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A Mega Corp is often a large, shadowy organization with a power base and structure that rivals even The Government. When you take it one step further, with the Mega Corp actually being the government, you get One Nation Under Copyright, or a "corporate state."

Essentially, a corporate state is a government run and organized like a business. At the top is typically a board of executives (more likely than not corrupt in fiction) which makes all the decisions; for the common people, the terms "citizen" and "employee" are more or less interchangeable. Some may actually have a form of quasi-democratic government, allowing all shareholders a certain number of votes proportional to the number of shares the voter owns.

One Nation Under Copyright may employ Law Enforcement, Inc., or even own them outright as a subsidiary.

If taken to the extreme by the government owning everything, raises the question: "What's the difference between these and Dirty Commies?" Some might argue that this is the whole point.

Very common in the Cyberpunk genre. If the story is set Twenty Minutes Into the Future, then it more likely than not takes place in either a Divided States of America or Japan.

Examples of One Nation Under Copyright include:


Film

  • Buy 'n' Large from WALL-E is one of these. Dollar bills have the B&L logo on them, and the CEO broadcasts messages from the Oval Office.[1]
  • The world in the So Bad It's Good Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000) is run by these.
  • Rollerball (Not the 1975 version, but the real version).
  • In RoboCop, Omni Consumer Products's ultimate goal is to turn the movie's gritty and dystopic Detroit into "Delta City", effectively a city-state version of this trope, complete with people exercising their representative citizenship rights via the purchase of OCP shares.
  • The Trade Federation in Star Wars seems to be a cross between this and The Federation.
  • The world in the 2010 Tekken movie is dvided into eight massive conglomerates.


Literature

  • The Space Merchants (published 1953) by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth.
  • Snow Crash has the United States being split into thousands of micronations, each one run by a different franchise company. Everything, from roads, to jails, to the Mafia, is now run like McDonald's. Neighborhoods are called burbclaves, a portmanteau of "suburban enclave", and act as autonomous nations with their own laws and currency set by the owning company. An American might encounter dozens of "Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong" neighborhoods scattered about his nearby area just like any other business chain. Of particular note is the Mafia, which now runs out in the open as a legitimate business, complete with marketing slogan ("You've got a friend in the family!") and friendly mascot (the reigning don, Uncle Enzo).
  • In the dystopian novel Jennifer Government, not only do corporate states run America, but every citizen takes the last name of their business. The heroine is a government agent; the villain, John Nike, works for Nike, and children take the last names of the corporation that owns their school. The central point of the novel was that this was where we'd be eventually headed if deregulation continued the way it was going.
  • The Year of the Comet by John Christopher.
  • In the Robert Heinlein novel Podkayne of Mars, the Venus Corporation controlled the entire planet Venus (and ran it like Las Vegas In Space).
    • In The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, the Golden Rule space habitat is run by the Golden Rule Corporation, which is the law there. The General Manager of the station can pretty much do what he wants there, although he is restrained by being a Villain with Good Publicity and feels he can't just kill someone without a good excuse. Failure to pay your air tax will, however, result in being thrown out the airlock (rumor has it that you are made into ground "pork" instead, though).
    • And in Friday, the Shipstone Mega Corp has grown so powerful in a balkanized world that the heroine starts to think of them as the only effective government.
  • In The Pendragon Adventure, Blok functions like this on Quillan. They own everything, even art.
  • In Catch-22, M&M Enterprises is set up as a way for the mess officer, Milo Minderbinder, to bilk the US Government of quite a lot of money. He then goes on to make an absolute fortune monopolizing trade in the Mediterranean. Eventually he has a private army and air force, and is paid quite a lot by the Germans to bomb a US air base. Milo was supposed to be tried as a criminal, but all charges were dropped as soon as the brass saw how much money there was in bombing their own men. But hey, at least everybody owns a share! The film sums it up quite well when Milo hears about the death of a brother officer killed by Milo's raid.

 Milo Minderbinder: Nately died a wealthy man, Yossarian. He had over sixty shares in the syndicate.

Yossarian: What difference does that make? He's dead.

Milo Minderbinder: Then his family will get it.

