portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article

What is so bad about Corporations?

What is so bad about Corporations?
Honestly. Please explain the vast and deep hatred of Corporations?

What would the alternative be, and how it be different?

When does a small Mom and Pop Shop become too big if ever and why should I care if it does?

Not Mom and Pop, but Big Shop and Chop !!! 16.Apr.2003 11:46

Pro Small Business

It is not the small businesses that are destroying capitalism and corrupting our society. It is the huge conglomerates that are the danger. When you have a very small minority of huge business conglomerates that control the music business, the news stations, the publishing companies, than you need to be concerned. Because those conglomerates decide than, what music you hear, what news you see and what you should read. We are than force fed certain ideas and images and thoughts. The public buys into these images and ideas without giving them a second thought. It is pretty scary when you see how most people get thier political views and ideas of what thier life should be like.
Small business'es are fine, until they become a multi-national conglomerate that uses its funds to buy politicians to vote against things that would keep Americans safe, healthy and secure.

Excellent Question 16.Apr.2003 11:54


I too was once convinced that corporations aren't that bad, operative word here is *that*. One of the most basic problems is the idea of a "monopoly", which I will assume for the sake of this conversation that you know what that is. Adam Smith was an economic theortician and we have taken a lot from his writings. The idea of laiez faire <hands off approach vis-a-vis federal govt> in theory should promote small business development and a market which provides all people the opportunity to profit off of their ideas, and Adam Smith even warned us against the idea of monoplies and how concentrated power can be a deadly force in capitailism.
Ok so with that very superficial rendition of adam smith and his logic, we can begin to see how it is poorly applied to todays market. First we have to agree that coporations have been guilty of closing operations here, levaing the working class in abject pverty and just barely surviving. When the corporations move, say to mexico, the workers are paid substandard wages, environmental protection is 0 whilst all the time the executives are making millions of the exploitation of both human and natural resources, whith virtually no oversight by anyone. "Intersts", this is a word that is often used in the corporate world, without a corporations interest in a specific region of the globe, which could include docile people and a willing government to allow this multi-nationals to come in and do their bidding.
There are very little international laws that exist <and which i would argue would not and are not being followed by US corps> regarding fair and equitable wages and, putting profits back into the community/region in which they are operating in, and very little to no environmental oversight via the local govt. Without the control or oversight by the people <which would dictate a democratic society> on corporations, you end up having a very chaotic system, one in which the few have ammassed powerful forces, and subsequently interests and agendas and MONEY MONEY MONEY come into play. When you have innidated communites with Wal-Marts and Shopkos, Mcd's, etc etc, the profits do not stay within the local community, some will argue "yes but we're providng jobs", well that is a very losseygossey argument, because when someone is making $6.00 an hour and working full time you are still below the poverty line, and it becomes increasingly difficult when you have a family to raise and you're learning skills that will provide you with better employment in the future, which is what we call a dead-end job. I am a socialist, i think that if we were to have coporations which everybody benefited from then hey i say lets go coporate, but that just isnt in line with the neo-liberal economic system that we are currently operating from and nor will it be unless a true revolution happens and we begin as amerikans to demand that we have an equal slice of the pie. CEO's and others high execs should not be profiting off of the cheap labor they employ or the natural resources that are necessary for our existence, this is a tool of subjugation and not healthy in any respects to humans, the planet <which is necessary for us to be here>, animals, etc etc etc etc....a redistribution of everything needs to happen. power and greed are dictating the current flow of how we live, and i know that there millions and millions of people who feel this way in the states. Look at the FTAA, NAFTA, all of these "trade agreements" or free trade zones, will inevitably fall, its already happening...anyways, your question i shighly difficult to answer in this medium, however, i would suggest reading some books on international law, agreements among teh US and Latin America, China, Japan, etc etc.....

Corporations Suck 16.Apr.2003 12:17


I think that corporations suck for many reasons. Although the line at which a community centered "mom-and-pop" store is thin and blurry, I think it boils down to common sense.
I think one of the main reasons corporations suck is because they lie at every chance they get. For instance Wal-Mart prides themselves on providing jobs for small communities, while it could be argued that for every low paying, non-unionized job they create, they take away two or three living wage mom-and-pop jobs that offer benefits packages.
Corporations in general also really enjoy all that we give them. Our business, our labor, the free advertizing on our clothes, tax-breaks, etc. But what they hate is accountability. Example is the Sony plant in the Eugene/Springfield area. I think it was seven years ago that the city offered them a hooked up land deal, very cheap, huge tax breaks. For the first few years everyone was happy. Lots of jobs, big profits, no taxes. Last month the plant was closed down I think it was seven hundred people lost their jobs, and now there is a huge fucking monstrosity of a plant vacant without any accoountability to Sony. So now here we are in Eugene. Our air is dirtier, land is lost, people are unemployed, and there is a big ugly damn building doing nothing, and has Sony done anything to help?
Corporations also try to tell us that we need them to get by. That somehow they make our lives better. They do this with their sneaky condecending advertisements, and their saying that by offering jobs that they are helping the economy. Well, maybe if corporations didn't move their plants overseas for cheaper labor, lobby to weaken clean air standards, and continue to downsize, THEN maybe I could in good conscience consider them to be good for me, but until that day they will continue to be a nuisance and a detriment to society at large.
So I guess the bottom line is that the brains behind the beast of corporations continue to divide us from them. They convince us that we need to support their agendas by working in their factories, selling and buying thier clothes and nasty GMO food, giving them tax-breaks, agreeing to their fucked up tactics all for the sake of a few lousy bucks an hour and a health care plan that we end up paying for out of our own pockets.
The thing that really gets me about this country is who is forced to support their ideas. The question "Why are corporations hated so much?", is all wrong. The questions should be "Why the fuck are we all sitting on our goddamn asses as these motherfuckers rape our land, poison our air and water, take our jobs and businesses, and steal our tax money?" That should be the question. It is like the whole war thing. "Why are you against this war?" Fuck that! Why in the hell should anyone have the burden of proof to dismantle this war, when it still hasn't been proven that we even NEED it?
Your questions are warranted, you just address the wrong side. Call up Nike and ask why it is good for humanity for a teenage girl to inhale glue all day for a few dollars a week and then sell the shoes for $150. Call Roseburg Forest Products and ask how you benefit from the removal of thousands of acres of old growth forest a year. Those are the people that need to be challenged, not us.

