Why did our founding fathers hate corporations?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Bfgrn, Feb 23, 2011.

  1. Bfgrn
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    Bfgrn Gold Member

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    When American colonists declared independence from England in 1776, they also freed themselves from control by English corporations that extracted their wealth and dominated trade. After fighting a revolution to end this exploitation, our country's founders retained a healthy fear of corporate power and wisely limited corporations exclusively to a business role. Corporations were forbidden from attempting to influence elections, public policy, and other realms of civic society.

    A word that appears nowhere in the Constitution is "corporation," for the writers had no interest in using for-profit corporations to run their new government. In colonial times, corporations were tools of the king's oppression, chartered for the purpose of exploiting the so-called "New World" and shoveling wealth back into Europe. The rich formed joint-stock corporations to distribute the enormous risk of colonizing the Americas and gave them names like the Hudson Bay Company, the British East India Company, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Because they were so far from their sovereign - the king - the agents for these corporations had a lot of autonomy to do their work; they could pass laws, levy taxes, and even raise armies to manage and control property and commerce. They were not popular with the colonists.

    So the Constitution's authors left control of corporations to state legislatures (10th Amendment), where they would get the closest supervision by the people. Early corporate charters were explicit about what a corporation could do, how, for how long, with whom, where, and when.

    1) Corporations could not own stock in other corporations, and they were prohibited from any part of the political process.

    2) Individual stockholders were held personally liable for any harms done in the name of the corporation, and most charters only lasted for 10 or 15 years.

    3) But most importantly, in order to receive the profit-making privileges the shareholders sought, their corporations had to represent a clear benefit for the public good, such a building a road, canal, or bridge.

    4) And when corporations violated any of these terms, their charters were frequently revoked by the state legislatures.

    Corporate Personhood-Demeaning Our Bill of Rights - Reclaim Democracy.org

    Thomas Jefferson Feared an Aristocracy of Corporations

    "For the general operations of manufacturer, let our workshops remain in Europe. It is better to carry provisions and materials to workmen there, than bring them to the provisions and materials, and with them their manners and principles. The loss by the transportation of commodities across the Atlantic will be made up in happiness and permanence of government. The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manner and spirit of a people which preserve a public vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.
    Thomas Jefferson
     
  2. Soggy in NOLA
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    Soggy in NOLA Platinum Member

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    I hear the Founding Fathers were big fans of Obamacare and teachers' unions too.
     
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  3. martybegan
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    martybegan Gold Member

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    Delicious copypasta is Delicious.

    If the founding fathers were so against corporations, I would think they would include restrictions on them in the constitution itself, or even as an amendment. The fact that it is neutral on it undermines the authors position that the founding fathers were anti-corporation.

    If there was mistrust of these corporations, it was due to the policy of giving said corporations individual monopolies on a given portion of trade, such as tea. There the opposition wasn't to the corporation principle itself, but to the government sanctioned monopoly given to said corporation.
     
  4. washamericom
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    washamericom Gold Member

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    there were no corporations then, you can't have a corporation without electricity.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2011
  5. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    The Flounding Fathers understood the danger of giving a legal entity too much power.

    Bfgrn got this exactly right, as did Martybegan when he noted

    We unleashed a social FRANENSTEIN, folks, when the SCOTUS decided that corporations have citizen's rights and when they decided that corporate money = FREE SPEECH.

    The erosion of CITIZENRY power is in direct proportion to the enhancement of CORPORATE POWER that has for most part occurred you our lifetimes.

    I remind you AGAIN that the inventor of FASCISM, Benito Mussolini, told people that the social government system he invented (FASCISM) would be more precisely called CORPORATISM.
     
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  6. martybegan
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    martybegan Gold Member

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    Not quite what I was trying to get at.

    The opposition was to a monopoly on a given product, i.e. tea. They had no issue with multiple entities trying to sell tea, but with one try to sell it, and with a tax on it they would be forced to pay.
     
  7. Oddball
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    Oddball BANNED Supporting Member

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    If they were so against corporations, to the point of hating them, why is it they created the corporation called "District of Columbia"?

    Records of the Government of the District of Columbia
     
  8. goldcatt
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    goldcatt Catch me if you can! Supporting Member

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    The Founders didn't hate corporations so much as they didn't trust them, and they definitely wanted them divorced from the political process.

    If they hated them, they would have banned them. That was not the case.

    Corporations serve a purpose, and a valuable one. They aren't inherently evil, in fact they are a valuable tool that has been used to create a lot of wealth and innovation over time. Without the corporation we wouldn't be sitting here shooting the breeze on an internet forum about them.

    The problem is when they step outside that purpose and start acting with the powers and rights of individuals, but none of an individual's accountability.

    We're not yet to the point here in the U.S. where we were in colonial times, with sovereign corporations acting as de facto (and in many cases de jure) government, and hopefully we will never be. So the comparison isn't really apt. But corporations are certainly gaining more and more advantages over the individual as far as influence on government, and many see that as a problem. I see that as a problem.

    Representational democracy is supposed to be for the benefit of the people to whom all rights are reserved, meaning individuals - not fictitious entities. Those entities should be entitled to limited rights related to their purpose, hence things like the century-old concept of "commercial speech", but they are not and should never be equal to natural persons much less referred to as "citizens".

    And yes...by "corporation" I do mean all fictitious entities that fall under the broad umbrella, including non-profits and unions.
     
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  9. Dont Taz Me Bro
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    Dont Taz Me Bro USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    But I thought the Constitution was an outdated document written by old white men who owned slaves and oppressed women. Suddenly their opinion matters?
     
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  10. bucs90
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    bucs90 Gold Member

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    Liberals don't hate corporations. They just demand to be paid an assload of money for doing an entry level job while getting a 30 hour work week, a 2 hour lunch break, a 1,000 sq/ft private office with a corner window, a company car, a company credit card, and a company issued hot female and cool puppy to keep them company.

    All on the merit of simply haven gone to a liberal arts college and voted for Obama.


    No, libs don't hate corporations, they just hate having to actually work their way up in one.
     

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