Yossarian: He didn't have time to have a family.

Milo Minderbinder: Then his parents will get it.

Yossarian: They don't need it, they're rich.

Milo Minderbinder: Then they'll understand.

  • In The Gap Series by Stephen Donaldson, the United Mining Companies control human space on two different levels. There are some habitats, such as Com Mine, that they own outright and control the votes of in the Governing Council. Plus, their corporate police force is the only organization capable of protecting power in space, which effectively gives the UMC CEO dictatorial powers over the central government. The entire arc is driven by his chief of police's Plan to pull a Heel Face Turn and get control over the police given back to the Governing Council.
  • The Sullustan homeworld Sullust, in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, is this. The SoroSuub corporation owns the planet and employs most of its inhabitants. Unlike most examples, SoroSuub is depicted as rather benign, working for the well being of the Sullustans.
  • Both Beowulf and Mesa in Honorverse are run along the corporativist lines, which is hardly surprising, as Mesa was settled essentially by a group of rogue Beowulfers. Both are controlled by the board of directors, with votes arranged corresponding to the owned stock, though Mesa muddles the water a bit, being secretly run by the Ancient Conspiracy. Manticore initially was also envisioned in the same way, though it mutated into something else entirely. It's also mentioned that such political arrangement isn't anything unusual in the galaxy.


Live Action TV

  • The Blue Sun brand is omnipresent throughout Firefly, appearing on everything from coffee cans to neuroimagers; Word of Joss says that "practically half the government was Blue Sun." They're also hinted to have backed said government's mind-shattering experiments on River; she attacks the logos on their products in two different episodes.
  • According to background materials and the official tie-in CD, the Brakiri in Babylon 5 are an example of this.


Tabletop RPG

  • Cyberpunk2020
  • In the original Traveller, a number of planets were controlled by corporations. Because of the way Traveller stats were set up, the corporate planets were most likely to be small, low-population planets, more of a company town or trading post than a full-fledged corporate republic.
  • Naruni Enterprises in Rifts, who are considered a major political power in the Three Galaxies setting. They have been known to equip entire planets with military gear... then repossess them if they don't pay up on time.
    • Rifts features several of these, where a corporation is the replacement for a local government.
  • Shadowrun's setting doesn't just have the corporations taking over nations. A Yakuza front company practically takes over its original criminal gang, and a few corporations struggle to rule the world. They start as plain Mega Corp, but since their laws are the only ones that matter on company grounds...
    • The Pueblo Corporate Council was founded as One Nation Under Copyright. All PCC citizens are awarded one share of non-transferable stock as a birthright, and voting rights are allocated logarithmically, based on how much stock a person holds (two votes for ten shares, three for 100, etc).
  • Most of the Terra Novan population centers in Heavy Gear have conventional governments, but the Paxton Protectorate are an unusual Good Guy version. They lay claim on and defend a majority of Terra Nova's physical territory, the Badlands, although there's not much in the way of people or resources there. The government of the Protectorate is really just the board of the military-industrial Paxton Arms corporation, and they're still a more egalitarian bunch than the polar confederacies.
  • In Fading Suns the Guilds, while they're not quite encyclopedical example of Mega Corp, rule over several planets and own pieces of land on most of the rest.
    • The game's background mention precise examples in the game-universe's history. The Earth-based First Republic was really a governmental figure-head, with a number of MegaCorps holding the only real power. After the fall of the First Republic, both era known as The Diaspora and to a lesser extent during the Second Republic, some planets were openly owned and operated by corporate entities.
  • The GURPS Terradyne setting is named after the first off-planet Mega Corp, which eventually gained enough raw muscle to secede from Earth and dictate terms to the rest of humanity.
    • The "Stopwatch" Bad Future in GURPS Time Travel ... maybe. Government and industry are so interwound in its One World Order that it's no longer clear whether it's a communist state that nationalised everything or a free-market state where the Mega Corps took over. Basically it's whatever you don't want it to be, and may even change from one to the other as a result of actions in the past. (It's established that all timelines lead inevitably to the "Stopwatch" future or the good guys' "Timepiece" future.)
  • The Corporation RPG features a world run by five mega-corporations.
  • Blue Planet has the Incorporate, corporations who bought "failed states" after a global famine with the consent of the UN to restore governance in those areas. They are run like corporations, but have their own armies, issue their own money and sit on the GEO (UN replacement) council just like nations.
  • Much of the inner solar system in Eclipse Phase is governed by the Planetary Consortium, which is a confederation of the major inner-system corporations.
  • In Star* Drive, the Stellar Nations Austrin-Ontis Unlimited, Rigonmur Star Consortium, Starmech Collective and Voidcorp are this, and Insight might be as well (it isn't outright stated, but they did begin as a division of Voidcorp [then again, they also hate Voidcorp...]). They vary in corporateness from Voidcorp, whose pursuit of profit leads them into things that are not just unethical and against the Galactic Concord, but also questionably profitable in a long-term perspective, like selling out humanity to the Externals, to Austrin-Ontis Unlimited, who is, for all intents and purposes, a bog-standard republic that just happens to call its citizens 'shareholders' and its president 'CEO'.


