Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

business team world map bamlou/Getty Images

Long Reads

English

Are Multinationals Eclipsing Nation-States?

In the absence of government action to address today’s most pressing global problems, multinational corporations are stepping up to offer their own solutions. As in the seventeenth century, when European joint-stock companies built private empires, the future of sovereignty is at stake.

BRUSSELS – When much of the world’s business elite gathered in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos last week, the assembled CEOs, hedge fund managers, and other business titans pontificated on many issues, except one: the extent to which they are wielding powers once reserved for governments. At a time when the capacity of governments to deliver for their constituents is shrinking, large corporations’ political clout is expanding, sometimes dramatically so, as in the case of Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google.

In the face of today’s most urgent challenges – including cybersecurity, climate change, geopolitical turmoil, and migration – nation-states seem incapable of marshaling both the will and the resources to mount an adequate response. Will big business be the solution, or is it part of the problem?

Consider the issue of election security. In response to the growing threat of foreign interference, Google recently unveiled a plan to prevent online meddling with the upcoming European Parliament elections. To compensate for the absence of an EU framework governing the process, the company announced that it was “creating a pan-European policy” of its own. Likewise, Facebook and Twitter used last November’s midterm elections in the United States to test new technologies for detecting and removing fake news and misinformation from their platforms.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/221meHg;
  1. op_campanella7_Aurelien MeunierGetty Images_billgatesrichardbransonthumbsup Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

    Abolish the Billionaires?

    Edoardo Campanella

    Even many of the wealthiest Americans would agree that the United States needs to overhaul its tax policies to restore a sense of social justice. But, notes Edoardo Campanella, Future of the World Fellow at IE University's Center for the Governance of Change, such reforms would not be enough to restart the engines of social mobility and promote greater equality of opportunity.

    4