Speculative fiction about a one-world business.:

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(If this is not the correct forum to post this topic, feel free to point me in the right direction.)

An idea has been bouncing around my head a lot lately. There's a lot of speculative fiction about a one-world government; in which all the territory on Earth is controlled by a single polity. But what about a one-world business? What would it be like if there were still separate nations, but a single corporation controlled all the business in the world; encompassing every single industry and procuring every single good and service. From media and oil giants right down to children's sidewalk lemonade stands. What if citizens were left with a choice between working for the government of whichever nation they were in or working for the one-world corporation.

I was wondering if there any published speculative fiction based on this premise? Furthermore, I confess that I don't know pretty much anything about business theory, and would like someone well-versed in the subject to tell me about what this scenario would spell in terms of matters such as prices and competition. I've got a hankering feeling that such a thing would not be possible.
NCC - 1701
Well, you get shades of this with the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.

edited 3rd Jun '12 11:05:37 AM by TheStarshipMaxima

It was an honor
3 Karalora3rd Jun 2012 12:12:05 PM from San Fernando Valley, CA , Relationship Status: In another castle
Manliest Person on Skype
How about Buy 'N' Large? Although in that case, it seems like the one-world business is the one-world government.
@OP: I've been working on a thing on and off again that uses that, but they are the government.

edited 3rd Jun '12 12:32:37 PM by DrunkGirlfriend

"I don't know how I do it. I'm like the Mr. Bean of sex." -Drunkscriblerian
5 AceofSpades3rd Jun 2012 05:59:12 PM , Relationship Status: In Spades with myself
Given that countries are prone to protecting the businesses based in their own country, I don't see a one world business being a very practical thing. Especially if you're talking about every single industry. Most companies are geared towards specific things and are better at those. Hell, that's a fuck of a lot of stuff to keep straight for one business.

In short, unless there is a one world government I don't see it happening. And even then it's highly unlikely. Not without the business being the government. In which case I expect everything to be nationalized, actually.

Also, if there is only one business, there is no competition. There has to be more than one company producing or providing services for there to be competition. The only price control would come from the government, which is likely in the company's pocket.
[up] Not necessarily. We have multiple multinational corporations already. The main thing keeping them from taking over is that most developed countries have anti-monopoly laws that are enforced.
"I don't know how I do it. I'm like the Mr. Bean of sex." -Drunkscriblerian
7 Joesolo3rd Jun 2012 06:23:29 PM , Relationship Status: watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ
Indiana Solo
isnt this more of a one-business world?

I really dont like the idea. big cooperations are bad in most cases, too much wealth goes to the owners. EG, if instead of walmart their were a bunch of local stores, wealth would be more evenly distributed.
8 Vellup3rd Jun 2012 06:55:28 PM from America , Relationship Status: The Skitty to my Wailord
I have balls.
I think this is possible, although I'd hazard that fiction tends to exaggerate how "unstoppable" they are. No matter how enormous and how powerful a company is, there will still exist plenty of factions and facets within the company that are somewhat independent from one another—and with this comes the potential for pieces of the company to split off and eventually become independent once they've garnered enough power. In fact, the same principle applies to any large organized entity in general—world nations, for instance.

Considering that you're referring to a corporation that spans across several independent states, if at any point this megacorporation isn't doing so well and starts showing weakness (which will inevitably happen from time to time), a big-playing country (or several) can get impatient and simply facilitate the separation of whatever sections of the company lies within their bounds.
They never travel alone.
Flying Dutchman
Corporations and monopolies are inherently self-destructive due to their profit motive. Such an entity would not be able to gain a foothold in all the necessary countries due to competition and globalization forces, and even if it got to that size it would rapidly decay due to corruption-induced entropy.

What is much more plausible is a global oligopoly, but even then such a thing would be unsustainable because oligopolies rely on government regulation to exist as stable systems.
"Can ye fathom the ocean, dark and deep, where the mighty waves and the grandeur sweep?"

10 MidnightRambler3rd Jun 2012 07:06:57 PM from Germania Inferior
Ich bin nicht schuld! 's ist Gottes Plan!
Well if one organisation controls all the industries it stops being a corporation and becomes... yes, what exactly? Something Communist, presumably.
11 Lawyerdude3rd Jun 2012 07:29:07 PM from my secret moon base
A system like that would be effectively Communist. In order to prevent competitors, the Mega Corp. would have to have some means of forcibly preventing independent entrepreneurship, and the only way they could do that would be through a monopoly on force, finance or the like.

I could imagine that a state-owned financial monopoly could provide the necessary means to make that sort of thing remotely possible. If you want capital to start a business, you'd need to get funding from Globo-Bank, and they in turn would get a majority stake of ownership in your enterprise. Anybody who tries to start a business without Globo-Bank sponsorship would get shut down and the property confiscated.

So instead of a single Mega Corp. owning everything, it would be a sort of decentralized corporation with fingers in every pie on the planet. If its subsidiaries compete with each other, then all the better because the better business will prosper while the weak will wither out.

