Very Large Corporations
“Through size, corporations, once merely an efficient tool employed by individuals in the conduct of private business have become an institution-an institution which has brought such concentration of economic power that so-called private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state. The typical business corporation of the last century, owned by a small group of individuals, managed by their owners, and limited in size by their private wealth, is being supplanted by huge concerns in which the lives of tens or hundreds of thousands of employees and the property of tens of hundreds of thousands of investors are subjected, through the corporate mechanism, to the control of a few men. Ownership has been separated from control; and this separation has removed many of the checks which formerly operated to curb the misuse of wealth and power. And, as ownership of the shares is becoming continually more dispersed, the power which formerly accompanied ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few… [and] coincident with the growth of these giant corporations, there has occurred a marked concentration of individual wealth; and that the resulting disparity in incomes is a major cause of the existing depression.”
Dissent, Liggett Co. v. Lee, 288 U.S. 517 (1933), at 565-67. Justice Louis Brandeis
To me, Brandeis identifies the critical element that is missing in the current debate regarding our political system, the economy and the environment. While economists wax wroth over which theory of financial exchange is real, and conservatives and liberals are engaged in a fight to the death over whether government is the problem or the solution, the institutions that so troubled Brandeis, have continued their legislative and judicial march, increasing their wealth and power until now they stand on the verge of acquiring all the rights of an individual with a few of the duties. For all extents and purposes there has ceased to be a distinction between very large corporations (VLCS) and nations except that in many cases the VLCS have greater economic and political power than many if not most countries, as well as greater control of their dependents (worker’s and customers) than most countries have over their citizens.
With the impending collapse of liberal democracies under influence of these institutions (VLCS) and climate, religious and ideological pressures, I can foresee a time in the not to distant future where in some cases the fiction of Democracy will be done away with and the VLCS will reign again as did the British East India Company in India.
We must never forget that to a great extent it was these types of commercial companies, with much less economic and political power [no one thought they were individuals] who created colonial America. Also, remember a nation-state originated as a commercial enterprise based upon exploitation of land and managed by a small group of self-perpetuating individuals. Liberal Democracy was an idea borrowed from city-states not nation-states.
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