Big Corporates, Do consumers need a different future?

Our future continues to head down the path of bigger and bigger multinational companies. The recent tipping of Apple Inc past the $US2 trillions stock valuation, Covid and all is one more milestone.

The report also notes:
Just five companies — Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet — account for nearly 23 per cent of the S&P 500’s entire value.

For comparison Australians have approx $AU2.7 trillion, approx $US2.0 trillion invested in super.

What more might Aussie consumers need to ensure companies such as Apple and the other giants act fairly and equitably under Australian laws? Are Aussie consumers the future minnows in an ACCC vs the might of OS multinationals? Or are Aussie consumers also exposed through indirect corporate influence on government and institutions?

As a Choice member it’s only when actions such as the recent Royal Commissions are enacted that all get to know. As members and consumers many of us observe and discuss the same long before.

In respect of transparency, I sometimes wonder if the location of Canberra was in part chosen due to the heavy fog that can shroud its depression.


I am going out on a limb and saying you think we do need a different future. What is it and how do we get it?

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I think that you are assuming that we have, or will have a Government that is sympathetic to consumers. Consumers are only seen as necessary to spend money to buy products so businesses make money and produce more. Of course those consumers then have to work to make more money thereby providing the workforce for the businesses to produce more so the consumers can spend again.

All indications are that the current Tea Party like Government sees business freedom as preeminient well ahead of consumers. They believe that the market will sort things out. They are extremely unlikely to do anything to control the big five (Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet), or smaller businesses either unless cornered (including by their big donors). And then they are going to set Terms of Reference in such a way as to limit the damage to the businesses being enquired into, and then fail to implement any recommendations which would curtail business’ in a meaningful way.

We can only hope that a future Government is very different.


We are sitting in the same tree, perhaps the same limb, and it’s the right question.
The view is not that relaxing from where I am perched.

With a few exceptions all flavours of politics believe in economies and business. Consumers as you point out contribute to and supposedly benefit from the former. The relationships political due to their opacity make informed observation in that direction more difficult.

I was simply asking whether consumers are at risk of loosing any ability to influence corporate outcomes. Directly or indirectly (government) it does not matter, except loosing both is worse.

With the climate we have significant agreement among scientists on how the climate is changing and why.

With the global economy it seems economists are far less unified in their thinking. It’s mildly disturbing to a more rational mind. Well mine anyway.

The triumvirate of enterprise, government and the community needs rebalancing is as close as I can get to a one line observation.

The one positive I can touch is that the more significant organisations such as Choice become the greater the voice for consumer outcomes within the community.

Reality is that neither the corporate world or political system is all that interested or supportive of consumer organisations. Except when there is a major failure or election calling. Curiously I suspect Choice the consumer organisation has an annual paid membership greater than that Nationally of the two largest Australian Political parties combined. @BrendanMays might like to comment. And Choice is consumer centric, IE not politically aligned. Although in common Choice and the major parties all operate as not for profit entities.


In general, I agree with your sentiments.

As I have written elsewhere in this forum, contrary to what those in the field wish to portray, there is no validity to econonomics. It is closer to the witch doctor magic than science. One metastudy showed that prognostications had a less than 5% accuracy rate. [Compare that to chance, or guessing; they would have overall a 50% accurracy, so this 5% rate is catestrophically bad.] Consequently, Governmental planning which relies on economic modelling is 95% bound to be wrong.

Perhaps it is time to give away the blinkered focus on economics and use other indicators of national health and well being? As Jacinda Ardern saidThis year, for the first time, we will be undertaking a wellbeing budget, where we’re embedding that notion of making decisions that aren’t just about growth for growth’s sake, but how are our people faring? How is their overall wellbeing and their mental health … how is our environment doing? These are the measures that will give us a true measure of our success.

I don’t know if this is true or not. The real problem is mobilising the membership to act. It is the same as with other ‘interest’ groups. The majority are happy to watch the minority do all the work and only peer over the parapets when they have an issue that they want help with. The vexed question all groups face is how do you get large numbers of the membership off their butts?


If that were so a winning strategy would be to do the opposite of the economist’s recommendation and you would be right 95% of the time. I suspect this story has got a little mangled in the telling. I don’t suppose you have a reference to the meta study?

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Choice is not politically aligned, that is not aligned with any particular political party. As I have argued before though Choice is, and ought to be, politically active. Any kind lobbying or representation of others or of a given point of view is political action. There is no reason to be aligned with a given party as the two that have any chance of power are hard to tell apart when it comes to balancing corporate power or climate action.

So I ask again, what is to be done?

I imagine that this would be concerning for governments…mainly from the fact that if one of these major companies fails (say due to be left behind in technology or change in fashion), then it could cripple the US economy. These companies valuations are more than the GDP of most world nations.

I can see why there has been some political discussion about whether some of these mega-companies would be broken up. I can also see why some US policies are about reinforcing the value of these US companies (such as making allegations about potential security risks of foreign technology firmware and hardware). If say Chinese companies leapt forward or their US counterparts with technology (like with 5G), this would be a concern to the US government has it would impact on mega-company revenues, profits and valuations.


