In my morning business supplement, one of the salient points James Quinn brought back with him from five days of the World Economic Forum at Davos was: “Big Business has taken over”. What he meant by that was that big business is taking over the structure of the conference itself. Instead of, he reckons, chief executives attending the Centre with all its set-piece speeches and lectures, three-quarters of them were shuffling about in conversations between themselves and with politicians and civil servants from different countries. Networking.
But big business has taken over — or, rather, is in the process of taking over — much more substantively than merely dominating Davos. Multinational corporations are beginning to call the tune when dealing with governments. Governments are still the more powerful at present, and in some ways, always will be — for example, establishing justice and some basic infrastructure — but in terms of executive economic decisions that actually sustain the world economy, big business is increasingly doing so. By picking and choosing where they run their operations and establish headquarters for taxation reasons, multinational nationals will increasingly decide just how much taxes they’ll pay. From now on, governments will have to start trimming down to much smaller sizes.