Ok, but... 16.Apr.2003 12:24

just wondering?


This sounds more like an argument against capitalism, and not an argument against corporations.

A small mom and pop shop isn't going to pay $20 an hour for a clerk. Even in socialist countries there is competition for wages, and money isn't just given away because you are good guy.

To my knowledge, most corporations are not monopolies. Take the Airlines industry. Southwest Airlines (which I hate) is kicking the crap out of its competition. United and American Airlines are going down for the count. The both have to compete for customers, fuel, routes, pay taxes, etc.

If I as an individual decided to start my own business, any business. I'm going to need cash up front. If wanted to compete against Southwest, I would need a lot of cash. In my opinion that doesn't make Southwest Evil, its just a fact of life. But as far as I know, there is no law or rule that says I can't compete against southwest. The fault is my own for my being innovative enough to come up with the cash to do it.

I have every right (in my opinion) to compete in the Olympics, but I don't have a right to win. I have the wrong genes, and not enough drive to get that gold medal.

I have every right (in my opinion) to try and get Brittany Spears to marry me. But I don't have the right to demand it of her. Once again, wrong genes, and not enough drive on either of our parts.

So, this leads my back to my original question. What is wrong with corporations, and how is it different from Mom and Pop Shops. Do mom and pop shops have a right to profit from natural resources, even if they pay for them? How is it different?


Wrong questions. 16.Apr.2003 12:25


Why is it that I am stuck with the burden of proof?
Give Nike a call and ask how employing aindonesian girl for 2 dollars a week to inhale glue while selling the same shoe for 150 dollars is good for humanity.
Call Roseburg Forest Products and ask why clearcutting thousands of acres of old growth is important for the survival of makind.
Shit call your damn president and ask why it is that we are at war, and where are those weapons of mass destruction.
Its all a game to them man. Ask them the questions and you will find that they do not have the answers. Many of the people that visit this website are informed and do have the answers, and fortunately are glad to share. But maybe you are asking the wrong people the wrong questions for the wrong reasons. Read a book by Michael Moore, or Greg Palast, or Arundhati Roy. There you will find the answers to the questions you ask, bu tin the meantime demand accountability to the corporations, and tell them to support their claims why your life is better because they are around.

Now that you asked... 16.Apr.2003 12:26


It is not the theoretical concept so much as the reality
of the "Corporation".

The "Ma and Pop" store is/was connected to the people that
it serverd and the people they employed. It had to be or
it would not stay in business very long. It had as it's
goal to provide a service or product to the community while
making living, for lack of a better term, for the owners.

The people who ran them, for the most part, beleaved in
what they did or what they sold. Oh there where some
"rotten apples" every now and then, but word of this got
around pretty quickly and they where soon gone. I know,
I grew up around this type of business and worked at quite
a few of them.

However...as a business get larger, it looses touch with
it consumers and employees. It starts to take on the agenda
of making more money and getting more power for those who
run it. The owners become more and more detached from the
business and sooner or later replaced by people who only
care about how much money they can make..the "bottom line"
as it where. The business starts to attract those with few
morral and ethical values, as these are the ones who do not care how they increase proffits, witch suites the banks and
other investers just fine.

Well, you may ask, should not the same principles apply
to a large bussines as a small one ?? Theoretical, yes.
In the real world, though this is not the case. As the
the company gets larger and more powerfull, the more
influence it has on government and judicial offials, sad
to say. The people who now own and run the company now
care nothing about the costomers, there are plenty of these
and if some complain... this can be "taken care of".

The "large" coporation now has a bevy of legal tallent
to protect it form any complaints. Accountents that are
well versed in manipulating the books any way that
helps the "bottom line". And a pocket full of political
favors they can call in to get bennificial legislation
passed. Not only that, they really do not have to
worry about compition, they can either buy it off or
burry it. Also a number of the same people sit on the
board of directors of a number of companys..even ones
that are supposed to be in compation with each other.

And if the employes put up a "fuss" about wages, working
conditions etc. , they can be easily intemidated or
threatened with plant closers and/or plans to move
over seas. After all it is the "bottom line" that
counts now, not the product or service and especially
not the people.

Unfortunately the kind of people who make it "big" in
the corporate world, have..need to have the same kind
of personality and mind-set as a psycopathic criminal.

I asked a friend of mine a while back, who is an MBA
student now, if one can be compassionate and make it
in the corporate world. Wih out hesitation he said no.

Now that being said, there are a few (very few)
corporations that still try to be ethical and stay
connected with the people. They are getting fewer
and fewer though.

Hope this ansers your question. At least this is my
take on the who puddle.

also 16.Apr.2003 12:31


also, just reading some very basic econ books would be helpful...you do ask a somewhat loaded question, perhaps you need to do some of your own research first, develop an argument both for and against the presence of multi-nationals, and then you can learn more and finetune what it is you desire from these discussions. we could also create a listserve too! that would be awesome...anyhoo...bya

burden of proof 16.Apr.2003 12:31

just wondering?

because people on this website are complaining endlessly about corporations. if you have a complaint, you should be able you state why you are upset.

it was just a simple question, and I wanted to know why people have it in for corporations?

and how are the differnent from mom and pop shops or anyone making money for that matter.

how are their goal different?

