Entities which claim human rights must also accept human mortality if they are to remain within a framework of human laws.
“We are out of the habit of contesting the legitimacy of the corporation, or challenging concocted legal doctrines, or denying courts the final say over our economic lives.
For most of this century, citizens skirmished with corporations to stop doing harm, but failed to question the legitimacy of the harmdoers. We do not use the charter and the chartering process to stop corporate harm, or to define the corporation on our terms.
For one hundred years after the American Revolution, citizens and legislators fashioned the nation’s economy by directing the chartering process.
The laborers, small farmers, traders, artisans, seamstresses, mechanics and landed gentry who sent King George III packing feared corporations. As pamphleteer Thomas Earle wrote:
Chartered privileges are a burthen, under which the people of Britain, and other European nations, groan in misery.
They knew that English kings chartered the East India Company, the Hudson’s Bay Company and many American colonies in order to control property and commerce. Kings appointed governors and judges, dispatched soldiers, dictated taxes, investments, production, labor and markets. The royal charter creating Maryland, for example, required that the colony’s exports be shipped to or through England.
Having thrown off English rule, the revolutionaries did not give governors, judges or generals the authority to charter corporations. Citizens made certain that legislators issued charters, one at a time and for a limited number of years. They kept a tight hold on corporations by spelling out rules each business had to follow, by holding business owners liable for harms or injuries, and by revoking charters.
What passes for political debate today is not about control, sovereignty, or the economic democracy which many American revolutionaries thought they were fighting to secure.
Too many organizing campaigns accept the corporation’s rules, and wrangle on corporate turf. We lobby congress for limited laws. We have no faith in regulatory agencies, but turn to them for relief. We plead with corporations to be socially responsible, then show them how to increase profits by being a bit less harmful.
How much more strength, time, and hope will we invest in such dead ends?”