Privately Owned Society
Megacorporations are a common theme in future dystopic science fiction. There are generally two flavors of megacorp; Red and Blue. The Red Megacorp function is a strawman dystopia while the Blue Megacorp is a strawman utopia. In the Red Megacorp, the ideology is the Company Line and Nazi Profiteering. Everyone but the elite live lives of poverty and crime is rampant. People are isolated, only connected by the corporation and it's functions. Society is barely held together by gestapo police, loyalty enforcement officers, and Socio-Political Pogroms. The trains are never on time, they are covered with graffiti and chances are they are full of heavily armed gang members, serial killers, and sociopathic PCs. Inside the Blue Megacorp Utopia, everything and everyone is perfect. Everyone lives comfortable lifestyles and things like war, poverty, and crime are relics of the past. The biggest problem with these megacorporations and general future world views is that they are more often than not, extensions of the author's personal political and economic beliefs and are handwaved into existence. There is generally little thought given to how such systems would come into being, and how they would be maintained. Instead of speculative fiction, we are treated to political fiction.
The First Line
The first step to the Megacorps of the future, the hearts of the New Economic Blocs, was legislation in the early 21st century in the United States of America. While the United States, and many other world powers fell, reorganized, and became either their own nations or became parts of others, the legal precedents were in place. Corporations were given the same legal status as American citizens, and as the Resource Wars started, international corporations realized that they were in an unpleasant situation. With their resources, holdings, and assets often being the objectives of national aggression, they adopted the 2nd American Right, the Right to Bear Arms. Corporations in second and third world countries started fielding corporate hired mercenaries, private military companies, and in the first world nation, Private Security companies. Within fifteen years, all of the top companies had some sort of professional military presence. The oil and petroleum companies operated divisions of armored vehicles and soldiers across their oilfields, and operated escort naval shipsto protect their oil production platforms and oil tankers. While these craft were no match for the Nimitz and Spruance class supercarriers of the United States, they were a match for most of the weaponry held around the world. As the resource wars came to their whimpering crawling end, the global economy was in shambles, the corporate armies were in disarray, and the nations of the world were exhausted. The rest is, as they say, history.
During the age of darkness and barbarism that followed, much of this hardware was cannibalized and repurposed around the world for a variety of reasons. While the post apocalyptic Mad Max theme was seen in many places, this is a heavily anti-romanticized version of the truth. For every wasteland gang armed with machine guns on home armored dune buggies, there were tanks that were retrofitted into farm equipment, and many firearms were slagged for the metal they were made of, and the number of guns that were simply crushed and buried cannot be guessed. The world had gone through almost an entire generation of constant warfare. The children who were born when the first shots were fired between American soldiers and Chinese soldiers over the oilfields of Sudan were old enough to retire when the last battle was fought and the Peace Accord of Nueve Laredo was signed.
Non-Government Organization Super Powers
If we are to believe the authors, the economic powers of the future are going to be gun and weapon manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and 'We-Produce-Everything' sundry companies. Looking at Forbes top companies, none of these companies appear in the top brackets. So, that leaves the question, who is on top? There are two corporate avenues that dominate the rest, petroleum and banking. Of the top ten largest corporations in the world, five are banks, four are petroleum companies, and one is a general/durable goods producer (General Electric for those interested). One of the things that is not an IF but a WHEN is the duration of the world petroleum supply, and the point of the Resource Wars frommy future writing setting is the demise of the Oil Giant companies, the death of OPEC, and a world economic view based on petroleum combustion and cheap energy. These companies are going to fight for their profits, while the nations involved are going to fight for their economic viablity. Without cheap abundant power, the first world economy goes buh bye. There are alternative fuel sources being developed, but between their combined poor performance, embryonic state, and general non-acceptance by the general populace it doesn't look optimistic. But that is tangental to Mega-Corporations.
The Day the Lights Went Out
The truth is that the lights never went out. It is a popular notion, one perpetuated by the media and nostalgia. The Second Renaissance (of technology) becomes much brighter if it comes from complete darkness. The nations did indeed fail, the most obvious were the Federal superstates. The European Union, the United States of America, Russia; these all relied on cheap power, impressive mechanized militaries and their economies were fueled by oil. As they fell, their support for entities such as the United Nations, NATO, peacekeeping and humanitarian relief efforts ceased. It was an end of Globalization. Cheap goods vanished, cheap energy vanished. While the third world suffered from famine, and disease it never had lights or developed infrastructure so they only noticed the giant airplanes stopped coming. Old World nations, long established with communal roots also faired better. There was a return to local manufacturing, a massive increase in recycling importance, and the businesses that survived were the ones that were physically present. A corporation with it's IT center in India, sub assembly plants in Indonesia, Malaysia, and China, and assembly plants in Mexico while claiming American status was beyond screwed. Global trade faded and ceased as the only ships with fuel were the nuclear sort owned by a few rare nations. As the economies faded, and budget cuts were bloody, the nuclear carriers and submarines were mothballed, scrapped, or turned into floating power stations for coastal cities. The lights didn't go out, but the idea of a One World Government, and Globalization were gone like dust in the wind.
The New Economic Blocs
Technology marches on, and in a rather optimistic view, science will find a way. The problem of petroleum dependency will eventually be solved, the world will rise from the ashes of fossil fuel and will continue on towards that ideal crystal city where everyone wears togas. But before that happens, there is plenty more interesting stuff first. New corporations and companies will rise from the remains of the old. The New Economic Blocs are the associated corporations that rise from the old petrochemical economy to the new Clean Energy Economy. The oil companies are either gone the way of the dinosaurs or have evolved, adopting new technology with their massive revenues. Power will remain a major player, and as long as they can provide clean, cheap, safe, and reliable power they will have plenty of money to swim in. The companies that own the power plants, and the electric relays will have the old power of the oil companies. This will be much more of an impact as more and more logistics and transportation switch from combustion power to electric power. But the most powerful troll atop the mountain will be the Banking Corporations. The problem with the idea of the arms manufacturing megacorp is that making things in and of itsself is expensive. There are raw materials to buy, factories to maintain, R&D departments to fund, PR and legal departments to fund, hordes of laborers or robotics systems to support, as well as shipping, repairing, recalling and a hundred other things that can go wrong with a finished good. The Banks have all the money, no factories, and almost everything they do can be handled electronically. Their overhead is infantesimal compared to a manufacturing company. Technology companies are also going to surge in power and importance as telecommunications and internet applications surge. So the next logical step for the actual potential megacorps: MegaBanks, MegaPower Companies, and MegaTelecoms.