Is a corporation just a collective? 16.Apr.2003 12:48

just wondering?

Individuals rarely do better than teams of people. Correct? I mean that is why Villages started In the first place. We are social beings, and groups of people working for a common purpose tend to get more done than the same group of individuals when tackling large projects. Right.

So, isn't a corporation just a collective of people with a common purpose?

There are bad individuals in the world, just as there are bad groups correct?

So how are they different?

I'm not trying to be an asshole, here, I'm trying to get someone to tell me what the differences are between both entities, and how one is tolerable, and the other is a scurge.


however 16.Apr.2003 12:57


it is not that the question is bad necessarily, it just opens a web of discourse, which im not sure if utilizing indymedia as our medium in which to delve into these discussions is the best approach. Of course you're right, both mom and pop stores and corporations want profit, but the defining difference in this is the ammasing of billions of dollars. The difference is that ma and pop stores open in order to pay their mortgage, feed themselves, etc ect, whereas when the corporate sector and their capital begin increasing in profits and impedeing on the small biz to do their thing <make a little cash>--this is when it gets hairy. Corporations have control of the market, whcih does not promote competition, which is the core of capitalism, Surely you are not comparing a local "oil changing" biz to that of midas, there is no comparison, in my eyes. small business is good, creating innovative ideas are excellent! but when does this idea of intellectual property begin to get out of hand? well it has....this ignores the possibility of a human collective--we should all share the benefits, I am a hard worker, I like to work, but im not about to have my labor exploited by some multi-national in order for him to buy that mercedes he's been eyeing, I would rather work for a mom and pop store who give a shit about me, have a vested interest in the city that i live in and essentially be treated with respect....

Dear Just Wondering 16.Apr.2003 13:08


At first your question was interesting. Many people answered it and answered it well. I disagree their answers amount to a critique of capitalism rather than an explanation of why corporations are bad and why people hate them.

The thing that concerns me is that you don't seem to be listening. You've posted the same question several times, saying, sometimes explicitly -- sometimes implicitly, that your question has not been answered. If you read and try to understand, it has.

So, now it looks like your question may have been rhetorical and that your goal was not to understand. I hope I'm wrong.

The left is responsible 16.Apr.2003 13:15

Victor Vet

The ironic thing about all this is that the social, economic and especially tax policies pushed by the liberal left are largely responsible for the disappearance of individual or family-owned businesses, and their absorbtion into mega-corporations. The inheritance tax is just one example. Countless family owned businesses have been sold to large corporations upon the death of the owner, because the heirs couldn't afford the estate taxes put in place by "soak the rich" liberals.

The problem is this 16.Apr.2003 13:16


Our government is supposed to serve the people, but it doesn't, it serves the corporations.

The corporations have gotten so big and powerful they were able to buy out our government.

That's why the country is going to shit.

The people should control the government, not the corporations.

Iím listening, 16.Apr.2003 13:33

just wondering?

I don't think the question is rhetorical, but that's ok.

I want to keep the conversation civil and pleasant, and so far so good.

I don't know if they have really answered it. They have told me why they don't like corporations, but that wasn't the real question.

The best I can figure is that wanting to make too much money makes you bad, or should I say, wanting is ok, but making it is crossing the line.

The best statement was the political influence, but the Small Business owners association has a lot of clout too.

Perhaps I'm just stupid, and I can live with that if it turns out to be the case.

I was just wanting someone to give me a good example of something that is unique to a corporation, and not an individual, and the argument is grounded a true evil, that is unique to corporations, and not just Human Nature with INC. at the end of it.

If the hatred is based in envy and jealousy, because someone is making millions, and you aren't, that's ok, I just want to know where the hatred comes from.

If it is just anti-capitalism, that's fine too, but it doesn't really answer the question.

Thanks for the input.

shame on you victor 16.Apr.2003 13:35

aaa meeting

victor, i find that your comment to be trite...so now its a "liberals" problem? you're begging the question dear sir..whether your liberal or conservative an elite is still an elite...money is still power and equated to subjugation and special interests/agendas

Americans Revolt in Pennsylvania 16.Apr.2003 13:36

Thom Hartmann

Americans Revolt in Pennsylvania - New Battle Lines Are Drawn

by Thom Hartmann

The good citizens of Pennsylvania have done it again.

Back in 1776, they hosted at Liberty Hall in Philadelphia a gathering of people radicalized by the predations of the East India Company. The world's first multinational corporation then held a virtual stranglehold on commerce and politics in North America, and brazenly used British troops as its enforcers. On the first week of December, 1600, when she created the East India Company, Queen Elizabeth I became the first CEO monarch, and by 1776 King George II was following in her footsteps with his sizeable holdings in and open advocacy of corporate rule.

The American colonists were offended by the idea they should be vassals of a corporation and a kingdom that supported and profited from it. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which explicitly stated that humans were born into this world endowed by their Creator with certain rights, that governments were created by humans to insure only humans held those rights, and "That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it... "

Stating flatly that "it is their right, it is their duty," to alter their government and thus claim their unique human rights, 56 men defied the East India Company and the government whose army supported it by placing their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, saying, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Thus began America's first experiment with democracy.

The first week of December of that same year, Thomas Paine wrote in a pamphlet he published a few weeks later that, "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered... What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated."

