had to be played out in the early 20th century.
Great energy driven wars were wrought to subdue the world’s geography. In the end of two great wars, 80 million people had been killed and twice as many maimed in the attempt to control the world’s economies through hydrocarbonized warfare. The captains of statism had assembled great armies accompanied by war machines that directed hydrocarbonic killing contraptions of historic proportions. Modern warfare had ironically made massive armies obsolete, and had castrated the world conquest dreams of most of the statist capitalists.
Yet one nation state above all others, the United States, capitalized energy driven warfare for the benefits of its citizens, dominating the transitional era from that of the nation state to that of the industrial state. Through its obsessive militarized harnessing of the power of hydrocarbonic war, America subdued all other nations within its desired sphere of influence. The demolishment of human capital by the end of WWII and America’s monopoly of the military complex gave way to the transition of the rise of industrial states.
The error of the America’s strategy was that industrial capitalism could not be bound by the geographies of state. Although isolated pockets of multinational corporatism had existed prior to WWII, especially in the oil industry, from the 1960s to the present, multinational corporations expanded exponentially. As they did, corporate taxes that nation states had previously counted on to sustain the needs of their under classes, could not be as easily derived as MNCs, these growing industrial states, expanded across geographic borders.
Commerce is driven by profit motive. Profits had served capitalistic nation states well for centuries because growing wealth of industry could be harnessed through taxation to serve the needs of a nation’s people. However, as industrial states began to cross geographical borders, the ability of nation states to feed off their profits was diminished. And as world-wide military subjugation of “rogue” nation states continued, and threats to world commerce was subdued, ironically industrial states began to value the protection of nation states less.
By the 1960s, all that was to be done to mop up the world’s major commercial threats was to subdue the soviets across the world chess board while isolating other non-capitalist nations from participation in growing capitalist trade. While this decade’s long tactic was completed, great expanses of geography were tamed for commerce. Trade grew exponentially between participating industrial nation states, supported by their satellite commodity colonies and post colonial commodity hegemonies.
The 1960s and’70s saw exponential growth of both the size and number of multinational corporations. The largest multinational corporation in 1970 was GM with revenues of 24 billion. Yet it was the opening of China in 1978 that provided the fuel for worldwide domination of the industrial states. By 1990, GM still dominated, now with revenues of 126 billion. By 2000, six of the top 10 world corporations were banks. By 2007, Wal-Mart was the world’s dominant leader with $348 billion in sales.
Certainly, even in 2011, with its ability to obtain through taxation $2.6 trillion dollars in revenue, the United States is still a much greater economic power in terms of consumption than Walmart is in terms of productive value. Yet with deficits over a trillion dollars compared to Walmart’s profits of $13 billion, America’s ability to sustain itself grows ever more fragile.
The United States’ deficits are predicted to remain above a trillion dollars for the remainder of the century as multinational corporations grow in their ability to exploit the geographical limits of its taxing reach. The United States has exercised only limited power to corral any employment benefits from the expansive growth of multinational corporations, leaving its citizens enduring unemployment and underemployment approaching 20 percent. And the United States is not alone. With cross border monetary resources at their disposal, multinational corporations are able to thwart efforts to align their profit motives with taxation and employment motives of industrialized nations throughout the world.
The transition of power from nation states to industrial states is nearing a maturing phase in which the state authority will reach maximum impotence. America’s strategy of dominating hydrocarbonic warfare has already reached the peak of its impact and is waning. In this maturing environment, China may be the one country that has envisioned a strategy that can harness multinational corporate energy within its borders. As a result, it may ride the rising tide of multinational corporate waves to the domination of all other nation states. China’s power to sustain itself during the peak world domination phase of the multinational corporation, however, has yet to be tested.