A major chapter in American history – rarely taught in our schools – is how ever larger corporations have moved to game, neutralize and undermine the people’s continual efforts to protect our touted democratic society. It is a fascinating story of the relentless exercise of power conceived or seized by corporations, with the strategic guidance of corporate lawyers.
Start with their birth certificate – the state charters that bring these corporate entities into existence, with limited liability for their investors. In the early 1800s, the Massachusetts legislature chartered many of the textile manufacturing companies. These charters could be renewed on good behavior, because lawmakers then viewed charters as privileges contingent on meeting the broad interests of society.
Fast forward to now. The charter can be granted online in a matter of hours; there are no renewal periods and the job is often given over to a state commission. Over the decades, corporate lobbyists have had either the legislatures or the courts grant them more privileges, immunities and concentration of power in management, rendering shareholders – their owners – increasingly powerless. The same corporate fixers work for corporations and their subsidiaries abroad to help them avoid US laws, taxes and escape disclosures.
Remarkably, the artificial creation called the “corporation” has now achieved almost all of the rights of real people under our “We…