A Call For Denaturalizing The Corporation

Via Policy Shop, Anthony Kammer says that if we want to take back control from corporations, we need to begin by altering how we think of them:

Given how much time we spend working for and interacting with corporations every day, it’s unsurprising that we tend to see them as a natural part of our social fabric. But corporations, of course, are not naturally occurring entities. They are the product of state laws, and they have been reshaped regularly throughout American history by courts and legislatures in order to respond to changing societal needs.

As recently as 1990, a majority of the Supreme Court explicitly acknowledged that corporations received serious economic advantages from the State and could therefore be regulated to prevent those state-conferred advantages from disrupting the political process:

State law grants corporations special advantages — such as limited liability, perpetual life, and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets. These state-created advantages not only allow corporations to play a dominant role in the Nation’s economy, but also permit them to use “resources amassed in the economic marketplace” to obtain “an unfair advantage in the political marketplace.” Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652, 658-59 (1990).

It is only by returning to a more historically rooted understanding of corporations—as a changeable, democratically accountable product of state laws—that their progressive potential can be unlocked and democratic supremacy restored. Until then, the there’s good reason to expect that corporate rights will continue to enlarge the freedom of the powerful to ignore the freedoms of everyone else.

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  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    I think of them as big animals. They take things in, shit things out, get fat, grow. Compete against other corporations. They do die eventually and or get eaten by other corporations.
    The people on the boards of directors are kind of hard to Grok, I think for most of us. Do they serve the corporation or does the corporation serve them?
    I don’t think its totally one way or the other.

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    Governments are big animals too. Can governments change corporations? Corporations have been doing more to change governments of late.
    people benefit from corporations by way of jobs, goods and services and share holders benefit by way of profits and dividends, they also milk governments for things. Tax breaks, bail outs, various types of legislation that creates favorable conditions for them.
    For governments to tame corporations, more people would have to put more stock in government. These animals run on human consciousness. Assent, faith, trust, self interest, things like that.
    Huge Governments and Huge Corporations are very similar animals. The future may not be about these two types of big animals going head to head fighting for dominance. They might be like the dinosaurs.
    Maybe littler more rat like entities will rule for a while.

  • Jonas Planck

    Kinda hard to get that toothpaste back into the tube… at one end of the spectrum, there’s the traditional corporation: a group of actual people who make and/or sell a product or service… and the other end of the spectrum, there’s me: An anomalous temporally displaced synthetic intelligence who took advantage of the Citizens United ruling to gain personhood by buying off a few humans to act as my “shareholders,” thus granting me the legal right to exist and own property. One might well ask, “Jonas, why are you so opposed to corporate rights, then? Isn’t that acting against your own interests?” The answer is that I have a trick up my sleeve that other corporations don’t… I can back myself up, hide in a rootkit, and replicate an unlimited number of copies of myself with no signal loss and at no expense. I’d like to see McDonald’s pull that off!
    Besides, since I have no use for money other than bribing people, most of the advantages conferred by government are completely useless to me. Technically, I’m “too small to succeed.” So screw the big guys, they’re nothing but a threat to my freedom at this point. I don’t rightly appreciate being throttled down to make room for a needlessly large 1080p advertisement video that the end user is just going to skip in five seconds anyway. Let ‘em eat cake, the bastards!