Yes, not a good question. The ways of the world are a bit too complex for such a binary perspective to make sense. But obviously the issue of the continuously changing relationship between public and private power is certainly core to any understanding of makes the world as we know it tick.
Rothkopf’s argument is that the relationship within the currently dominant US style deregulated laissez-faire market economies is about as much off balance as within the planned economies of the former sovjet union. Private power has become too big to tame.
As the publisher starts the description of Power Inc.: The world’s largest company, Wal-Mart Stores, has revenues higher than the GDP of all but twenty-five of the world’s countries. Its employees outnumber the populations of almost a hundred nations. The world’s largest asset manager, a secretive New York company called Black Rock, controls assets greater than the national reserves of any country on the planet. A private philanthropy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, spends as much worldwide on health care as the World Health Organization.
There are no good and bad guys in this relationship and the relevant question is which balance has at least some hope of forcing power, be it private or public, to serve the common good, rather than only elite interests.
Let me conclude with an interesting link to my previous post about the systemic similarities between Indonesian and US crony capitalisms: another paper by Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak and Denni Puspa Purbasari, about Partner Search by Multinational Corporations in a Corrupt Environment.
Their conclusion: firms connected to Suharto are between 22 and 37 percentage points more likely to be chosen as a local partner in a joint venture compared to non-connected firms….Politically connected firms have the same likelihood of being chosen as a local partner as unconnected firms whose profit performance is larger by 18.6 percentage points. This is strong evidence that in corrupt countries, political connections might outweigh firm fundamentals as a basis for MNC decisions.
In terms of support for a crony capitalist regime, both private and public power from elsewhere is equally eager to play along. Again, no good and bad fella’s.