Or, outright competition would be outlawed. So the Walmart of the setting would have a monopoly on the businesses in its allocated region, sort of like the old Hudson's Bay Company or the East India Company.
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
Flying Dutchman
Regardless of what we've chosen to call such a thing for political purposes, that would not be communism. I'm not sure what to call it. Perhaps "oligarchical collectivism," courtesy of George Orwell. But it is not communism; communism is a hypothetical society (i.e. a utopia) that has never existed except on a very small scale and for relatively short periods of time.
"Can ye fathom the ocean, dark and deep, where the mighty waves and the grandeur sweep?"

It's incredibly implausible for there to be a one-business world (with multiple nations) which makes it perfect for a sci-fi story :)

I think everyone else already laid out the reasons for its implausibility generally it's just

  • Uncoordinated leadership
  • National protectionism
  • Efficiency problems
  • Cost of maintaining monopoly
  • Potential for mass employee exodus to form a breakoff
There's a few possibilities for making a global, uncontested mega corp. Otherworldly races might have a massive demand for the company's products and only a whole planet's dedication is enough for them. This also creates the possibility that the whole planet's inhabitants are not just employees of the company, they might be slaves too, and due to not being end-users they never even get to enjoy much of the company's products. This is, I bet, the situation of many planets and starbases in the EVE Online universe.

A revolutionary new management system, company religion, mind control or corporate police could stop the business from falling apart due to entropy and infighting, and the same techniques are used on the population to make them only want to buy the company's products. Anyone who resists those could be hunted by the Secret Police and cast out of society for their heretical competitive ways by community leaders.
The scenario I've got envisioned in my head is one in which some lunatic with quirky economic ideals (like Karl Marx or Ayn Rand) who hates small, independent businesses for some reason acquires superpowers and threatens to use them to destroy the planet unless all present, legitimate (as in non-criminal) for-profit businesses/companies in the world engage in a massive merger within 50 years time. Amongst their powers is immortality, which means they'll always be around to ensure compliance. No infighting, no breakaways; or else the planet goes the way of a Roland Emmerich movie.
Flying Dutchman
...firstly, Karl Marx was not a lunatic.

I cannot in good conscience vouch for Ayn Rand, though.

Secondly, that's way outside the realm of conventional economics or politics grounded in reality.
"Can ye fathom the ocean, dark and deep, where the mighty waves and the grandeur sweep?"

The Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40K sort of has this.

Entire planets, systems and even sectors will be controlled by and devoted to a purpose it is best suited for in the service of the imperium.

However, it also massively reduces the value of "World" because the Imperium of Man has so many worlds that they effectively act like seperate businesses and its cannon that in-fighting, missmanagement, inefficiency, sheer incompetence and pointless waste is common.

And its fiction.

IRL, it could be possible if you are willing to stretch the definition of "business", the WTO could be a good start but the main problem is still the limit of current management tools to handle the load of running it effectively.
Gugzt - sounds intriguing. Means you could generate stories around the this super-madman, discussing his motivations and belief as to why he thinks a gigacorp is the right way for humanity (or for himself if he's a 'rational self-interest' kinda guy) and what happens when his dreams smack hard into reality. Imagine if, like in There Will Be Blood, it just makes him more and more insane. Or from the point of view of the corp's CEO, trying to keep this impossibly big edifice together enough for the super-loony to not doom humanity, maybe while also trying to talk him out of it, or maybe going mad with the power. Or from a beleaguered middle manager who faces a mutiny in the ranks, a fledgeling rival corp whose very existence could turn this megalomaniac into a world destroyer. Or from an anti-globalization protester who finds allies in the strangest places - the very corporation itself, its employees essentially enslaved by the madman's desires and desperate to be free of the crushing bureaucracy. Or all of the above :)
19 TheBatPencil5th Jun 2012 02:49:55 AM from Glasgow, Scotland , Relationship Status: I'm just a hunk-a, hunk-a burnin' love
Also, I'd argue that if a company ever got to this position then for all intents and purposes it is the de facto State. A monopoly over everything (or at least everything important to keeping society going, eg food, water, medication, power) combined with the political, social and militaristic influence required to maintain that would have to make the company the most powerful authority going.

It wouldn't become something Communist, Midnight, but rather the opposite - it would only work if it turned into some kind of fascist dictatorship. Long term it'll become either a Shinra Inc situation where the system caves in on its own incompetence and corruption, or the for-profit mode of governance would lead to rebellion against you or, less likely, we end up in a Nineteen Eighty-Four type universe but where the Party is replaced by Buy 'n' Large.

edited 5th Jun '12 2:51:16 AM by TheBatPencil

And let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a' that)
NCC - 1701
Betaalpha, your take on gurghtz's story is cool. I'd be interested in seeing a Speculative Fiction story about a well-meaning businessman, a total Santa Claus like figure, who simply keeps acquiring more and more stuff and businesses and he begins taking on a more megalomaniacal bent until his little business suddenly becomes The Empire and he ends up two steps shy of Palpatine.
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21 Euodiachloris5th Jun 2012 11:34:34 AM , Relationship Status: Is that a kind of food?
[up]Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely: the coporate version. I like it.
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Total posts: 21