Ripening Times – Part 2: Discerning Trends of Significance

Wilfred Hahn

We are chronicling the world’s most “significant trends” of the present world season. The previous column defined the term “significant trend” as anything that has to do with the Bible’s prophetic time-line and the Lord’s promises. These might be considered among the “signs of the times” that Jesus implored us to discern (Matthew 16:3). Moreover, we had laid out a set of seven criteria serving as a diagnostic screen of sorts—the objective being to qualify and identify trends that are “significant.”

We continue with the first trend of this series—corporations—no doubt a “significant” development that will seem rather mundane. We will further explain.

According to Martin Wolf, the well-known economics editor of the Financial Times of London (Dec 12, 2018): “The business corporation is one of the most remarkable of all human innovations. Corporations are warring armies battling for supremacy in markets […].”

As we see here, some will be inclined to view corporations as a benign force. And indeed, many corporations engage in beneficial activities. The corporate structure (it being considered a legal “person” and offering “limited liability”) is not necessarily evil and is a useful legal invention.

Actually, however, we are on the trail of the actions of an associated type of entity—the multinational corporation (MNC). These are companies that operate across sovereign borders—in fact, around the world. And, so, the conglomerations of related corporations have become very large. What catches our eye here as a potential “significant trend” is that multinational companies have become very powerful and large rather recently and suddenly.

We discern that the “multinational company” (also named transnational company or TNC) has emerged upon the world as a “significant” trend only as of the early 1950s. That is very recent when viewed against the human cosmological time-line. While indeed many corporations existed before that time, it was not until the middle of the 20th century or so that corporations’ share of global economic activity began to rise very sharply.

This trend was noticed by several economists at the time. Famously, Dr. Joseph Nye Jr. wrote a seminal article on this “significant trend” in 1974. His major observation and concern was that multinational firms were getting so large and influential that they had become a potential geopolitical force to contend with.

As it was, these multinationals were the very “seed bed” of globalization, a rapid development that also cannot be underemphasized in terms of global importance (this being a significant trend that we will yet cover). These past decades, incorporated organizations were the very henchmen of “globalization” … the attacking phalanx on the front lines of global trade and cross-border capital flows. Seen collectively, the multinational phenomenon has done much to commercialize the entire world and establish common materialistic values and powerful behavioral systems.

Already in the early 1970s, some economists were predicting that perhaps 300 companies would, in time, run the entirety of human commerce. In fact, a “think piece” published by a respected international accounting firm (Deloitte LLP) speculated that perhaps 10 to 20 large “megaglots” would run all economic activity in the world. To be sure, this prediction has not yet played out. They may have been too sensationalist in their predictions. Nonetheless, the trend cannot be denied.

The number “10,” of course, will pique the interest of those who are familiar with Bible prophecy—particularly, the topic of the “ten” last-day kings. We will yet examine whether there are some prophetic connections.

Just what kind of force is represented by TNCs? Consider the following general factoids about the emergence of “significantly” important multinational corporations.

• While TNCs were estimated to account for only about 2% of world economic activity in the early 1950s, 60 years later, this share is now estimated to be as much as 50%. Imagine that today, only some 6,000 companies control 50% and more of world economic activity. However, in recent decades, according to this writer’s experiences, it has become more difficult to compile data on TNC activities, as these became harder to access by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development).

• In recent years, publicly-listed corporations have declined significantly in number. On the other hand, what is notable here is that the share and size of private companies is increasing rapidly. In Europe, key families control 40% of the big listed companies. What to make of this trend? It is too early to say; however, it should be noted that these companies are much more secretive and inaccessible.

• Even at this late date in the supposedly modern and transparent state of world financial affairs, it can be very difficult to ascertain the ownership of private corporations. The World Bank issued a report called “The Puppet Masters: How the Corrupt Use Legal Structures to Hide Stolen Assets and What to Do About It” (2011). This revealed just how concentrated and murky is the state of global corporate affairs. Consider that some states in the U.S. continue to allow corporations to register without requiring them to provide the identity of their owners. To what advantage is this? Obviously, secretiveness, concealment and diversion must be key motives.

• MNCs are masterful users of tax havens. Some MNCs may have hundreds of associated companies registered in tax havens. The main reason for this is to avoid taxes and, in some instances, to cover up the trail of various global transactions. It was once estimated by Global Financial Integrity, that some 50% of all global merchandise exports in the world are booked through foreign tax havens.

