The Origins of Corporate Power
Sam Smith's Political Repair Manual
During the entire colonial period only about a half dozen
business corporations were chartered. In the first 20 years after
the Revolution only about 150 corporations were chartered. Each
of these charters required that the corporation be in the public
Early free Americans were not capitalists (the word hadn't
even been invented). The Constitution was written for people and
not for corporations. Free enterprise was not mentioned in it.
These early Americans were, however, deeply commercial. One
reason for this was that commercial activity allowed them to break
free of the social and economic restrictions of a British economy
based on nobility and monopoly. Americans didn't want to work
for such a system; they wanted to work for themselves. And they
weren't concerned about competition because there wasn't much.
The rise of the modern corporation in the late 19th century
represented a countercoup against these values of the American
Revolution. It dramatically undermined both political and economic
freedom, corrupted politicians, and ransacked national assets.
It replaced the feudalism of the monarchy with the feudalism of
Perhaps the most important event occurred 110 years after
the launching of the American Revolution. In 1886 the Supreme
Court ruled that a corporation was a person under the 14th Amendment
and entitled to such constitutional protections as those of free
With this fiction the Court helped boost the corporate takeover
of America. The 14th Amendment had been clearly written to protect
the rights of newly freed slaves, yet by the 1930s-fifty years
later-less than one half of 1 percent of 14th Amendment cases
coming before the Supreme Court involved blacks, and more than
50 percent involved corporations seeking its protection.