Part II: Corporation Undermine the Foundational Ideology of America
Too often we dismiss the importance of understanding and preserving the ideology that founds society. This ideological foundation forms the structure within which society operates, and the governing structure that sustains society provides the map by which society preserves that structure. This is what I mean when I say the Declaration of Independence is the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of America (i.e. the structure) and the U.S. Constitution is the ‘how’ (i.e. the map). If we allow a different ideology to form within the existing structure, what amounts to a cultural struggle will ensue (i.e. a fundamental transformation). If we disregard the map that tells us how to use this structure, then we get lost and society starts to meander and decay (i.e. the rule of law is replaced by the rule of men). If both happen at the same time, one has to wonder whether it is a sign that our society is being threatened or more likely a sign that our society has already changed and is in search of a new structure and map. In order to understand how the modern corporate system represents both a structural and directional threat to our society, we must remember the foundational structure of our society and how it was intended to function.
I stress this often because it is too often forgotten (if it has even ever been known and/or understood by the majority of Americans today): this nation was founded on the Lockian theory of Natural Rights protected by Natural Law and preserved through the Social Contract (or Compact). In short, this theory holds that society is formed through a mutual consent and participation by a group of individuals to working together for the common good. A government is a step beyond society, and is formed to protect and preserve the individual Natural Rights of every individual within that society through the individuals’ natural right to contract. This is the Social Contract (when this contract is formed with an acknowledgment of God as the ultimate source of individual rights, it becomes a compact). However, where the formation of society imparts no duty to society or the individuals within it, the formation of a government does. Like all contracts, the Social Contract is conditional: you get the protections it affords only so long as you abide by the terms of the contract. As parties to this contract, this implies an individual duty to every member of society, as well as to the government formed by the contract. Whatever system is agreed to in order to protect individual rights and enforce compliance to the contract/compact then forms the basis for what we call law. When the terms and conditions of this Social Contract are written down, we call it a constitution. But even within this structure, there are limits. The laws must not violate any individual’s Natural Rights. No individual can he give up his Natural Rights: there are inalienable. Nor can individuals grant a power they do not possess themselves, thus, the government they create can never become greater than any individual: the creation can never become greater than its creator. The creation of the modern corporate structure undermines every element of this foundational ideology.
To start to understand how corporations threaten the foundational structure of our society, we must understand this foundation. Individuals form society, then society forms government and, finally, corporations are formed through an act of government (i.e. the law). This means society, government and corporations are all creations of the individual, and thus, answerable to the individual. It must also be remembered that these creations can never become greater than any of the individuals who create them. They are tools, and tools are not people; they do not have Natural Rights. Now remember that government is formed to protect and preserve the Natural Rights of every individual who is party to that Social Contract. A corporation is not a party to the contract; it is a creation of that contract. This means that corporations cannot be party to the contract because they are a creation of government, which is a creation of society, which is a creation of the individual. This also implies government has a duty to protect the individual from its creation by retaining ultimate control over corporations. At the same time, government is under the control of the individuals who created it, so every individual has a duty to protect his neighbor from both the government and its creations: in this case, the corporation. In other words, we have a duty to make sure our tools do not harm our neighbor nor damage his property, even to the extent of insuring that we do not lend our tools to a neighbor who then uses them to harm or damage. While the Social Contract does not create a responsibility for the actions of our neighbor, it does create a responsibility not to help anyone who is intent on breaking that contract. This extends to the individual’s responsibility to make sure government does not allow the corporation to become a threat to the individuals it was formed to protect. Remember, we cannot take or give away Natural Rights, so we cannot trample them through an act of legislation: such an act is invalid as it violates Natural Law, and thus, the Social Contract.
Let’s look at some examples of this inherent contradiction between the modern corporate structure and the foundational ideology of this nation. We can start with the 14th Amendment. This is the Amendment that is used to claim individual rights for corporations. As I explained in the first section of this paper, the courts never really ruled that corporations are legally people, but they have refused to rule with finality that they are not, either. (The legal history here is well documented, so I won’t go into it, but you can start your research here and here – should you so desire). But claiming individual rights under the 14th Amendment actually undermines the rule of law. If a corporation is a person, the 14th Amendment actually prohibits anyone from ‘owning’ it. The 14th Amendment also prohibits a person from being legally considered ‘property.’ Simply put, this means no one can constitutionally own stock as this constitutes ownership of a person. It also means that we cannot claim a corporation is private property because – as a person – a corporation cannot constitutionally be considered ‘property.’ Furthermore, by extending this same reasoning, it would be unconstitutional for one corporation to own any part of another corporation.
