American Consequences - August 2017

Corporations as ‘legal persons’ are more than numbers – they have personalities.

Here’s how they got that way...

uncivilized hunter and gatherer, dragging a Forum, Colosseum, and Circus Maximus around with you is a bother. But today, we are civilized. And we need not only the gigantic public corporation that is called the state, but also lots of smaller private corporations to raise capital for investment while limiting the risk of investing. The basic asset/liability rules of for-profit incorporation were codified in Roman law more than 2,000 years ago... then conveniently forgotten. Groups of free individuals banding together to gain access to extensive material resources didn’t go down well with the feudal lords riding around in suits of armor and lancing anybody who got in their way. Free individuals could have hired Blackstone (BX) to blow holes through chain mail,

gauntlets, greaves, and visors with HK416 assault rifles. For 14 centuries after the collapse of Roman civilization, “corporations” – when they existed at all – were merely trade guilds, royal grants of monopoly, or charters for town governments. The modern corporation is surprisingly modern. You can read both Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and see no mention of corporations in the sense of limited-liability joint-stock companies. Indeed, you won’t be seeing much at all, due to eyestrain, if you try to read both books in one day.


If you aren't civilized, you don't need a corporation.

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