Tuesday, February 8, 2011
[1931 - James B. Dean, actor, born in Marion, Indiana]
Is it not time that we reexamined the legal fiction that allows corporations to be treated as persons? The corporation evolved from the need to create associations or conglomerates whereby individuals could pool resources for the accomplishment of a common purpose. It was a useful device that fostered the growth of business enterprises by allowing companies to enter into complex relationships while protecting investors from personal liability for the outcome of the venture. One doubts, however, that the early proponents of the corporate form could have foreseen the behemoths that now exist and that have become modern day power centers of wealth and control that rival and exceed the reach of many governments, crossing as they do international boundaries.
Perhaps the most fictional aspect of the corporate personhood legal fiction is that the corporation is controlled by and subject to its shareholders. Indeed some corporations may fit within this rubric, but many do not. Corporations may have become too like individuals, and often display the worst of human passions (greed, arrogance, egotism, and malice) whilst pursuing their legitimate business purposes. Sadly, the corporate fiction is now an instrument for evading personal responsibility for acts of questionable legality and failures of moral behavior. The corporation is too often a cloak that hides from sight conduct that would not be tolerated in a civilized society if exposed to public view.
What is most troublesome is that government and the corporate elite have joined forces to create a new form of tyranny that would exalt the rights of these quasi-persons over those of real citizens. Individuals have rights of free speech and privacy; corporations should not. How different would our world be if corporations were barred from making contributions to politicians, directors' meetings were streamed live, and detailed corporate financials were posted publicly in real time?
I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
William's Whimsical Words:
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Last updated on February 8, 2011