Exactly 226 years later, another small group in Pennsylvania also met in early December to sign a document that claimed the same right - their duty - to alter their government in a way that would restore the democracy the original Founders were willing to fight and die for. The democratically elected municipal officials of Porter Township put their signatures to an ordinance passed unanimously on December 9, 2002. It reads, in part:

"A corporation is a legal fiction created by the express permission of the people... ;

"Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by the Supreme Court justices to include corporations in the term 'persons' has long wrought havoc with our democratic processes by endowing corporations with constitutional privileges intended solely to protect the citizens of the United States or natural persons within its borders;

"This judicial bestowal of civil and political rights upon corporations interferers with the administration of laws within Porter Township and usurps basic human and constitutional rights exercised by the people of Porter Township; ...

"Buttressed by these constitutional rights, corporate wealth allows corporations to enjoy constitutional privileges to an extent beyond the reach of most citizens;

"Democracy means government by the people. Only citizens of Porter Township should be able to participate in the democratic process in Porter Township and enjoy a republican form of government therein;... "

And then, with an audacity and willingness to take on overwhelming multinational corporate power similar to that displayed by the Founders, the elders of Porter Township said that "Corporations shall not be considered to be 'persons' protected by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania within the Second Class Township of Porter, Clarion County, Pennsylvania."

It became the law of that land five days later.

In 1773, the East India Company had claimed the "right" to participate in the political processes of England and, with wealth and power greater than the average citizen, got passed for themselves a huge tax reduction on tea and an overall tax rebate so large they could undersell and wipe out their small Colonial competitors. The response of the entrepreneurial colonists to the Tea Act of 1773 was the Boston Tea Party revolt against that transnational corporation, setting the stage for the Declaration of Independence and the beginnings of what Lincoln called "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

Similarly, in 2000, one of the largest sludge hauling corporations in the United States sued Porter Township, claiming that as a "person" the corporation had rights equal to the citizens of the township, and therefore they couldn't "discriminate" against the corporation under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War to free the slaves.

Porter Township, supported by a coalition including the Pennsylvania Farmers Union, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, The Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO, the United Mine Workers of America, Common Cause, the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy (POCLAD), the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), and other pro-democracy groups, fought back. They bluntly asserted that - as it was from the founding of this nation until the bizarre Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Supreme Court case in 1886 - only humans are entitled to human rights in their community.

In the law they passed on December 9, 2002, they explicitly said, "The judicial designation of corporations as 'persons' grants corporations the power to sue municipal governments for adopting laws that violate the purported constitutional rights of corporations. For example, in September 2000, Synagro Inc. filed a federal lawsuit against Rush Township (Centre County) Supervisors, forcing the Township to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend its health-related sewage sludge testing ordinance against claims that the ordinance violated the corporation's constitutional rights."

The implications of this are staggering. For example:

Before 1886, it was a felony in most states for corporations to give money to politicians or otherwise try (through lobbying or advertising) to influence elections. Such activity was called "bribery and influencing," and the reason it was banned was simple: corporations can't vote, so what are they doing in politics? Their concern is making money, and they don't need clean air to breathe or fresh water to drink; leave them to making money and leave the administration of the commons to We, The People.

Before 1886, it was a crime in most states for corporations to own others of their own kind. The need to keep corporations from becoming so large that they could usurp democracy was so clear to the Founders that Jefferson and Madison proposed an 11th Amendment to the Constitution that would have banned "monopolies in commerce," restricting each company to performing a single purpose, making it responsible to its local community, and barring it from owning other corporations. The amendment didn't pass because everybody at the time knew that the states already had such laws in place.

Before 1886, only humans had full First Amendment rights of free speech, including the right to influence legislation and the right to lie when not under oath. Now corporations have claimed that they have the free speech right to influence public opinion and legislation through deceit, and a case based on a multinational corporation asserting this right is poised to go before the Supreme Court as you read these words. That corporation reserves the right to fire and even prosecute human employees who lie to it, however.

Before 1886, only humans had Fourth Amendment rights of privacy. Since then, however, corporations have claimed that EPA and OSHA surprise inspections are violations of their human right of privacy, while at the same time asserting their right to perform surprise inspections of their own employees' bodily fluids, phone conversations, and keystrokes.

Before 1886, only humans had Fifth Amendment rights against double jeopardy and the right to refuse to speak if they'd committed a crime. Since 1886, corporations have asserted these human rights for themselves: the results range from today's corporate scandals to 60 years of silence about the deadliness of tobacco and asbestos.

Before 1886, and following the Civil War, only humans had Fourteenth Amendment rights to protection from discrimination. Since then, corporations have claimed this human right and used it to stop local communities from passing laws to protect their small, local businesses and keep out predatory retailers or large corporations convicted of crimes elsewhere.

Porter Township has fired the first shot in the New American Revolution with this first binding law denying corporate personhood. It's a revolution that will be fought not with guns but in the courts, in the voting booths, and on the battlefield of public opinion. (Far from harming corporations, returning human rights solely to humans will lead to an entrepreneurial boom in America - only a small handful of very large corporations abuse these rights to deceive people, hide crimes, or make politicians violate the will of their own voters. The millions of ethical corporations will thus be freed from the tyranny of the few while democratic government will be returned to its citizens.)

As Thomas Paine - another Pennsylvania resident - wrote on that 1776 December night and published 2 days before Christmas, "Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and repulse it."

Thom Hartmann is the author of "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporation Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," a book containing a version of the above ordinance customized for each of the 50 states.  http://www.unequalprotection.com. He holds the copyright to this article, but grants permission for reprint in print, web, and email media as long as this credit is attached.

Railroad Barons back to Finish the Job 16.Apr.2003 13:39

Thom Hartmann

The Railroad Barons Are Back - And This Time They'll Finish the Job

by Thom Hartmann

The railroad barons first tried to infiltrate the halls of government in the early years after the Civil War.

