Statistics and crime map…
Oct 01 Published in Corporate History by Wordsmith
As congress agrees to bail out Wall Street with our tax dollars whilst it implodes and against our wishes, it's important to understand an aspect of our American economic system and why it's such a mess.
In the beginning of the U.S., corprations were tightly regulated because their very structure was built to extract wealth out of the New World without giving anything back. By separating ownership (stockholders) from management (board of directors and employees), the corporation, or joint stock company as it was originally called, only has to follow its mandate to generate wealth at all times in ever increasing amounts and return it to the shareholders, no one could be held responsible for any problems that might occur, and are therefore inherently undemocratic.
For this reason, the founders put strict limits on corporate charters. A corporation had to have a specific public purpose, could not own other corporations, had a term limit of existence, had to deal fairly with farmers and small business owners, and could not lobby or campaign politically. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others even wanted an 11th Amendment that would protect commerce against monopolies, but that never came to be as most of the founders agreed that states should be in charge of corporations.
Over the years, a new corporate class developed along with the advance of industry, and was given a big boost by the Civil War. Afterwards came the Gilded Age of robber barons who bribed legislators and judges to get corporate restrictions lessened. This all came to a head in the 1886 Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. It was an obscure case in which the county over the hill tried to collect a tax on Souther Pacific's railroad fence posts. S.P. argued that corporations are protected by the 14th Amendment and have equal protections like regular citizens on matters such as taxation.
The Supreme Court did rule in favor of S.P., but it did NOT address the issue of corporate personhood in any way or at any time during the case or in the final judgement. That would have been the end of it except for a court reporter and former railroad official named J.C. Bancroft Davis who wrote the headnote, or summary, for the case when it was published as a legal document. He wrote:
"The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a state to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
And with that sentence, a clerk's opinion with no legal bearing, corporate personhood was born. This falsehood has poisoned American commerce and society to this day and helps explain why even progressive members of Congress voted for the Wall Street bailout. Our system is hooked on amassing wealth and power the way an addict is hooked on drugs, and Washington is going to keep feeding the jones so as to avoid any violent withdrawls.
About a year ago, a friend of mine quit drinking. I was with him when he was suffering from the D.T.'s and it was kind of scary, but he got his health back as well as his ability to think. We need to end corporate personhood and its insatiable addiction to wealth so we can recover and become healthy again.