By Ralph Nader
Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his 1938 message to Congress warned that when private power becomes stronger than the democratic state itself, we have Fascism. There are many ways to witness the intensifying domination toward a corporate state. One way is to compare exposé books in the 1960s and the present.
Within a span of five years, there were three books in the sixties that put forces in motion leading to significant reordering of our society’s priorities. They were Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962), my Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), and The Other America by Michael Harrington (1962).
The message of these bestselling books was expanded by authors going on national TV and radio shows. They spoke around the country, before large audiences at colleges/universities and even high schools. An aroused citizenry prompted congressional hearings, legislation, and the establishment of federal agencies to deal with the problems of toxic chemicals, unsafe motor vehicles, and deep poverty in the U.S.
By stark contrast, now the volume of muckraking indictments of corporate crime, fraud, and tyranny is at least ten-fold that of the nineteen sixties. Books and blogs, documentaries and podcasts are pouring out daily with far less impact and in many cases no effect, for change.
Take a look at 65 recent searing books about corporate violence and malfeasance, crushing influence over our electoral and political systems, and expanding immunities from law enforcement and public accountability.
- Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement by John Coffee
- Mass Tort Deals: Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation by Elizabeth Burch
- Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance … by Rena Steinzor
- Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
- Closing Death’s Door: Legal Innovations to End the Epidemic of Healthcare Harm by Michael J. Saks and Stephan Landsman
- Who Poisoned Your Bacon Sandwich?… by Guillaume Coudray
- The Monsanto Papers: Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption… by Carey Gillam
- The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business by David Courtwright
- Frankie: How One Woman Prevented a Pharmaceutical Disaster by James Essinger and Sandra Koutzenko
- Killer Airbags by Jerry Cox
- Making the World Safe for Coke by Susan Greenhalgh
- Big Dirty Money by Jennifer Taub
- Business and Human Rights by Ellen Hertz
- Industrial-Strength Denial by Barbara Freese
- Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act by Nicholson Baker
- Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations by Brandon L. Garrett
- Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America’s Corporate Age by Samuel W. Buell
- Profiteering, Corruption and Fraud in U.S. Health Care by John Geyman
- Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power by David Dayen
- Global Banks on Trial by Pierre-Hugues Verdier
- Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception by David Michaels
- Murder, Inc.: How Unregulated Industry Kills or Injures Thousands of Americans Every Year…And What You Can Do About It by Gerald Goldhaber
- Paradise Lost at Sea: Rethinking Cruise Vacations by Ross A. Klein
- Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy by Matt Stoller
- Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in An Age of Fraud by Tom Mueller
- Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban
- GMOs Decoded: A Skeptic’s View of Genetically Modified Foods by Sheldon Krimsky and Marion Nestle
- GM: Paint it Red: Inside General Motors’ Culture of Failure by Nicholas Kachman
- The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger
- Watchdog: How Protecting Consumers Can Save Our Families, Our Economy, and Our Democracy by Richard Cordray
- First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat by Christopher Shaw
- Un-American: A Soldier’s Reckoning of Our Longest War by Erik Edstrom
- Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War by Samuel Moyn
- Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America by Eyal Press
- Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? by Alexander Keyssar
- Public Citizens by Paul Sabin
- The United States of War by David Vine
- The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions by Chuck Collins
- Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America by Alec MacGillis
- The Case Against George W. Bush by Steven C. Markoff
- Tax the Rich: How Lies, Loopholes, and Lobbyists Make the Rich Even Richer by Erica Payne and Morris Pearl
- Salt Wars: The Battle Over the Biggest Killer in the American Diet by Dr. Michael Jacobson
- Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy by Daniel G. Newman
- Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits by James D. Zirin
- Stealing Our Democracy by Don Siegelman
- Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor by Steven Greenhouse
- All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator by Monique El-Faizy and Barry Levine
- Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic by Christopher Shaw
- Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink by Seth M. Siegel
- Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy by Mike German
- United States of Distraction: Media Manipulation in Post-Truth America… by Mickey Huff and Nolan Higdon
- The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age by Tim Wu
- The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail
- Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator by Dr. Gregory Jaczko
- The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
- America, Democracy & You: Where Have All the Citizens Gone? by Ronald R. Fraser
- Unsettled (on Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family) by Ryan Hampton
- Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
- China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh
- Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World by Nomi Prins
- Attention All Passengers: The Airlines’ Dangerous Descent and What You Can Do To Reclaim Our Skies by William McGee
- Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science by Carey Gillam
- The CEO Pay Machine: How it Trashes America and How to Stop It by Steven Clifford
- World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer
- The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, …. and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite by Duff McDonald
Despite the many books on corporate crooks, there have been no corporate crime law reforms, no additional prosecutions of these CEOs, not even comprehensive congressional or state legislative hearings. The corporate crooks at the top of giant companies still get away with profiting from their corporate crime wave. None of the top Wells Fargo executives or Opioid’s promoters or the sellers of dangerous products and chemicals are facing prosecution. You have to steal a loaf of bread or get caught with a miniscule amount of heroin or cocaine to be incarcerated.
The massive fatality toll annually (about 400,000) from preventable problems in hospitals and clinics gets exposed yet nobody stirs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, state departments of health, or the state legislatures. That’s almost 8000 Americans losing their lives a week!
Profiteering, corruption, and fraud in the health industry are documented by many specialists, including Dr. John Geyman’s many books, but the exposés do not result in any calls for law and order by the politicians or even hearings in Congress.
Access to justice by victims faces increasingly closed courtroom doors and limits on tort laws for wrongful injury.
Meanwhile, the institutions we are expected to rely on to make a difference, with too few exceptions, are asleep at the wheel. These include the legal, medical, and accounting professions, the law enforcement agencies (there is no corporate crime index in the U.S. Justice Department), the toady legislatures, the corporate-owned media, the timid, often compromised labor unions, college campuses, and the silent corporatized organized religious institutions.
Our democracy is in serious decay. The information is readily available about what to do about it, while citizens argue among themselves, having been divided and ruled by corporate propaganda and politicians indentured to corporate supremacists.
Most active people seem unable to coalesce over their common interests at the community level. Remember, less than one percent of citizens stepping forward can turn the tide! (See breakingthroughpower.org).
For some reflections on our Auto Safety work over the past 55 years later visit https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/ralph-nader-auto-safety/.