The efforts of these men, particularly Jay Gould, brought the Ulysses Grant administration into such disrepute, as a result of what were then called "the railroad bribery scandals," that Grant's own Republican party refused to renominate him for the third term he wanted and ran Rutherford B. Hayes instead. As the whitehouse.gov website says of Grant, "Looking to Congress for direction, he seemed bewildered. One visitor to the White House noted 'a puzzled pathos, as of a man with a problem before him of which he does not understand the terms.'"

Although their misbehaviors with the administration and Congress were exposed, the railroad barons of the era were successful in a coup against the Supreme Court. One of their own was the Reporter for the Supreme Court, and they courted Justice Stephen Field with, among other things, the possibility of support for a presidential run. In the National Archives, we also recently found letters from the railroads offering free trips and other benefits to the 1886 Court's Chief Justice, Morrison R. Waite.

Waite, however, didn't give in: he refused to rule the railroad corporations were persons in the same category as humans. Thus, the railroad barons resorted to plan B: they got human rights for corporations inserted in the Court Reporter's headnotes in the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case, even though the court itself (over Field's strong objections) had chosen not to rule on the constitutionality of the railroad's corporate claims to human rights.

And, based on the Reporter's headnotes (and ignoring the actual ruling), subsequent Courts have expanded those human rights for corporations. These now include the First Amendment human right of free speech (including corporate "speech" to influence politics - something that was a felony in most states prior to 1886), the Fourth Amendment human right to privacy (so a chemical company has successfully sued to prevent the EPA from performing surprise inspections - while retaining the right to perform surprise inspections of its own employees' bodily fluids and phone conversations), and the 14th Amendment right to live free of discrimination (using the free-the-slaves 14th Amendment, corporations have claimed discrimination to block local community efforts to pass "bad boy laws" or keep out predatory retailers).

Interestingly, unions don't have these human rights. Neither do churches, or smaller, unincorporated businesses. Nor do partnerships or civic groups. Nor, even, do governments, be they local, state, or federal.

And, from the founding of the United States, neither did corporations. Rights were the sole province of humans.

As the father of the Constitution, President James Madison, wrote, "There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by... corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses." It's one of the reasons why the word "corporation" doesn't exist in the constitution - they were to be chartered only by states, so local people could keep a close eye on them.

Early state laws (and, later, federal anti-trust laws) forbade corporations from owning other corporations, particularly in the media. In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." He was so strongly opposed to corporations owning other corporations or gaining monopolies of the media that, when the Constitution was submitted for ratification, he and Madison proposed an 11th Amendment to the Constitution that would "ban commercial monopolies." The Convention shot it down as unnecessary because state laws against corporate monopolies already existed.

But corporations grew, and began to flex their muscle. Politicians who believed in republican democracy were alarmed by the possibility of a new feudalism, a state run by and to the benefit of powerful private interests.

President Andrew Jackson, in a speech to Congress, said, "In this point of the case the question is distinctly presented whether the people of the United States are to govern through representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages [votes] or whether the money and power of a great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence their judgment and control their decisions."

And the president who followed him, Martin Van Buren, added in his annual address to Congress: "I am more than ever convinced of the dangers to which the free and unbiased exercise of political opinion - the only sure foundation and safeguard of republican government - would be exposed by any further increase of the already overgrown influence of corporate authorities."

Even Abraham Lincoln weighed in, writing, "We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. The best blood of the flower of American youth has been freely offered upon our country's altar that the nation might live. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.

"As a result of the war," Lincoln continued, "corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless." Lincoln held the largest corporations - the railroads - at bay until his assassination.

But then came the railroad barons, vastly enriched by the Civil War.

They began brining case after case before the Supreme Court, asserting that the 14th Amendment - passed after the war to free the slaves - should also free them.

For example, in 1873, one of the first Supreme Court rulings on the Fourteenth Amendment, which had passed only five years earlier, involved not slaves but the railroads. Justice Samuel F. Miller minced no words in chastising corporations for trying to claim the rights of human beings.

The fourteenth amendment's "one pervading purpose," he wrote in the majority opinion, "was the freedom of the slave race, the security and firm establishment of that freedom, and the protection of the newly-made freeman and citizen from the oppression of those who had formerly exercised unlimited dominion over him."

But the railroad barons represented the most powerful corporations in America, and they were incredibly tenacious. They mounted challenge after challenge before the Court, claiming the 14th Amendment should grant them human rights under the Bill of Rights (but not grant such rights to unions, churches, small companies, or governments). Finally, in 1886, the Court's reporter defied his own Chief Justice and improperly wrote a headnote that moved corporations out of the privileges category and gave them rights - an equal status with humans. (Last year we found the correspondence between the two in the National Archives and put it on the web. By the time the Reporter's headnotes were published, the Chief Justice was dead.)

On December 3, 1888, President Grover Cleveland delivered his annual address to Congress. Apparently Cleveland had taken notice of the Santa Clara County Supreme Court headnote, its politics, and its consequences, for he said in his speech to the nation, delivered before a joint session of Congress: "As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters."

The Founders of America were clear when they wrote the Bill of Rights that humans had rights, and when humans got together to form any sort of group - including corporations, churches, unions, fraternal organizations, and even governments themselves - that those forms of human association had only privileges which were determined and granted by the very human "We, The People."

But, as if by magic, even though in the Santa Clara case the Supreme Court did not rule on any constitutional issues (read the case!), the Court's reporter rewrote the American Constitution at the behest of the railroad barons and moved a single form of human association - corporations - from the privileges category into the rights category. All others, to this day, still only have privileges. But individual citizen voters must now politically compete with corporations on an equal footing - even though a corporation can live forever, doesn't need to breathe clean air, doesn't fear jail, can change its citizenship in an hour, and can own others of its own kind.

