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 interest.

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 the corporation.

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 speech.

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.

Controlling Corporations

Corporate watch