Both Trump and Clinton would see the US run like a corporation

Carl Rhodes & Peter Bloom @CatchNews | First published: 6 November 2016, 16:47 IST

Despite a catastrophic financial crisis and sufficient evidence of the harm caused by Wall Street's obsession with short-term financial targets, America's mantras of competition, self-interest, efficiency and profit continue to reign supreme.

Nowhere is this worship of business more visible than in the carnival hyperbole of the 2016 US election. The latest instalment has seen Donald Trump trying to prop up his ailing campaign by pointing to the success of the newly completed Trump International Hotel, just down the road from the White House.

Trump, with braggadocio, likened his building project to the way he would run the government:

"Under budget and ahead of schedule. So important. We don't hear those words too often in government, but you will."

He followed up:

"This is what I want to do for our country. And this is what we're working so hard to do."

Trump is bringing to its bitter and aggressive conclusion the idea that the corporation is the highest ideal for organising not just business activity, but also social and political relations.

Hillary Clinton quickly tried to undermine Trump's boasting saying that "he relied on undocumented workers to make his project cheaper" and had "stiffed American workers".

But Clinton wasn't criticising the idea of business being a prototype for politics. She was just saying that Trump isn't any good at it. Seemingly, she agrees with the idea that liberal democracies such as the United States should be governed as if they were corporations.

In her speech to Goldman Sachs, outed by Wikileaks, Clinton reportedly said "I would like to see more successful business people run for office". Why so? Not just that they can be "rented but never bought", but also that "many of you in this room are on the cutting edge of technology or health care or some other segment of the economy".

The idea that the United States can be run by business people in the same way they would run a corporation is the new political status quo. Whoever wins on November 8, this is one thing that has been cemented in the 2016 campaign.

The corporatisation of democracy is enabled by a transformation, as political theorist Wendy Brown has explained, from thinking of citizens not as political subjects, but as economic ones. It is a shift that signals the undoing of the very meaning of democracy and citizenship.

This profound threat to democracy is exacerbated by a deep intellectual linking of governance to market paradigms and values. Public management now emphasises effectiveness and efficiency over democracy and deliberation. With these changes, the notion of good governance has come to mean government that is not only pro-business but actually resembles a business in both its values and practices.

This new ideal of the state is one that stresses competitiveness, productivity and growth at all costs. It desires its public services to be streamlined and cut back to the bare minimum in order to enhance the financial bottom line. Not surprisingly, akin to a corporation, this type of governance lends itself both formally and informally to political cultures of authoritarianism.