What Forbes Wants
research by James Goodman
posted to the 30A list 28 August 2005

Many of us have heard of Forbes. We know it's a business magazine for corporate executives and investors. We know it draws-up lists of the richest people in the world, the biggest companies in the world, and the most famous celebrities. But what, specifically, does it stand for?

Forbes claims it reports on the 'business of life' - not simply the life of business. It hosts a weekly business show on Fox News - a media outlet described as 'patriotic and mainstream'. But what policies does it stand for? A trawl through recent editorials written by Forbes executives yields a remarkable agenda.

Forbes is a great champion of American power on the global stage: for Forbes, 'only America can successfully lead the forces of democratic civilization against the forces of darkness'. A key foreign policy priority for Forbes is US action to reduce oil prices - it has long argued for a US-led military campaign to destroy OPEC 'once and for all'. Reflecting this, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has figured prominently in Forbes editorials.

Forbes has consistently supported the invasion, attacking the 'liberal' press for its negative reporting, and paying tribute to 'the amazing accomplishments' of the US. It argues the US must follow 5 principles in its Iraq policy - privatisation, US$-linked currency, low flat tax, business-promotion and free trade. In the meantime it must intensify the assault on the Iraq insurgency and keep the UN out. It has also called for the reimposition of monarchical rule in Iraq as the precondition for democratisation.

Elsewhere in the world, Forbes argues the US must consider military intervention in Lebanon and Syria and confront North Korea - arguing the US shouldn't negotiate with 'liars'. To target global poverty, it argues poor countries can only benefit from fending for themselves in the global market; where ever possible they should discard their national currencies and convert to the US$. It further argues that rich and poor countries should be encouraged to compete with each other to attract corporations, so bidding-down corporate tax rates.

In one of its more famous policy proposals, Forbes argues the US should relocate the United Nations headquarters from New York City to Port-au-Prince, Haiti; it also argues for an anti-UN politician as UN ambassador, and for a more Bush-friendly UN Secretary-General.

On economic policy, Forbes objects in principle to government regulation: from banking and investment, to telecommunications, to private rental markets, to the funeral industry, it argues 'only free markets' can work. In one of the more interesting applications of this principle, in 2004 Forbes suggested the US should create private markets in public regulation and privatise government watchdogs.

Forbes also suggests a hands-off policy for the Federal Reserve on interest rates, arguing rates should rise and fall with the market. On taxation policy, Forbes argues for flat-rate income tax, at fifteen per cent, and for the removal of taxes on share income: the Forbes mantra for tax policy is to let people keep what they earn.

Labour unions are likewise seen as impediments to market efficiency. Forbes argues that trade unions are monopolists: that they monopolise the supply of labour and, like companies, should be subject to competition policy. It believes workers should compete with each other, not combine together, and argues against labour laws that restrict working hours or legislate for minimum conditions, such as vacations.

For Forbes, environmental regulations should also be wound back. It argues oil-dependency is sustainable, calling on the US to open-up new oil reserves and remove incentives for renewable energy and other environmental technologies. In another of its more revealing recommendations, it has also argued that DDT poses a minimal health threat and should be brought back into everyday use.

Forbes also has a raft of policy recommendations for the management of public services, and for welfare policy. On principle it argues against public subsidies for public services, for instance arguing for a halt to public transport subsidies. Public hospitals, it argues, should be sold, and replaced with individual 'healthcare accounts'. This, Forbes argues, would inject consumer sovereignty into the health industry, creating a 'free market in health care.

Likewise in education, Forbes would sell public schools, giving vouchers to education consumers. In one of its more surprising suggestions, Forbes suggests the Government should allow universities to offer admission certificates that substitute for wasteful university study. On social security, Forbes strongly supports the Bush push to privatise social security accounts - suggesting this would create a new pool of risk-taking pension-holders, set to drive the share market.

Forbes also has important policies on corporate governance. Since 2003 it has argued corporations should discard corporate responsibility as a distraction that undermines the profit motive. For Forbes there is one, and only one, legitimate corporate bottom-line.

Forbes promotes a ban on litigation against corporations, including against tobacco and fast-food companies. It calls for a crackdown on not-for-profit organizations as they distort democracy and attack business. Forbes defends large corporations like Microsoft against anti-monopoly regulators. It promotes cut-price labour practices of transnational corporations, arguing they bring prosperity to poor countries. It argues the Government should especially support corporate executives that eliminate jobs: job-cutting always raises productivity.

Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, Forbes praises all free enterprise entrepreneurs including Enron executives: for Forbes they are all 'good for us'.

In 2003 the Forbes Chairman, Caspar Weinberger, boldly declared 'the decline of liberalism'. Forbes gives us the post-'liberal' business agenda. Like what you see?


The Forbes Policy Agenda

Forbes policy pronouncements as gleaned by trawling through Forbes Magazine, and its stable-mate Forbes Global.

Stop all subsidies for public railways (15 August 2005)

Expand oil production, remove incentives for renewable energy and environmental technologies (31 March 2003)

Privatise social security so each of us has a personal account (15 August 2005)

Confront North Korea - don't negotiate with 'liars' (3 March 2003)

Sell off public schools and hospitals - replace them with vouchers (20 January 2003)

Join the Forbes Chairman in welcoming and championing 'the decline of liberalism' (20 January 2003)

Join a US-led military campaign to destroy OPEC 'once and for all' (29 September 2003)

Defend the overseas labour practices of corporations, and their right to make promotional claims regardless if unproven (29 March 2003)

Talk-up the share markets, call for no tax on share income (28 October 2002)

Call for the reimposition of monarchical rule in Iraq (29 September 2003)

Praise 'free enterprise' entrepreneurs - including corrupt Enron executives - as 'good for us' (9 December 2002)

Follow 5 principles in Iraq - privatisation, US$-linked currency, low flat tax, business-promotion, free trade (17 March 2003)

Run a show on Fox News while praising Murdoch as 'patriotic and mainstream' (17 March 2003)

'Reward risk-takiing', cut the capital gains tax on share income (5 March 2001)

Abolish jury trials in civil cases (11 April 2005)

Ration Medicare from 'the most to the least cost-effective' (20 June 2005)

The United Nations should be relocated to Haiti (1 January 2005)

Praise corporates that eliminate jobs to raise productivity (1 November 2004)

Intensify the assault on the Iraq insurgency (1 November 2004)

Stick with an oil-based economy - new oil reserves will emerge (1 November 2005)

Cut taxes to 15% flat rate (1 January 2005)

Crack down on not-for-profits - make them pay income tax, cut back charitable status (6 September)

In Iraq, create 'free markets', encourage an influx of foreign money, and keep the UN out (16 February 2004)

Attack the press for negative reporting on Iraq, praise the occupation for re-starting public services (8 December 2004)

Pay tribute to 'the amazing accomplishments of our military in Iraq' (7 July 2003)

Discrard corporate responsibility rhetoric - insist on the profit motive (17 March 2003)

Let interest rates rise and fall with 'the market' (16 August 2005)

Stop any rent controls (27 December 2004)

Public regulatory bodies - such as ICAC - should be privatised (21 April 2004)

Let poor countries fend for themselves in the global market (29 March 2004)

Tell poor countries to discard their currencies and convert to the US$ (29 March 2004)

Create a voucher based healthcare system with individual accounts (21 January 20002)

Create a national electronic ID tag, to be checked automatically on streets, building etc (7 January 2005)

Allow universities to offer admission certificates to substitute for wasteful university study (11 March 2003)

Deregulate banking and investment (22 December 2003)

Use anti-monopoly legislation against trade unions (5 July 2005)

Comdemn labour laws restricting working hours and mandating benefits such as vacations (25 July 2005)

Intensify 'tax competition' between countries, to reduce corporate taxation (25 July 2005)

Cut regulations on funeral houses, allow use of cellphone on planes

Cut all regulation of telecoms, 'only free markets' can work (9 May 2005)

The 'business of life' - not the life of business

Create a new source of risk-taking shareholders by privatising social security into 'personal accounts' (25 April 2005)

Consider military intervention in Lebanon and Syria (28, March 2005)

Repeal ethical guidelines for politicians earning private income (28 March 2005)

Create a 'free market' in health care (14 March 2005)

Put a stop to court cases against Tobacco companies for misleading advertising (14 March 2005)

DDT poses no health threat - bring it back into everyday use (28 February 20005)

Inject consumerism into health care (28 February 2005)

Assert 'only America can successfully lead the forces of democratic civilization against the forces of darkness' (9 June 2004)

Defend mega-corporates like Microsoft against anti-monopoly regulations (19 April 2004)

Campaign for an anti-UN politician as UN ambassador and argue for a new UN Secretary-General more Bush-friendly (4 July 2005)

Welcome the failure of the EU constitution as weakening the EU challenge to the US (4 July 2005)


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