cj#304> Hanson: The Corporate Machines


Richard Moore


A question for Jay:

        Did British limited-liability companies in American revolutionary
days have the ominous characteristics of modern corporations?  Was that
recognized as part of the colonial problem?  I know Pennsylvania was wholly
owned by the Penn family/company -- this is something Ben Franklin fought
against when in London.


Date:         Fri, 10 Nov 1995 19:50:10 -0500
Sender:       Progressive News & Views List <•••@••.•••>
Subject:      The Corporate Machines

From: Jay Hanson <•••@••.•••>

                  The  Corporate Machines              11/6/95
            by Jay Hanson - •••@••.•••

  Nowadays, everyone knows that corporations control our
political system and subjugate our citizens.  But before the
Civil War of 1861, citizens controlled the corporations.  Up
to that time, corporations were chartered for a specific
limited purpose (for example, building a toll road or canal)
and for a specific, limited period of time (usually 20 or 30

  Each corporation was chartered to achieve a specific social
goal that a legislature decided was in the public interest. At
the end of the corporation's life time, its assets were
distributed among the shareholders and the corporation ceased
to exist.  The number of owners was limited by the charter;
the amount of capital they could aggregate was also limited.
The owners were personally responsible for any liabilities or
debts the company incurred, including wages owed to workers.
Often profits were specifically limited in the charter.
Corporations were not established merely to "make a profit."

  Early Americans feared corporations as a threat to democracy
and freedom.  They feared that the owners (shareholders) would
amass great wealth, control jobs and production, buy the
newspapers, dominate the courts and control elections.

  After the Civil War, during the 1870s and 1880s, owners and
managers of corporations pressed relentlessly to expand their
powers, and the courts gave them what they wanted.  Perhaps
the most important change occurred when the U.S. Supreme
Court granted corporations the full constitutional
protections of individual citizens.  Congress had written the
14th Amendment to protect the rights of freed slaves, but in
1886 this was expanded when the courts declared that no state
shall deprive a corporation  ". . . of life, liberty or
property without due process of law."

  "There was no history, logic or reason given to support that
view,"  U. S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was to
write 60 years later.  But it was done anyway.  By applying
the 14th Amendment to corporations, the court struck down
hundreds of local, state and federal laws that were enacted to
protect people from corporate harm.

  By the early 20th century, courts had limited the liability
of shareholders;  corporations had been given perpetual life
times;  the number of owners was no longer restricted;  the
capital they could control was infinite.  Some corporations
were even given the power of eminent domain (the right to take
another's private property with minimal compensation to be
determined by the courts).  Of course, a corporation cannot be
jailed.  It cannot even be fined in any real sense;  when a
fine is imposed, it is the shareholders who must pay it.

  In effect, the U. S. Supreme Court bestowed natural rights
on un-natural creatures, amoral beasts that were created to
serve selfish men.  Now corporations had life and liberty (but
no morals), and the fears of the early Americans were soon

  Large corporations are autonomous technical structures
(machines) that follow the logic inherent in their design.
Corporate machines ingest natural materials (including
people) in one end, and excrete un-natural products and waste
(including worn-out people) out the other.  These machines
have no innate morals to keep them from seducing our
politicians, subverting our democratic processes or lying in
order to maximize profit.  Moreover, they are only nominally
controlled by laws, because the people who make our laws are
in turn controlled by these same machines.  Today in America,
we live under the de facto plutocracy of the corporate
machines (one-dollar-one-vote).

  Corporate machines, in an orgy of corporate profit, have
completely destroyed American Democracy and now destroy the
very basis of our lives -- both physically and morally.  These
machines leave our children to face an ugly future of fighting
each other over the un-profitable leftovers!

  The only arguments that we can muster against this relentless
destruction are religious and ethical:  the obligation of
stewardship for all of God's creation and the extension of
brotherhood to future generations.

  But corporate machines have no religion or morals
   -- and we have no chance.

•••@••.••• (Jay Hanson)
[Please copy and reprint or crosspost as much as you can. JH]


   Citizenship and the Charter of Incorporation
   by Richard Grossman and Frank T. Adams, 1993

 For one copy send $5.00 to:
   Charter, Inc. / CSPP
   P.O. Box 806
   Cambridge, MA  02140



 Posted by      Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••>
                Wexford, Ireland (USA citizen)
                Editor: The Cyberjournal (@CPSR.ORG)

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