Lost: The Edge of Everything
The changing face of business
Able to defy the US government under Biden and command it under Ryan, businesses have enjoyed shocking deregulation and unprecedented tax cuts. Unionized labor is nearly a thing of the past, and no longer exists at all on a national scale, as companies can hire scabs in minutes, while their private armies swiftly suppress unruly workers.
Thus, benefits tend to be moderate for white-collar workers, and laughably low for the blue-collar. Of course, any employee can be terminated at any time for any reason, so even well-paid middle-managers know to keep their mouths shut or see all their juicy perks vanish all at once. Only executives live in relative safety behind their contracts, though not every county is strict about enforcing broken deals.
Even on easy street, many corporate leaders saw the writing on the wall: Eventually, the first-world governments would get their shit together or collapse. And then their native businesses would be called to account one way or another. And by what means do organizations ultimately enforce their will? By force of arms, of course.
So the masters of business became the masters of armies. Numberless veterans returned home from the Three Wars, and corporations took them in with open arms, founding small, private armies called Advanced Security Divisions.
With their security assured, big businesses evolved along two separate paths, either staying in or fleeing their countries of origin on their own terms.
Post-national corporations (PNCs)
One group of businesses took their show on the road, uprooting executives and their families and setting up in the third world. Using cheap local labor, they swiftly rebuilt their infrastructure in fortified compounds free from pesky safety restrictions, and hired the same local labor to staff their facilities.
These post-national corporations used tax loopholes and strong-arm leverage to evade both US and local taxation, selling their products at premium prices in the first world, and paying slave wages where they lived. Indeed, some even switched to a scrip payment system, keeping their workforce perpetually in debt.
PNCs today keep offices in major coastal cities, pooling their resources to share distribution centers across the inlands. Their branch offices recruit returning veterans to ship back to foreign facilities, and host travelling “job fairs,” where caravans of trucks take goods and recruiters cross-country to find qualified professionals and soldiers.
Of course, PNCs pay soldiers in their adopted countries as well, to keep local populations in line. Such militias are usually loaned out to local strongmen for populace suppression.
Of course, not all companies can actually leave their home country and still provide power, food, or other amenities. These organizations have bargained their way to very low tax-rates and blanket deregulation. While they stop short of making their employees live off scrip, the post-local corporations have made their own changes.
With the rise of Advanced Security, not all companies are created equal. Those storefronts and branch offices that don’t have armed defenders require protection from those who do. This has brought about the rise of “franchise feudalism,” where well-heeled branches of local corporations offer protection to smaller branches in exchange for a large cut or even a managing stake in their profits.
As franchises grow more dependent on their local protectors, they begin to swear off their distant head offices, choosing to become part of the brand and identity of their patron.
For example, Mendocino Pacific Gas & Electric is the richest and best-armed corporate entity in Mendocino County. Over the past few years, its ASD has grown to protect the local Home Depot, KFCs, and a whole wing of the shopping mall. Their Advanced Security force patrols these locations, many of which have changed their names to include “Mendocino’s Own” and included the MPG&E logo on their signage.
PLCs tend to play things very safe, housing their employees in guarded compounds centered on their HQs, and keeping close-lipped about how much, if anything, they pay their distant franchisers.
How said franchisers feel about their assets going rogue is not difficult to figure out.