Theodore Roosevelt looked at this situation and bluntly said, in April of 1906, "Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."

And so now, corporate-friendly Michael Powell's FCC is moving toward lifting the last tattered restrictions on media ownership, allowing absolute concentration of the voices we hear into a tiny number of corporate hands.

Any day now a case involving a multinational corporation claiming the right to deceive people in its PR - its 1st Amendment right of free speech - may be coming before the Supreme Court. (The New York Times corporation editorialized on December 10th that corporations must have free speech rights: the lines are being drawn.)

As much as half the federal workforce is slated to be replaced by corporate workers under a new Bush edict. Government (which doesn't have constitutional human rights of privacy, and so is answerable to We, The People) will then be able to use corporate-4th-Amendment-human-rights of privacy to hide what those workers do and how they do it from the prying eyes of citizens and voters. In a similar fashion, corporate-owned and thus unaccountable-to-the-people voting machines are being installed nationwide; in the last election these machines often produced vote results so different from the polls that pollsters who have been successfully calling elections for over 50 years threw up their hands and closed shop.

This administration is set to complete what the railroad barons pushed the Grant administration to start: to take democracy and its institutions of governance from the hands of the human citizen/voters the Founders fought and died for, and give it to the very types of monopolistic corporations the Founders fought against when they led the Tea Party revolt against the East India Company in Boston Harbor in 1773.

And, in the ultimate irony, the new man in charge of economic policy as Secretary of the Treasury will be a multi-millionaire Bush campaign contributor, chairman of The Business Roundtable (an elite corps of 100 of the nation's most powerful corporate CEOs), and, himself, a railroad baron.

Thom Hartmann is the author of "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights" -  http://www.unequalprotection.com and  http://www.thomhartmann.com Permission is granted to reprint this article in print or web media, so long as this credit is attached.

Why corporations are bad... 16.Apr.2003 14:07

GRINGO STARS gringo_stars@attbi.com

In the last century, people were educated at home, by caring parents who had a stake in their childrens' educations. They wanted them to grow up and be industrious self-supporting workers who owned their own businesses, hence they would own their own destiny.

Along came mandatory public schooling, created with the agenda of turning a once-independant people into an obedient group of future factory workers. Inquisitive minds were disouraged, yet obedient minds were encouraged. Within a couple of decades, factory workers were already becoming more obedient, whereas before rurally-aised youth had too much of a concept of freedom and dignity to work in a factory for 16 hours a day.

So now it's 2003. Whoopie! And people rarely even see it as a viable option to work in and control your own workplace, which used to be a concept that one took for granted.

Now, you have marketing executives deciding which movies and albums get made instead of the artists. (And you wonder why commercial movies and music suck so bad these days)

People graduate from college with littl;e or no critical thinking skills. A degree from college means mostly that you can wade through BS even when you are neck-deep in it. After following your instructors and professors, you are deemed obedient enough to follow your boss obediently, or so it is assumeed.

Modern corporations are top-heavy, heartless, and simply do not care about its employess. Boeing laying off tens of thousands of its workers the week before Christmas (in 2000 I think) many of them just a few days or weeks from pension. This is a far cry for the days of old when it was actually possible to start in the mailroom and work your way up to VP (as long as you were a straight white male, that is). Morgan and Rockefeller and the like saw to it that the independance of the American people would be educated out of them at an early age. They would then be better suited to give their lives to their federal government, or their local oil corporation or whatever the ruling elite deemed necessry.

Read more about it;

the difference 16.Apr.2003 14:08


The difference is simply the balance that each party strikes.
The mom and pop shop has capitalist motives, there is no arguing that.
the Corporation has capitalist motives, there is no doubt about that.
-Mom and pop shops are usually run by a neighbor, someone whose child will benefit from the school systems, other businesses ,and possibly the inheritance of the business after the original owners are gone.
-Corporations are rarely run by local interests. The main beneficiaries of these enterprises are far removed from the people that the plant, mill, mega-store etc. affect. The connection between the owners and the patrons is obviously not as strong as the bond between the folks that walk into a local hardware store, and when I walk into Jerry's.
-Mom and Pop shops generally produce less waste, use less energy and are usually held acountable for any misdoings in their community.
-Multinational corporations purposely move their businesses to places were very little accountability is needed i.e. Central and South America. So now not only are they far removed from the people who are making them rich, they are also far removed from the forest that their plant destroyed, the river they poisoned, or the trash they put into the landfill.
The bottom line is that the corporations that we are all talking about take far more than they give. They claim that globalization will help feed the poor in third world countries. This may be true, but what they don't say is that when a particular plant becomes unprofitable, they will leave the people hungry, the land demolished, and the indigenous people without the culture that they held onto for generations before. Corporations force competitors to play by their rules, I don't think that you can say that about Mom and Pop shops.
In other words if you and I live happily (but impoverished)subsisting ourselves in the mountains of Tibet. We work everyday for our food and firewood, and it is a life that we love. One day our government says that they are building a major highway from the nearest city to our village in order to spread the tourism to our part of the country. Soon the dust in our village is so rampant that it is hard for us to breathe the mountain air. Soon after the road is built, produce from around the world is being trucked to our village (furthering still the pollution)for the tourists. It slowly becomes cheaper for the visitors to our village to buy fruit from the people who bring it here rather than buy our fruit that we work so hard to grow. The fall of the mom and pop. So now we are stuck with the decision. Do we continue to grow our own food, or do we participate in the governments tourism plan in order to buy the cheaper fruits shipped in from another part of the country? Do we sit here and be run out of our own village by road building and development by tourism businesses? Or do we participate and abandon our centuries old customs of growing our own food? This is a very real and frequent occurence in the corporate world. This story is actuall inspired by "Learning From Ladakh". Mom and Pop shops don't run people out of their homes in order to increase their profit margins, multinationsl corprations do.

the idea of the super citizen. 16.Apr.2003 14:18

this thing here

what corporation are you testing the waters for? what influence are you asking these questions for?

