The abuse of corporate power and privilege is the root cause of the decline of the American working class today. The founders of our American experiment fought and died to overthrow the abuse that inevitably results from the unholy marriage of business interests – especially corporate interests – to government power. One of the results of our victory in the war fought for our independence was that corporate charters were severely restricted in the earliest days of our republic.
Before the ink had time to dry on the Articles of Confederation, corporate business interests had already begun fighting to increase their power and influence. Today we’re in circumstances as bad or worse than those which inspired the revolution of 1776. It is our duty to resist and fight back against the tyranny being forced down our throats by the oligarchs of our time.
Many corporations start out as small, virtually harmless local businesses, but a few eventually grow into large conglomerates providing services that society becomes dependent upon, such as electricity, fuel or food distribution, telecommunications, and transport. As these entities grow, so does their financial and political power, and enormous power is often abused, whether the perpetrators realize they’re doing it or not.
In the early years of the United States, corporations were only chartered for very specific purposes, such as building canals or other infrastructure that small local business entities could not accomplish alone. Once the initial goals of the venture were accomplished, most corporate charters were expired after a reasonable amount of time and profit had been earned. Early American corporations were also not allowed to own subsidiaries. The result was a vibrant, diverse business environment in every community, and that should be the goal we work toward today.
Giant corporations should be carefully broken apart into small, more manageable, local or at most regional entities. Those which provide vital public services or depend upon interstate infrastructure such as cable networks, pipelines, or satellite communications should eventually become property of the people, managed by public/private partnerships in which employees or taxpayers eventually become the owners, managers, and financial beneficiaries as profits are funneled into schools or other social benefits.
Today corporate officers are legally bound to pursue profits above all other concerns. Look where that’s gotten us! New corporate charter laws need to be established and the rules of the game changed. Corporations should have as their first motive – a prime directive if you like – a requirement to place the well being of their employees and that of the communities in which they operate above profits and shareholder returns. Strong governmental regulation must be established and maintained at all times to keep corporate greed in check.
Big business has become Big Brother, manipulating public opinion and behavior, running roughshod over the greater interests of the nation, buying politicians from the federal to the local level, and generally behaving like the despots our ancestors died fighting 235 years ago. Adam Smith never envisioned corporate entities so huge and powerful that they could subvert the free market and overpower the invisible hand he described, but that’s exactly where we find ourselves today.
Local businesses are owned by local people, keep local money in the community and benefit local people in the form of good jobs. We need more small partnerships and sole proprietorships in place of the dominant corporate business model of today. Small is beautiful. Small is sustainable and responsible. Too big to fail is too big to exist, and if we don’t change course soon we’re going to discover that the United States of America, as it exists today, is too big to survive.