The Corporate Power Trilemma
Authors critical of corporate power focus almost exclusively on one solution: bringing it under democratic control. However important this is, there are at least two other options, which are rarely discussed: reducing powerful firms’ size and influence, or accepting corporate power as a necessary evil. This article provides a comparative perspective for evaluating all three options. It argues that the trade-offs we face in responding to corporate power have a trilemmatic structure. The pure strategies of accepting powerful firms, breaking them up, or rendering them more accountable are each incompatible with one of three important values: power balance, economies of scale, and minimizing agency costs, respectively. While the latter two concepts are purely economic and efficiency-based, the value of power balance can be grounded in a variety of reasons. Different normative interpretations of power balance are discussed, along with their implications for policy choices within the trilemma.