The counter to this line of reasoning is that corporations are not ‘real’ people; they just enjoy ‘legal personhood.’ This is a contradiction that destroys the rule of law and the Social Contract. Natural Rights are bestowed by God to the individual. This makes them inalienable and private; intended for and/or restricted to the use of that one individual. We must remember, government is created by every individual in that society to protect the individual – private – rights of every member in that society. This makes government a public creation as it is created for the benefit and is subject to the control of everyone in society. Therefore, government cannot be used to grant Natural Rights by legislation to an artificial entity such as a corporation because the people who created that government do not have the power to take, grant or give away Natural Rights (i.e. private rights). It follows from this that any entity government might create must also be public by logical extension. Therefore, it is fallacious to argue that corporations represent a different or special case. When this argument is advanced, what is actually being claimed is an exemption to the Social Contract that formed our society. What is actually being claimed is both independence for the corporation as a person with full protections under the Social Contract while – at the same time – claiming ownership and full control over the corporation as property, with all the corresponding individual rights and privileges afforded property under that same Social Contract. Claiming such an exemption actually represents a breach of contract which, under our founding ideology, rightfully places both the corporation and those claiming ownership of it back in a state of war with the rest of society. At that point, society has every right to use the terms of the Social Contract to protect itself from the corporation and its owners as they represent a threat to society.
In addition to undermining the foundational structure of our society, allowing corporations to exist and function as people creates a means by which the dead can control the living by creating what is potentially an immortal creature. If we are going to function under a legal structure outside Natural Law, then it is not only possible, it is probable that this legal structure will allow a corporation to be set up in such a manner that the living cannot change the corporate charter without breaking the law. If a corporate charter is constructed in a manner that makes it impossible for anyone to change it or alter the path or operations of the corporation once the original owners are dead, then they are effectively controlling the corporation from the grave. This means they are controlling the property of the new owners. In terms of our founding ideology, this means the dead would control the natural rights of the living. This is why Jefferson strenuously objection to allowing the dead to inherit the earth: because it takes the control of our own lives away from the living. This is one of the primary reasons he suggested a finite restriction on the lifespan of any corporation should have been written into the constitution. Now consider the threat that such a potentially immortal corporation could represent if it should become as large as the East India Company in our founders’ time? It would eventually become necessary to break the law to protect society, and at that time, the rule of law will have been destroyed and society along with it.
Another threat presented by corporations is the undermining of the electoral system. By claiming they are people, corporations are permitted to contribute large sums of money to political campaigns – even though the corporation cannot vote and, if it could, might not be legally entitled to do so because it resides outside the political district in question. This is an issue we should address concerning real people meddling in elections where they cannot vote, but it is especially pertinent to the corporation because of the large amounts of money a corporation can employ. We cannot object to a union taking mandatory union dues and contributing it to a political candidate to whom a union member may object while – at the same time – defending a corporation’s right to take profits it should have split among its stock holders (as supposed owners) and contributing it to political candidates instead. The principle violated here is the same: a violation of the individual’s Natural Right of conscience. There is also the possibility that a corporate conglomerate could use its assets to influence elections to the detriment of the society that created and supports its very existence. An easy example is found in broadcast corporations that use their public charters to control – even manufacture news for the deliberate purpose of directing public opinion. With the advent of multi-national corporations, this undermining of the electoral system is further complicated by a corporation’s ability to channel foreign funds, and therefore foreign influences into national elections. Once again, this represents a potential breach of contract which would place the corporation and its owners back in a state of war with society.
Finally, with the rise of the modern corporate structure comes the growth of corporatism. In this case, I mean the tendency for a small group of corporations to eventually emerge from and control every major industry. Once again, we can see examples of this in the decline of manufacturers in the car and aircraft industry. At some point, GM, FORD and Chrysler came to a point where – either by deliberate cooperation or default – they could control the entire U.S. auto manufacturing market. Eventually, the owners of these three corporations understand that it is in their best interest to cooperate. Instead of trying to compete with each other, they start using their incredible assets to make sure no new competition can emerge, and using their influence to enlist government assistance in this pursuit is equally inevitable. The result is that these few large corporations settle into an operation similar to that of crime syndicates: they all understand that they each have their own piece of turf where they get to rule without interference, and where – so long as they keep to their unspoken agreement – the other crime families will leave them alone. Over time, this leads to an inevitable alliance between these large corporate syndicates and the government known as corporatism: the organization of a society into industrial and professional corporations serving as organs of political representation and exercising control over persons and activities within their jurisdiction.
This is exactly what the Colonists were fighting to free themselves from in regards to the influences of the East India Company; the influences that directly led to the Boston Tea Party. And yet, those Americans who call themselves ‘conservatives’ are fighting to preserve and advance the same system of corporatism our founders broke away from in the name of our founding fathers. For those who fail to see the irony here, it is unlikely they will understand the significance of these words, either:
“Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism as it is a merge of state and corporate power.”
[Note: I had originally intended to write this as a two-part post. After writing this second part, I understood I needed to add a third section on how to deal with the modern corporation in the context of our foundational ideology. Part three will be posted next week. In the mean time, I welcome your thoughts and comments on this subject.]