Video Games

  • Star Control II's Druuge of the Persei system take this trope to a ridiculous extent: The Crimson Corporation is not only a government substitute, but owns all the natural resources and inhabitants as well. Druuge who quit (or are fired from) the corporation are instantly found guilty of stealing air and are sentenced to death. Druuge who are no longer useful, cannot work, or are in debt are tossed into the reactors of the nearest power station to be used as fuel.
  • Galactic Civilizations: The Korx would sell you their own mothers if they hadn't already sold them to someone else.
  • Activision's Civilization: Call To Power games (a sub-series made in Meier's absence) has a futuristic form of government called "Corporate Republic."
  • In much the same vein, Morgan Industries in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is supposed to be more or less one of these, but you can't directly make that choice in Social Engineering.
    • The reason for that is likely that if you could, Morgan Industries could be a non-corporate state. As it stands, the available choices can be seen as representing different variations of One Nation Under Copyright (Democracy: One Man, One Share, Fundamentalist: God, Incorporated, Green: A green economy is a sustainable economy, Power: Power is the shortest path to wealth)
  • On the old BBC Micro there was a space-trader game called Elite. This featured some planets that were corporate states.
    • Frontier. the sequel, also had these. They varied from reasonably civilised places to pirate infested systems which were happy to trade slaves and battlefield weapons to anyone visiting.
  • The Shin-Ra company from Final Fantasy VII. Ostensibly, there is a mayor to the city of Midgar, but his offices are in the company building, and he does not have any real power. His only real job is managing all of Shinra's archived files.
  • In Crusader, the WEC arose from the merger of the economic bodies that themselves took over the running of the various continents from more conventional governments when they toppled or became too weak. interestingly, the WEC actually claims to not be a government, merely a steward for the powers of government, even as it goes about cheerfully tightening its grip on the ways, the means, the sources, and the consumers of production.
  • The Czerka Corporation from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, while functioning like a normal mega-corporation in Republic Space, actually has complete control over at least two known planets, Tattooine and Kashyyyk, in the first game.
    • One of the loading screens says they and other mega-corps police themselves, being too large for the Republic to control. Czerka seems to still be in The Reblic's good graces in the second one despite openly dealing arms to both sides.
  • The Caldari State, one of four playable races in Eve Online, is a conglomeration of Mega Corporations. They outright call themselves a corporate state, and the company rivalries are so deep-seated the only thing that really bands them together is the fight to reclaim their homeland.
  • With the possible exception of Armored Core 2 and its successor, Another Age, the world is dominated not by one, but multiple corporate states.
  • In Mass Effect the whole planet of Noveria is a conglomerate of corporations. The planet is exempt from all but the The Citadel's most anti-catastrophic laws. Corruption is rampant and generally ignored as long as it doesn't impede regular business. Also arguably the Volus species which are like the Ferengi but with morals. A variant in the Turians, who are instead of a nation corporation are a nation military, to the point the advancement in military rank is an advancement as a citizen as well (though non-military jobs are not lesser or looked down upon).
    • Interestingly, the volus find the idea of parents "owning" their children to be absurd, which is why they associate by clan rather than family.
  • The X-Universe series of games have the Teladi, a race of anthropomorphic lizard-people with an almost religious devotion toward profit. They even refer to their race as 'The Teladi Company' and their ruler's official position is chairman.
  • TriOptimum Corporation filled this role, until things went horribly horribly horribly wrong.
  • Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg features AlgOstAsien GmbH, a German corporate consortium which controls the southern half of China as a de-facto government under the nominal sovereignty of the Qing Empire.
  • The Vector corporation in the Xenosaga series fits this trope to a T. Almost to the degree of being ridiculous, given certain revelations in the third game such as the fact that Vector's CEO is the head of a religious organization hell-bent on Vector's destruction too.
  • Team Fortress 2: Reliable Excavation and Demolitions controls one half of the world. Builders League United controls the other half. The woman officiating the Neverending War between the two companies is the CEO of both of them.


