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One of my characters has been a hero for his side in a war between nations, when suddenly he has a change of heart and realizes that neither side is right. He is in possession of some valuable assets (people with special knowledge) which he now believes must not be captured by either side. All of the foreshadowing in the story is pointing towards his having to kill these innocent people to keep a bigger catastrophe from happening.

All of this is set in a near future, where all of the major eCommerce providers have merged into a single entity called Consolidated Product Delivery and expanded to serve all people, everywhere. CPD has quietly become the dominant superpower on the planet. The separate nations still continue to claim independence, but each of their economies is totally dependent on CPD.

I'm planning to lace CPD's omnipotence into the story at many points along the telling. The hero will notice that an enemy's weapon has a CPD barcode on it, similar to his own. Later, he will learn that the ammo and gun-sights for his weapon are interchangeable with that of his enemy. During an unexpected urban firefight, both sides avoid shooting at the CPD delivery truck because they think the supplies inside are for them. I will try to be subtle, but I want the final solution (the hero defecting from his side to join CPD) to be believable despite its being unexpected.

So here is the question? Is it believable that an economic entity with no standing army and no sovereign nation status, actually be dominant over all nations, even during wartime? Are there any historical precedence such as the Catholic Church or the Red Cross? And if so, is there any precedence of such an entity granting sanctuary to a traitor during times of war?

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    $\begingroup$ I think "defecting to" a neutral entity is just desertion. $\endgroup$ – zzz Feb 5 '17 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ Can you please clarify, what the war is for, who are the opposing sides (just two countries, alliances, halfs of the world)? Are there neutral countries? Where the CPD headquarters are located? Is CPD for or against the war? $\endgroup$ – Anixx Feb 6 '17 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect that if a war starts, and CPD is the provider of anything and everything, CPD will no longer be a single entity. Look into nationalization of corporations: the warring nations will likely do that to the portions of CPD in their respective lands, by force if necessary (every one of them could justify it by saying that CPD is assisting the enemy). If you don't get nationalization, however, then CPD is in a position to end the war virtually overnight simply by threatening to cut off supplies to the warring nations; wars are won by logistics, not battles. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Feb 6 '17 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ You really, really should take a look at Shadowrun. Your super megacorp has several similarities with what Shadowrun uses as the "Big Players" for the setting. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Feb 6 '17 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ This feels like the backstory of a world that will, eventually, become a cyberpunk genre world, where the "megacorps" run the show. That's not a bad thing. $\endgroup$ – CaM Feb 6 '17 at 17:05
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No. . . . Simple as that. A government ultimately derives its power from the force it is able and willing to use. You know of any police force not entitled to use lethal force? Without 'an army' (or equivalent) to protect it, its "rights" will be subject to the whims of the political leaders around the world. Now, the real question is: what would be "equivalent" to a standing army? KGB type department? Would have to have immunity around the world (either in fact or by custom). Would have to be tolerant of setbacks, of its entire organization in some countries being eliminated. Would need to be able to bribe/corrupt leaders all over the world so that they had no better (for them) alternative paths to fame, power, and money. And would have to do this without making any powerful enemies (or at least rapidly identifying and silencing them). And it would need near ideal internal loyalty. The leaders would have no self-serving agendas. What I'm basically describing isn't characteristic of humanity. So, perhaps my categorical "No" that I started with should be qualified to "No, not if it is run by people."

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    $\begingroup$ You have a very strong point on the internal loyalty issue. I can imagine internal corporate structures existing to manage the self-serving agendas of upper management (similar to government checks and balances), but the need to keep the corporate agenda of world dominance quiet while it becomes real is probably impossible. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 6 '17 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ While they probably wouldn't have an army in the traditional sense, they would have a powerful internal security force. Not only overt security (guns, etc. at the "gates") but also covert security (people who blend into governments and other non-CPD entities, assassins, "trouble-shooters", public-relations cleanup teams, propaganda teams...) it would be dizzying. And a powerful intelligence division. $\endgroup$ – CaM Feb 7 '17 at 12:54
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Corporations, even world-wide multinationals, are extremely weak in comparison with large nation-states. A large nation-state has armed forces which enable it to do very much whatever it pleases on its own territory, including imposing rules on any multinational corporation or outright nationalizing its assets.

For example, in the real world, entities such as the European Union, Russia and China impose rules on Amazon, Google, etc. regarding the place where data pertaining to their citizens is stored. Among other desirable effects, such rules enable seizing the Russian or Chinese operations of the corporations and subordinating them to the war effort.

Another related aspect is that in the case of war, nation states usually impose economic rationing, and make the distribution of consumer goods (food, clothing, fuel etc.) subject to strict rules. A large-scale war almost by definition implies the replacement of the globalized peace economy with war economies limited to one nation or, at best, to a closely-knit group of allied nations. It has happened during the first world war, it has happened during the second.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. This leads to some additional questions which I will ask soon. You've given me the new task of justifying my super-corp's immunity to actions of more powerful nation states. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 6 '17 at 18:22
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If the CPD has ownership of all producers of weapons, medicine, and prepared foods (not to mention technology, etc.) then it is possible, but it would take some extremely stupid politicians in the years leading up to the time of your story.

Basically, the CPD would have to carefully arrange things so that it and it alone had the means to produce goods. And that those factories were configured in such a way that no one nation could nationalize the factories within their borders.

For example, we'll take Tanks. Maybe CPD shifts tank production around such that all engines that could be mounted in a tank are produced in North America. But all armor plates are produced in South America. And all the drive train components are produced in Australia. The weapons are produced in Europe and Asia. The munitions are produced in Africa. Raw materials come from all over. Final assembly is done in multiple plants on at least two continents. And all other complex goods follow similar patterns; not just tanks.

So if USA decides to nationalize the tank factories, all they can grab are the engines. At which point, CPD immediately halts imports on everything. And USA's war machine grinds to halt as oil shipments, munitions shipments, and etc. all cease immediately. Oh, sure, USA stockpiled stuff quietly for years. But when the citizens complain because they can't buy the new iPhone and the frozen foods section goes bare...

It would take decades of quiet effort to build that kind of control. And their diplomatic divisions would be just as powerful as their supply-side divisions, or their manufacturing divisions, or their R&D divisions... And any politician or military general worth the title would know they could never threaten the company. And they would hate that.

Note, though, that there is a precedent for a non-military power having control over military kingdoms. See The Roman Catholic Church in history.

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    $\begingroup$ Great Answer! I can already see the scene where my hero questions a CPD executive about how the corporation avoids nationalization of its assets. Your compartmentalized manufacturing would wow the reader because it not only solves the problem but it is also reasonably feasible. And it requires stupid politicians and generals which are never in short supply. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 6 '17 at 18:28
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There are some examples of entities remaining neutral. The Swiss, for example, are famously neutral, and their banks prosper for this. Of course, your CPD is playing a very different game. It's playing a game of producing weapons for both sides. This is a much more complicated balance to strike.

To achieve what you describe would require an incredible amount of control over the world. It requires so much control, in fact, that it would be incredibly surprising if the CPD didn't actually cause the war to start. To have enough control to sell arms to both sides en masse, and yet be unable to stop a war is rather infathomable, so we have to assume CPD started the war for some reason and all these people dying are merely puppets.

Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #34: War is Good for Buisness

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