A big debate exists between “free market” conservatives and libertarians, and leftists, socialists, progressives, etc. over “Who is worse? Governments or corporations?”
I am somewhere between the Marxists and the Libertarians on this. I agree with Libertarians that states have powers that private institutions typically do not have, like raising mass armies through conscription and taxes, police, prisons, capital punishment, nuclear weapons,etc. Even the largest, scummiest corporations like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Pepsi, etc. do not have that kind of power generally. However, corporations have power that normal “private institutions” do not have. Amazon is not the same thing as a Star Wars Fan Club.
Corporations do not have the direct coercive powers of states, like the power of arrest and incarceration, but they do have the means of economic compulsion. The choice of whether or not to eat, have a roof over your head, or have healthcare is not on the level of whether to go to the Baptist or Methodist church, or join a chess club or the Cub Scouts. Corporations and banks are the economic arm of the state. The two can’t be separated as easily as both leftists and rightists seem to believe. The president, Congress, courts, state and city governments, corporations, banks, military, police, prison, media, educational system, NGOs, think tanks, foundations,etc are all part of the same ruling class/power elite apparatus.
Again, both leftists and rightists seem to miss this point, which demonstrates, IMO, a serious lack of knowledge and education about how “our system” actually works. My first year sociology students are more informed about this after reading the chapter on political sociology in the textbook and listening to my lecture on the topic (assuming they are in class, awake, sober and paying attention which is an awfully big and generally unreasonable assumption) than many seemingly serious political thinkers are.
Without the laws protecting the currency monopoly, we would not have the loansharking operations known as banks in their present form. Without eminent domain, transportation subsidies, and a range of other things, superstores like Wal-Fart would not be able to undercut local business on the level they do. Without transportation subsidies eo-commerce firms like Amazon would not be able to undercut conventional book sellers as easily. Without military protection of Coke’s and Pepsi’s mining operation in Latin America and Africa, they would have been expropriated by locals decades ago. Without intellectual property law, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Microsoft would be toast. Without imperialist, mercantilist “free trade” being imposed on the developing word, not to mention subsidies to agribusiness plantations, the fast food giants like McDonald’s would be less able to compete with local farmers and traditional restaurants. There are many other examples but the point has been made.