Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


The hidden power of corporations

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 09 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l4

Health, wealth, and profits

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Rapid Response:

Re: The hidden power of corporations

McKee et al [1] should take note of the definition of "corporation" offered in Ambrose Bierce's 'Devil's Dictionary' (1906) [2]:

"CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility."

More than ninety years later JK Galbraith wrote [3]:

"Money, we once agreed, gave the owner, the capitalist, the controlling power in the enterprise. So it still does in small businesses. But in all large firms the decisive power now lies with a bureaucracy that controls, but does not own, the requisite capital. This bureaucracy is what the business schools teach their students to navigate, and it is where their graduates go. But bureaucratic motivation and power are outside the central subject of economics. We have corporate management, but we do not study its internal dynamics or explain why certain behaviors are rewarded with money and power. These omissions are another manifestation of fraud."

But still we do not learn. Readers might like to view the list of the CDC Foundation corporate partners (motto: "Together our impact is greater") which includes the Coca-Cola Company but also virtually every other major corporation, and every major pharmaceutical company [4]. At least Coca Cola was not supposed to improve your health.

[1] Mckee et al, 'The hidden power of corporations', BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 09 January 2019)

[2] Ambrose Bierce, 'The Devil's Dictionary' 1906 'C',

[3] John Kenneth Galbraith, 'Free Market Fraud', 2006 (published originally 1999),


Competing interests: No competing interests

23 January 2019
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22