Globalization’s motto: Companies are more important than countries
When Kate Losse went to work for Facebook in its early days in 2005, the social media platform was, in her words, a “fun social network for university students.” She vividly recalls how a smiling Mark Zuckerberg, the internet entrepreneur who co-founded Facebook and its parent company Meta Platforms, would close out weekly all-hands meetings by raising his fist and intoning a single word: “Domination!”
Rising rapidly, Losse became Zuckerberg’s speechwriter, responsible for communicating his goals and vision to wider audiences. In a 2018 Vox article entitled, “I was Zuckerberg’s speechwriter: ‘Companies over countries’ was his early motto,” Losse relates the genesis in one company of a motto that, while it did not originate with Zuckerberg or Facebook, can be described accurately as a foundational value for globalization worldwide — a dominating force that has transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people and altered the shape of societies almost everywhere.
The concept of “companies over countries” flourished amid the welter of illusions and naïve ideas that surfaced following the dramatic conclusion of the Cold War, including Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History and the Last Man” and concomitant triumph of liberal democracy or the left’s devotion to globalization and its corollaries of the fading away of borders and a diminished pursuit of national interest.
This last notion deserves particular scrutiny because it is the connecting link to profound challenges facing today’s world — in particular, the dangerous social and political cleavages afflicting nearly every Western country.
To understand this, it is necessary to grasp the inherent conflicts between nationalism and capitalism, which have been exacerbated by an increasingly smaller world in which commerce has evolved from local enterprise under the authority of nation-states into globe-spanning empires that have come to regard countries as irritating constraints on the growth of their power and profits.
Over time, national governments have been challenged in myriad ways by supranational entities ranging from the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and multinational compacts such as the European Union, that have certain structural biases favoring globalization. The enduring strength of nation-states is their traditional powers of taxation, regulation, investigation and election by the people — which, with increasing assertiveness, they have used as tools to combat what they see as the excesses of globalization and its tendency to pit elites against working- and middle-class citizens.
To comprehend how national sovereignty has been critically weakened by the evolving processes of globalization, it is useful to examine how these developments have affected both foreign and domestic policies of the United States. As America reacts to the increasingly evident hostility of the other two superpowers — China and Russia — it is most revealing how starkly different our response is to the actions of these two countries. China — by virtue of its immense and surging military, economic and technological power, horrific human rights abuses, and increasingly brazen challenges to the U.S. and our allies, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines — is far more dangerous to American interests than Russia. While carrying out threatening and malignant designs close to its borders, Russia has a struggling economy no larger than that of Italy and is in no way comparable in strength to its superpower rivals. It is toward Russia, however, that America directs its most persistent, public, energetic and costly military and rhetorical responses.
The reason for this startling disparity is clear: the stark differences between how the American economy is affected by China and Russia. While the U.S. has significant economic interactions with Russia, they are absolutely dwarfed by the huge influence and inter-connectivity that characterizes the economic relationship between China and the U.S., which has been powered by globalization. The fact that the U.S. and China are joined at the hip economically places powerful constraints upon U.S. foreign policy options.
If, for example, we were to retaliate against China through sanctions, we would be sanctioning ourselves because American trade, supply chains, jobs, and profits are greatly dependent upon China. Such a move would place enormous pressure on American companies, particularly multinational corporations whose conflicts of interest are vast and growing — as is their tendency to favor the well-being of their company over that of their country.
Long-term tensions flowing from such dual loyalties undermine American sovereignty and tilt the playing field in favor of China, where economic interest and national interest ultimately are identical.
William Moloney is a Fellow in Conservative Thought at Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute who studied at Oxford and the University of London and received his doctorate from Harvard University. He is a former Colorado Commissioner of Education.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.