I am totally engrossed in this book at the moment. My Dad gave it to me to read, and I flew through about 100 pages today while allowing the aforementioned backup processes to run.
Among other such gems you discover in this book are these facts:
- The Boston Tea Party wasn’t so much about taxation without representation or hatred for the British crown as it was about anticorporatism. Colonialists were worried about the East Indies Trade Company moving into the colonies and taking their business. Colonists used to see “globalization” for what it was even back then, calling the East Indies Trade Company a vile institution which “enslaves one half of the human race to enrich the other half.”
- The founding fathers were thoroughly against the idea of the corporation, and thought that large monied enterprises were the greatest threat to democracy, as they could subvert the political system if they were not placed in check.
- Even Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson saw these threats, and they were themselves supported by Adam Smith, the economist whose theories are nowadays oft-used in justifying corporate existence.
- During the days of robber barons, one man essentially created the modern corporation by lobbying the government for the right to intercompany ownership, namely one corporation owning stock in another. Through this law, he established “holding companies,” whose only purpose was to hold stock in other companies. And via holding companies, he was able to take over other corporations and place his corporations outside of any regulation by the state governments. Furthermore, this same man whose foresight gave him great wealth, also provides a nice historical example of corporate greed that is unchecked by government power: he managed to buy up newspapers to fire editors who didn’t print what he liked, and he managed to buy politicians by offering them posts on the board of his major corporate entities.
- Corporations were not always this way. Corporations do not have to be separate legal entities, completely unaccountable to any of its investors, able to integrate across industries by gobbling up other corporations, able to subvert democracy through political contributions, and able to ruin people’s lives through “externalities.” Once upon a time, American society and American government knew corporations were dangerous, and knew they needed to be carefully monitored and controlled. What happened?
I hope this book answers that last question.