Students in my World History course told me today that 1) businesses have too much influences in foreign nations - that corporations should not be involved in things like Guatemala in 1954 or Chevron/Texaco in Ecuador over the last 50 years. They also told me that 2) a corporate CEO or business leader is the ideal leader of the United States because they "know how to run things." This discussion was in the context of having read Profit Over People by Noam Chomsky (and they are reading Milton Friedman for Thursday). They found Chomsky too nihilistic (and they blanched when I mentioned that the Maoists had the same critique) as well as too strident in his assertions that corporations are not democratic or "of the people." People, after all, are shareholders.
But what most surprised me was their agreement that the US and corporations "did Latin America wrong" via neocolonialism and neoliberalism but then followed up that point of view by saying that corporations did no such thing in the US. Moments like Homestead and the Ludlow Massacre were the fault of labor for getting greedy, labor contributions to corporations are "manipulating the system" while corporate contributions are an expression of free speech, and that 80% of campaign contributions come from one quarter of one percent of the richest Americans just shows that most Americans are too lazy to participate in politics - that is why the business people run things, they are the "go getters." Democracy, they argued, is a sure road to dictatorship, said one student. I look forward to part II of this conversation.