The Market Capitalisation of a listed Corporation and a Nation’s GDP are very different. It might be more appropriate to compare the annual revenue of an enterprise to GDP of a nation.

There are large multi nationals with revenue that exceeds that of some small and not so small nations.

Is this really about the US economy, or any economy?

My thoughts there are multiple outcomes that are important, none in particular being the US economy.

Consumer needs are simpler. In meeting a consumer need corporates have choices concerning which consumer expectations are met and how they are achieved. IE as consumers dealing with corporates -

We are yet to achieve consensus on ‘the what’ which makes agreeing on ‘the how’.


They are different…however, if one of these mega-companies failed, the removal of their value from the market would have direct impact on GDP, financial and investor confidence etc. If one looks at the GFC and how failure of some much smaller businesses lead to a contagion effect with the economy. It is possible a single mega-business collapse could turn a healthy economy into a sick one quickly.

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Well what is your suggestion?


Not necessarily, we do not need to know the exact details before contemplating where to get the motive power for a revolution. That noun was not selected at random, you are taking aim at the core of power - money and influence.

Do you favour a legislative approach or manning the barricades and torching cars until Apple concede?

Thinking you probably want to use democratic methods how will you persuade the electorate to support (or even demand) what you want?

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Unfortunately not, It was an interview I saw on TV, and I don’t know what key words to search for to find it. The closest I got were the following non-scholarly articles:
The Dismal Science Remains Dismal, Say Scientists
How accurate are economic forecasts?
Why economic forecasting has always been a flawed science

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Perhaps this may hold what you are looking for:

More particularly this report from 2001 and the section in the report on page 38

Which was tracked down from this article


Not that I think economic forecasts are very good. They tend to be closer to a 50-50 guess and too often based on assumptions that are hard to justify and dependent on dogma that has too little empirical evidence behind it that happens to suit some presently influential world view. As the fashion changes so do the predictions. Do they get any more accurate? Nup.

I’ve watched Les Miserables enough times to see how it might end, on both sides.

Apple etc are also unlikely to concede. They are not alone? “Catch 22” is a simplistic view as to why.

Add complexity. Do consumers really determine the market through free will, or Apple etc create the market. Whether it is the Opium War in 19th Century China or the more benign but equally profitable strategy of Henry Ford to making and selling the model-T. The value of consumers to enterprise has a long history.

Actually the messaging that treats the economy as a being more than a virtualisation. It’s not a deity (debatably for some). Although there are those who accuse others of trying to kill it. Somehow it always survives no matter what. Err, sort of god like then?

I’m not an Einstein or Plato. I thought the combined experience of the community might burst the bubble and create something more meaningful.

The Tipple Bottom Line offered one promise of realigning Corporate thinking to a better serve the community.

It’s neither legislated nor universal. And possibly not the best or only way forward. As consumers it is also said we are our own worst enemies.

On a way forward, the concerns consumers have in meeting daily needs, and the risks for the future are well shared. Delivering solutions is always reduced to consumers affording the solutions. I think it is false hope to hold the economy up to consumers to deliver. Governments have demonstrated in war time and more recently the power to put the economy to one side, as well as direct Corporate behaviour.

I doubt most consumers can genuinely justify the benefit to the community of a new model iPhone or Samsung. Neither might Apple or Samsung be able to. Of course there are those who can point out the benefit to profits, growth, shareholders, employees, suppliers, retirees on super and virtualised national bank accounts. Apple etc has no say in how distributed profits etc are used. Although Apple is determined to ensure the business has invested in the next marketing campaign and product. Perhaps the next one will be solar powered with a ten year battery, built in GHG/particulates monitor and virus detector.

For consumers more immediate needs, how does Choice ensure it gets a seat at the tables of Government more often. Educated consumers are informed consumers. If nothing else an active campaign for greater inclusion and transparency on all consumer matters. Be it with Choice handing out consumer advice cards at polling booths or other means!

Choice has influence :slightly_smiling_face:. It needs more!
And it would be good if Google, Apple etc have less.


Thanks for finding that article. It is getting close to what I heard in the interview on the ABC.


Possibly so.

The international evidence on corporate donations and firm performance is mixed. A major study of firms in the United States found companies that make large political contributions have lower returns than firms that don’t. Studies in the United Kingdom show that corporate political donations fell when shareholders were given more say on corporate political activity. A meta-analysis of studies on donations and votes cast by members of the US Congress found evidence of donor influence is “thin”. Other research suggests it is difficult to trace the link between private money and political outcomes, because the inputs and outcomes are hard to measure. For instance, it may be possible for donors to prevent unfavourable proposals from becoming policy, in which case the full impact of contributions is difficult for researchers to quantify (Appendix A details examples of this).d Studies that look at broader policy outcomes tend to find more evidence of donor influence, especially when donations are coupled with access and lobbying.

If money does talk in politics, it does so “softly and subtly.

The pharmaceuticals industry has substantial influence over government pricing arrangements for medicines, including the
technical details of how prices are determined. The effect of the pricing regime is that prices are higher than in comparable
countries, and Australian taxpayers and consumers pay more than they should.

Who's in the room? Access and influence in Australian politics - Grattan Institute

I know it’s an old topic but I found it interesting and thought it was worth an update.

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