>I was just wanting someone to give me a good example of something that is unique to a corporation, and not an individual, and the argument is grounded a true evil, that is unique to corporations, and not just Human Nature with INC. at the end of it.<

well, first off, a corporation is an abstract business entity which has been embued with the same rights as a living, breathing human. that is the very definition of the word INCORPORATED. look it up, instead of playing ignorant.

so that's the first difference between an individual and a corporation.

secondly, there's the question of power this legalistic arrangement gives to corporations. and this is where the difference becomes even greater.

a corporation is a single entity, or body, composed of 100's or thousands. an individual human, obviously, is not. so this fact in a sense makes corporations "super citizens".

corporations have more brains than an individual citizen, they have more lawyers, they have more money, they have more arms and legs, they have more mouths, they have more needs.

so what does this mean? duh. an individual human cannot go before the federal government and lobby to change a law. an individual mom and pop store cannot go to federal government and lobby to change a law. but corporations, being super citizens, with super needs, can. they have the money and the power to change any rule they want. who are all those lobbyists walking through the halls of power in washington? they're corporate lobbyists. they represent corporate interests.

so the point is, corporations HAVE MORE POWER THAN INDIVIDUAL CITZENS, at the same time as they have been granted the same rights as joe schmoe. yet joe schmoe can't go to washington with a squad of lobbyists and get the laws changed any old way he wants. corporations are super citizens. they speak the loudest because they have the most mouths and biggest voices. they speak the loudest because they have the most money in the most places. the same nike billboard (for the sake argument, representing one of the the corporation's millions of mouths) can appear in hong kong and the middle of iowa, and no matter where, the billboards are protected by the first amendemnt. sure, joe schmoe is protected by the first amendment, but he can't open his mouth in hong kong and iowa at the same time.

lastly, there's a big difference between the "culture" at a small business and multi-national corporation. a large corporation's #1 concern is return on investment for it's shareholders. in other words, their #1 mission in life is to generate profit. there #1 mission in life is NOT to make cars, make shoes or provide services. all of these things are secondary to the mission of generating money. in my opinion, this creates an alienation between corporation, customer, and product. so this means that craft, integrity, pride, care, ethics, knowing the community, knowing the customers and all the things that many small business are known for, have no place in corporations. there's a reason why mcdonalds tastes like it does, compared to your favorite family owned restaurant. there's a reson why nike uses cheap labor overseas, and your local show repairer hires from the local community. there's a reason why the craft of products made by huge corporations is usually pretty shitty compared to the small business that can take the time to put some heart and care into their work.

so, to get to your point about "human nature with an INC. at the end of it", where a mom and pop store might be evil, a large corporation is going to be ten fold evil. corporations are large business entitites. they pollute more than an individual mom an pop store, they use more resources, they use more labor, ect. but again, what makes a corporation different from the human joe schmoe is the power they weild as super citizens. sure, joe schmoe can be evil, but a corporation can be just as evil as joe schmoe, but on a massively larger scale than joe schmoe, and they can use the political influence that joe schmoe will never have to get away with it.

so there's huge differences between individual people and corporate business entities. and the problems are a result of the amount of individual power they wield in the communal political sphere.

here's some questions for you:

what corporation are you testing the waters for? what influence are you asking these questions for? what research insitution, college or university are you asking these questions for?

Resubordinate Corporations to Humanity 16.Apr.2003 14:38

Ed Harley

Why I ask. 16.Apr.2003 14:45

just wondering?

Why I ask.

I have worked for both individuals and corporations. I've been in the work force since 1976.

I have never moved past, the status of individual contributor, nor have I ever had a desire to.

I hope I never do get moved into management. I like what I do, and have seen way too many first level mangers kill themselves trying to play king of the hill. That's their choice, but its not for me. Life is too short, in my opinion.

I have a choice to work for an individual, but prefer to work for a corporation. The reasons are basically the same why I prefer to shop at large department stores, and home centers.
Individual owners and employers have no accountability except to the customer. If they treat you bad, either as an employee, or customer, who do you complain to?

Individual owners are fine sometime, and other times have an attitude. Individual owners of stores have lost large business deals from me because of an attitude I have experienced from them.

I love to help out local companies, but I hate to deal with Micro-tyrants.

I was asking this questions because I don't believe most people on this website really know why corporations are bad, and different than individuals. Some gave really good answers, but most just moved with the herd and parroted what they had read or heard.

I as an individual worker, and customer love the freedom to choose where I want to work and do my business. Because I prefer in general to deal with corporations, don't hold it against me.

I hold it against you 16.Apr.2003 15:29

GRINGO STARS gringo_stars@attbi.com

Corporations have more power than people now. And I'm supposed to say "Yay!" for someone who enables such society-destroying activity? After all these argumenst against corporations, you dismiss them all? Sounds like you didn't really want to know what you were asking. It sounds like you want a pat on the back. Yes, people here know why corporations suck. Corporations run our corrupt government, and keep it corrupt so that it is under their power. Their power has harmed people, societies, and ecologies all over the world. Why do you want to be a part of that? How can you live with yourself or sleep at night? Or are you completely ignorant about how power is used here in the US?

weak reasoning friend 16.Apr.2003 15:35


Your reasoning for being a part of the destruction of small businesses in your community is apalling, but understandable as you have been brainwashed by consumerism, corporations can react to your "accountability" problem by merely firing the untrained and unskilled worker at a whim, they have that power, whereas someone who has been employed in a small business may not have that option--people are not expendable, my friend. You are part of the problem here in the states, this sick desire for convienence and instant gratification, and buildings that could house children without homes. If none of the previous answers <such as gringos> have made a dent in your thinking and acting then you have merely wasted all of our time. Why do you inquire of such issues if you are not willing to change your behaviour? I don't blame owners of small biz for being sour or bitter, I would too if I had to try to survive in the monopolistic market...=)

brainwashed? 16.Apr.2003 15:59

just wondering?

