So What Do We Do Now About Corporate Power?
compiled by George Draffan
© Public Information Network, PO Box 95316, Seattle WA 98145-2316
Despite constant popular resistance, and an occasional judicial blow limiting corporate power (such as the 1892 Illinois Central case), the rise of corporate power has been a dismal history.
The overwhelming weight of American law has supported property over democracy, corporations over family enterprise, and big government over local control. Regulation shields corporations, and restricts citizens rather than corporations.
The question before us today is no longer about tinkering with regulations, or appealing to corporate responsibility, or to common sense and common virtue. Corporations (or regulatory agencies, for that matter) don't have common sense or virtue; they are not persons. Corporations are legal fictions designed for economic profit. Corporations should not have the civic and political powers granted to them by court after court. The governments created to protect our interests have destroyed our sovereignty, and joined with corporations to create the Corporate State. Power without accountability is tyranny.
What are the arenas in and processes by which we can truly change the status quo? How can we remove the regulatory and administrative obstacles to defining the nature and powers of corporations? How can we reclaim our civic and political power from corporations, and restore our sovereignty? Some arenas of sovereignty include, but are not limited to:
- Constitutional amendment.
- State corporate codes.
- Federal chartering.
- State corporation charter requirements & revocations.
- Corporate certificates of authority to operate.
- Quo warranto actions (by what authority does a corporation exist?).
- Recall of state and federal officials and legislative representatives who fail to define and control corporations according to the will of the people.
- Initiative & referendum.
- Voluntary charters adopted by forward-thinking corporate directors.
- Broadening the public forums for debate among the legal community, local communities, and the general public.
How will these processes be used to define and control corporations, to define what corporations can be and do? The following have been, in some cases still are active law, in various places, from California to Wisconsin to New Jersey:
- Defining the goals of corporations (subordination of profit to public interest).
- Controlling the means and ends of production.
- Defining the chartering and revocation processes.
- Requiring that violation of a corporate charter leads to mandatory revocation of that charter.
- Prohibiting corporations from exercising civic and political "rights" -- no corporate "personhood".
- Strict liability of shareholders, managers, directors.
- Limiting the length of corporate existence.
- Controlling the intra-corporation relations between managers, directors and shareholders (for example, scaled voting, and corporate books open to shareholders).
- Ensuring the right and duty of the state to amend and revoke charters for abuse or misuse.
- Prohibiting corporations from owning stock in other corporations.
- Limiting real estate holdings and capital accumulations to those necessary for actual corporate purposes.
- Prohibiting corporations from operating under pseudonyms.
- Prohibiting harm to the public or its resources. Today we would extend these prohibitions to include zero toxics, requiring environmentally-friendly materials and processes, and full recycling of waste materials.
- Requiring periodic audits for health, safety and environment, conducted by parties chosen by workers and communities, with findings and recommendations binding on the corporation. No audit privileges. No escape from liability.
- Defining and controlling the use of bankruptcy to escape liability.
- Establishing a maximum ratio between the salaries of the highest-paid executives and the lowest paid workers.
- Giving state courts authority to hear all corporation cases.
- Guaranteeing the rights of shareholders and citizens to charter and revoke charters.
- Restricting the location of corporate headquarters and annual meetings.
- Restricting the residence of shareholders to the state in which the corporation operates
- Opening corporation books to legislative and public scrutiny: full disclosure as a requirement for incorporation and continued corporate existence.
- Ongoing legislative oversight over corporations.
- Prohibiting corporations from any participation in political campaigns and discourse. Zero civil rights.
- Prohibiting corporations from making charitable, civic, or other donations.
- Prohibiting the transfer of public credit, monies or resources to private or corporate parties. Zero subsidies.
What are the laws and institutions of a truly sovereign people? Who’s in charge?
What do we do now? Get thee to your natural allies, now. Drop the factions and philosophy, and all else that’s not essential. As Benjamin Franklin warned us: we must all hang together, or surely we shall hang apart.
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