Web Original

  • This is essentially the premise of Remy's Northern Corporate Dominion universe, although from the point of view of the slaves.
  • In the webcomic God(tm), the intellectual property of God and all related characters is owned by a corporation. Later on, a marketing campaign is created to rebrand religion into something hip and cool.
  • The Maytec Consortium of SSDD owns the Californian government and claimed the entire planet Mars for mining (up until the anarchists showed up).


Real Life

  • The Italian city-states of Venice and Genoa. Aside from the usual practices of a maritime trading state, both cities also respectively specialized and profited from otherwise private enterprises like shipbuilding and banking. Pretty much anyone in government was either a merchant or a noble, although some posts required applicants to forgo all business practices for the duration of their office.
  • The Honourable East India Company: Ran the British Empire's interests in India until the Mutiny of 1857 and thus, by a combination of bribery, alliances and superior competence - oh, and a private army larger than that of the Empire itself - controlled a substantial part of the subcontinent.
    • And their northern counterpart, the Hudson Bay Company, which ran much of what is now Canada and the USA[2].
    • Their Russian counterpart, the Russian-American Company, owned and ruled Alaska.
  • Going eastward: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (known in English as the Dutch East India Company). The first stock-based, multinational corporation that controlled parts of Indonesia for almost 200 years. They had their own military, minted their own currency, and had the right to establish colonies, negotiate treaties, even wage wars! Their rule made an everlasting impression to locals even after they went bankrupt and the official Dutch government took over. So much that their legacy lives on to this day; the local word for colonial forces is still "Kompeni".
    • In fact, the entire nation of Indonesia is essentially the Dutch East India Company's old territory plus sovereignty. It's currently the fourth most populous country in the world.
  • The emirate of Dubai is run very much like a business enterprise based around tourism, trade, and finance.
  • Anarchists and left Marxists say that so-called "socialist" or "communist" states are nothing of the sort, instead terming both them and fascist regimes State Capitalist, because they become this. In fact, both Marx and Lenin admired large monopolistic business for increasing efficiency! Basically, they just did this with the state, coming at it by the opposite route. This seems true, because workers are for damn sure not in control of those states.
  • In the USA in the 19th century, Company Towns were commonplace. They had their own money (chits) their own stores, and their own lenders, among numerous other things. Their excesses helped fuel the rise of Labor Unions. And inspired the song "Sixteen Tons" (with a part of the chorus going "St. Peter don't you call me/'Cause I can't go/I owe my soul/To the Company Store.") They were forcibly publicized after one entire company town (Pullman, Illinois) disrupted pretty much the entire rail industry during its riotous strike.
  • The old Congo Free State. The people of Belgium were adamantly -against- joining the imperialism game, so King Leopold pulled some strings to have the whole thing done as a private enterprise initiative, turning the land into private grounds with a captive workforce that took in chains, ammo and mercenaries and churned out ivory and corpses.
  • Interestingly the actual political concept of Corporatism—most notable for its association with fascism—is something completely different.

Notes

  1. This is merely heavily implied in the movie; the DVD extras confirm it.
  2. and is now a chain of mid-range department stores.
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