"we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." …..Thomas Jefferson __________________________________________________________________
When I hear some knuckle dragging ignoramus bloviating on the virtue of corporations that government should promote and protect them as good for the nation , as the soul of capitalism, deserving of the rights of personhood and was decreed by god as a gate to heaven, 12 hours before he create light - I have a strong urge to relieve myself on their leg.
One of the underlying issues that precipitated the American revolution was the unbridled power of corporations chartered by the English Crown, such as the East India Company. They were exploiting the colonist, stealing the country's wealth, ruining completion and dominating trade while operating with impunity outside of colonial laws. And they had, with the King's blessings, the British army to back them up.
For that reason the Founders, predictably, had a deep distrust of corporations and their intent was to legally limit them in scope and influence. For over a century after the Constitution was ratified the federal and state governments granted very few corporate charters and those were strongly regulated.
The original intent of granting corporate charters was to enable activities that benefited the public, such as construction of roads, bridges or canals. Allowing investors to profit as a means to finance the projects. Among the conditions of granting and maintaining corporate charters were:
*Corporations could engage only in activities necessary to fulfill their chartered purpose. (they had to have a specific stated purpose and goal - such as constructing a canal between two river systems)
*Corporations could not be investors in other corporations nor could they own any property that was not essential to fulfilling their chartered purpose.
*Owners and officers of the corporation were responsible for any criminal acts that were committed when they were acting for the corporation. (This was not true of Crown charters and, apparently, it's no longer true in the US today )
*Corporate charters could be terminated if they exceeded their authority, broke the law or caused harm to the public
Corporations could not make any political contributions nor spend money to influence law-making.
*Corporate charters were limited to a specific life time or on the completion of their specified goals – any extensions required permission of the state or federal government. Without an extension the charter was revoked and all money remaining in the corporation was divided proportionally among the investors.
Today corporations are not only 'persons' they are potentially 'immortal persons' that will never worry about, or pay, inheritance tax.
Those strict limitations began to erode with the 1886 SCOTUS; the same court that 3 years earlier ruled that Native Americans were aliens – a WTF decision if there every was one........but I digress. The SCOTUS ruled in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. But in that decision, the court did not make a ruling on the question of "corporate personhood," However, because of misleading notes ( probably intentionally misleading) of the court reporter, J. Bancroft Davis , who was the former president of the Newburgh and New York Railway Company. He wrote as part of the case's headnote:
"The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."
The “decision” was subsequently used as precedent to hold that a corporation was a "natural person." It was then the 14th Amendment, enacted to protect rights of freed slaves, was used to grant corporations constitutional "personhood."
And the slow slide into the economic decay the US is currently experiencing began. But the the slide accelerated with a vengeance some 40 years ago, capped off with the SCOTUS Citizen United decision (citizens??)
Bill Moyers described the slide in a keynote speech he gave to Public Citizen , founded by Ralph Nader on their 40th anniversary. The speech is well worth listening to or reading – the video and full transcript is
In 1971 Lewis Powell - a board member of ... tobacco giant Philip Morris and a future Justice of the United States Supreme Court - sent a confidential communication to his friends at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. We look back on it now as a call to arms for class war waged from the top down.
Lewis Powell was shocked - shocked! - at what he called "an attack on the American free enterprise system." Not just from a few "extremists of the left," he said, but also from "perfectly respectable elements of society," including the media, politicians, and leading intellectuals. Fight back, and fight back hard, he urged his compatriots. Build a movement. Set speakers loose across the country. Take on prominent institutions of public opinion - especially the universities, the media, and the courts. Keep television programs under "constant surveillance." And above all, recognize that political power must be "assiduously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination" and "without embarrassment."
American corporations embraced his nefarious plan and here we are today in the class war that we, the common citizen, are being blamed for starting. We all have to fight, and win, this war for our future and that of our children and grand children. We didn't start the class war and we are not the invaders we are the defenders in the war of their making.