Fine, perhaps I'm brainwashed. I don't know of anyone who isn't washed a little, by this definition of "brainwashing".

Corporations are made up of people, just like collectives, communes, and governments. If the government or corporations are corrupt its just a refection of how the people in those entities are corrupt themselves.

If you thought that saying corporations are bad, and listing ecological damage, or exploitation as the reason for why I should just jump onboard, you're more naÔve than I thought. Every individual on this planet causes some ecological damage, or exploits something for their own personal gain. Some are far worst than others, but we all contribute.

What really pisses you off is not that I'm not onboard, but that I'm comfortable in it.

In all of the reasons in the posts above, nobody mentioned that governments (all governments, and all forms of government) have the same flaws as corporations. Although this was not my question, it did center on how corporations differ than individuals, or collectives.

Since Eve and Adam ate that apple, the world has never been a wonderful, painless, utopian pleasure palace, and I don't think the absence of corporations or governments would change that.

I was asking these questions because I wanted to see how many people on this website could articulate a valid argument against corporations based solely on their unique and inherent evil. Only a few did, the rest just bitched, pissed, and moaned, without understanding why.

Thank you all for your responses.

Some reasons why i hate corporations 16.Apr.2003 20:21

ex-Target check-out boy

is because they enforce a culture of conformism. To work at Kmart/Walmard/Target/etc you have to dress a certain way, act a certain way, look a certain way - no long hair or dreadlocks, no tatoos on your face, no piercings. They manufacture a look that is 'acceptable', which implies that anything that is outside these boundaries is somehow undesirable, bad, ugly, looked down upon.

You have to put on your fake smile whenever you turn up to work, you have to kiss the customers ass no matter how rude they are, you have to become a mindless robot for the benefit of the corporate owners.

They rip your soul away.

And yes indeed, some mom and pop stores are the same in regards to conformism.

Another thing is the hierachy - you have your area manager, he /she may still have some humanity left, but are in general robotized and don't question their place in the world. Then you work your way up the chain, each successive level of management gets treated more and more like royalty. If ever the state or national manager should be visiting your store you will witness all the underlings running around in a fit making sure everything is spotless, just for this one guy - see, all the fuss never happens most of the year, the customers a used to the slightly messy store, its normal, but when the royal state manager comes to town, everything has to be perfect, just for this one Suit and Tie fuckwit.

I could go on, but let me give a brief how things should be:

people be themselves, they dress how they want, have their hair how they want, say what they want. They work under the conditions they set themselves. Hierachy will be abolished, there will me no sucking up to some superior manager, everyone will be equal and free.

well now its clear 16.Apr.2003 21:18


now i get it...the reason you're so obtuse is very simple: you believe in adam and eve

It's a question of power 16.Apr.2003 23:59


as someone else mentioned.

A corporation is a neutral thing, neither intrinsically good or bad (the word 'corporation' generically defined actually is synonymous with 'collective' or 'commune'). Any time one cooperates with others in an activity involving shared risks and benefits and gives this cooperation the status of named institution, one has effectively formed a corporation (i.e. Nike or Greenpeace).

Corporate businesses are not so much an intrinsic evil as a frequent means to undesirable ends. By forming a corporation, one gains an increased amount of power that can be utilized for any given end. Greenpeace, for example, gives its members the ability to engage in environmental activism on a global scale beyond the faculties of any single individual. Likewise, Nike can pursue shareholder profit on an even larger scale.

The reason you should care about the growth of 'Mom and Pop Shops' into multinational conglomerates is that these conglomerates, much like the original shop, are likely to be only concerned with their own profitability, but at the larger, conglomerate level they have a lot more power than you do by virtue of their much greater resources, and should their interests conflict with yours, they are going to profit to your detriment in that case. The business becomes "too big" when it has the means, motive, and opportunity to seek profit in ways that are destructive socially, ecologically, etc. or otherwise threaten you and me and the rest of non-incorporated humanity.

Power corrupts, after all.

An associated problem is the tendency of large business corporations to become authoritarian in structure. You may like the fact that the person you are dealing with in a commercial transaction is being supervised by a superior, but what happens when you are the one being supervised and the entity in question has become powerful enough that non-compliance with their wishes is not an acceptable option? Check out a really good movie called 'American Dream' about the 1985 strike at the Hormel meat-packing plant in Austin, MN for an example of this kind of scenario--in a 'company town' where your livelihood depends on a single coporate entity, the people in charge of that entity have quite a bit of power over you. What happens when a corporation (or small group of them) has that kind of relationship to a whole country? Are democratic political institutions going to mean very much in that scenario?

A lot of American industrialists thought fascism was a pretty good idea (Henry Ford, for example, sent Adolf Hitler $50,000 every year as a birthday present up until the start of the war). The internal authority structure of your multinational corporation is not exactly a democracy, and the economic power (which any good Libertarian will tell you is the basis of all other sociopolitical power) of several of these now exceeds that of many of the world's national governments. Extrapolate those trends a few decades into the future, and what do you get?