• Corporate concentration has risen across almost every industry sector. This is a form of monopoly. Concentration is also happening on a global scale. This allows these companies to more effectively impose their prices. To provide just one example, did you know that only two corporations today control 90% of the beer that Americans consume?1 Many more industry examples like this could be provided, showing that concentration is an accelerating trend.

• The interconnectedness of global economic activity has accelerated rapidly in recent decades. Consider this: According to three professors2 at a Swiss university, 80 percent of world profits are now being earned by a core group of 1,318 corporations. These are mostly run by super entities coming from 147 countries. These companies are interlocked … 755 of them are financial institutions. They found that 737 of the largest holders accumulated 80% of the control over the value of all TNCs.

• Deception abounds, most certainly also involving the actions of MNCs. According to one survey, corporate motivation to cheat on their accounting performance was high. 93.5% of CFOs (Chief Financial Officers) acknowledge that the objective of cheating is to influence the stock price, and secondly, 88.6% would do so in order to increase their own compensation.

• In recent decades, researchers have discovered the increase in “monopsony.” This term refers to the condition where one or more companies are the largest employers in a region. That allows them to dictate wages and the price of other inputs. This is a deliberate strategy to boost profit … but also depressing wages for others.

• It is the board of directors of a corporation (usually, their compensation committee) that makes the decisions on how much to pay senior executives. The compensation of many senior executives today is truly obscene … 200 times and more than the average income of employees working on the factory floor.

• Some large multinational firms have more employees than many nations have citizens. Of the top 100 economic entities in the world today, corporations make up 37 of these, the rest being nations according to a report by the Transnational Institute.

• In August of 2018, for example, two companies for the first time in history were valued at over $1 trillion (Apple and Amazon).

There are many more factoids that we could mention. What these collectively reveal is that the multinational company is indeed a powerful global force that has benefited from much favoritism. (For instance, corporations attract much lower taxation rates than do individuals.)

As is popularly said: Money talks. Without question, the prime objective of multinational firms is “profits.” Their senior executives are brutally incentivized to expand the size and profitability of these firms.

Many may be unaware of these trends and their future implications. Nevertheless: “[…] Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better” (Isaiah 56:12). To the contrary: We cannot see any trend here that indicates that these trends will become “even far better.”

Thoughts to Ponder
Corporations have a big and growing footprint in the economic arenas of the world. Most certainly, the phenomenon of the rise of the multinational is a “significant trend.” It is a development that fits into the season and times of the “last days.”

Not only that, they also hold implications and challenges for Christians (as we will yet review in Part III). Their influence is evident in many ways, as we have already mentioned. The cultural and workplace values that are promoted, the development of a systemic world financial and economic power structure, and a rapid convergence of materialistic beliefs around the globe are all processes that MNCs have either enabled or endorsed.

Above all, MNCs figure prominently in an endtime boom in wealth and in the emergence of an all-encompassing global commercial order.

Therefore, the rise of the MNC could even be prefigured in the Bible. How so? While they are not mentioned in specific, their role in bringing about the prophesied world conditions of the last days cannot be easily dismissed. Nonetheless, the Bible does mention four different groups of elites that do play a role in the last days.

For example, could the top industry bosses of the world even qualify as the ten kings of the last days, as spoken about in Revelations 12, 13 and 17? If the world continues its path toward rampant materialism and economic centralization, these managers of large industry-dominating MNCs—global economic kingdoms—could indeed number among the modern world’s equivalent of kings.

While that is clearly a speculation, it is a possibility deserving some examination. In the next and final Part III, we will consider this possibility, and will also examine three other elite groups that may be endtime actors.

Whether or not these interpretations and speculations will prove to be correct, one thing is clear: the rapid emergence of the MNC is not a random event of human history. It must be seen as a “significant trend” of the ripening times.

ENDNOTES
1 Jonathan Tepper, Variant Perception. Competition Is Dying. Accessed online November 27, 2018.
2 The Network of Global Corporate Control. Stefania Vitali, James B. Glattfelder, and Stefano Battiston. September 2011.

Midnight Call - 04/2019

ContactAbout UsPrivacy and Safety