Thanks for accepting my research as your answer. I'll repost
it here for the sake of future readers.
That speech by Ned Beatty, while admittedly funny at the end,
was a revelation for me at the time, and really changed my
perceptions about the nature of economics vs politics in
shaping the world.
As an example, take a look at this transcript from the PBS
show NOW, with Bill Moyers, in which the topic is MTBE, which
was originally added to gasoline in California (and other
states) to help keep air pollution down. It was later found
that MTBE was leaking into the groundwater and causing major
health problems. Naturally, in the interests of health and
ecology, the California legislature wanted to initiate a
ban on MTBE in gasoline. However, under a series of vague
clauses hidden in the language of the latest NAFTA trade
agreement, specifically, Chapter 11, it turns out that this
gives a foreign company, such as Methanex in Canada in this
case, the right to collect a penalty based on the money it
would have continued to make if MTBE was NOT banned. In this
case, the penalty is 970 million dollars, almost a billion,
if we want to ban MTBE. Obviously, this kind of penalty will
cripple most states and prevent such needed legislation from
In short, as quoted from Martin Wagner (ATTORNEY, EARTHJUSTICE
LEGAL DEFENSE FUND), in the transcript:
"This is incredible. This is a foreign corporation coming in
and saying first of all, that a regulation that the government
of California, through normal democratic processes, has decided
is important to protect health and the environment, they're
saying that California either can't implement this protection
or that they get $1 billion."
Much more on the page:
So much for national dominion over the nation's economy.
This isn't my area of expertise, and I can't recommend books
for having read them, but the term 'multinationals' is critical
in the search for the type of history you're seeking. The idea
that multinational corporations have long superceded national
laws, politics and economics in shaping the world as we know it
was first introduced to the general public in a speech by actor
Ned Beatty, playing the character Arthur Jensen in the movie,
'Network', in which he makes the following rant, as found on IMDB:
"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale,
and I won't have it. Is that clear? You think you've merely
stopped a business deal? That is not the case. The Arabs have
taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they
must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. It is
ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of
nations and peoples. There are no nations; there are no peoples.
There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third
worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of
systems; one vast, interwoven, interacting, multivaried,
multinational dominion of dollars."
"The world is a business, Mr. Beale; it has been since man crawled
out of the slime. Our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that
perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or
brutality - one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all
men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold
a share of stock - all necessities provided, all anxieties
tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale,
to preach this evangel."
Given an understanding of that perspective, a Google search for:
books economics history multinationals
...turns up one book at the top of the list, called
'Leviathans : Multinational Corporations and the New Global History',
by Jr, Alfred D. Chandler.
Amazon's "Customers who bought this also bought" section on this
page shows titles which might also interest you:
- Growth of the International Economy 1820-2000; An Introductory
Text, 4th Edition by GEORGE KENWOOD
- The Lever of Riches : Technological Creativity and Economic
Progress by Joel Mokyr
- The Rise of the Western World : A New Economic History by
Douglass C. North
- Structure and Change in Economic History by C. North Douglass
- The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and
Some So Poor by David S. Landes
Another book which turns up, and sounds equally compelling, is
'A Concise Economic History of the World : From Paleolithic Times
to the Present' by Rondo Cameron, Larry Neal:
Once again, "Customers who viewed this also viewed":
- General Economic History by Max Weber
- A History of Economic Thought by Lionel Robbins
- Economics and World History : Myths and Paradoxes by Paul Bairoch
- The Ordinary Business of Life : A History of Economics from the
Ancient World to the Twenty-First Century by Roger E. Backhouse
- American Economic History (6th Edition) by Jonathan Hughes
A third book which sounds compelling is 'The History of Foreign
Investment in the United States, 1914-1945', by Mira Wilkins.
Mira Wilkins is Professor of Economics at Florida International
"2005 Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title"
"Co-Winner 2004 Hagely Prize for the Best Book in Business History"
"At the start of World War I, the United States was a debtor nation.
By the end of World War II, it was a creditor nation with the
strongest economy in the world. Integrating economic, business,
technological, legal, and diplomatic history, this comprehensive
study is essential to understanding the internationalization of
the American economy, as well as broader global trends."
Searches done were included in the text of the answer.