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[Birth] The modern corporation has grown out of the industrial age. The industrial age began in 1712 with an Englishman named Thomas Newcomen invented a steam driven pump to pump water out of the English coalmine so the English coalminers could get more coal to mine rather than hauling buckets of water out of the mine. It was all about productivity, more coal per man hour. That was the dawn of the industrial age. And then it became more steel per man hour, more textiles per man hour, more automobiles per man hour, and today it's more chips per man hour, more gizmos per man hour. The system is basically the same system, producing more sophisticated products today. The dominant role of corporations in our lives is essentially a product of roughly the past century. Corporations were originally associations of people who were chartered by a state to perform some particular function. Like a group of people want to build abridge over the Charles River or something like that. There were very few chartered corporations in early United States history. And the ones that existed had clear stipulations in their state issued charters. How long they could operate, the amount of capitalization, what they made or did or maintained, a turnpike, whatever, was in their charter and they didn't do anything else. They didn't own or couldn't own another corporation. Their shareholders were liable. And so on. In both law and the culture the corporation was considered a subordinate entity that was a gift from the people in order to serve the public good. So you have that history, and we shouldn't be misled by it, it's not as if these were the halcyon days when all corporations served the public trust but there's a lot to learn from that. The Civil War and the Industrial Revolution created enormous growth in corporations. And so there was an explosion of railroads who got large federal subsidies of land. Banking, heavily manufacturing, and corporate lawyers a century and a half ago realized that they needed more power to operate, and wanted to remove some of the constraints that had historically been placed on the corporate form. The 14th amendment was passed at the end of the Civil War to give equal rights to black people. And therefore it said, no state can deprive any person of life liberty or property without due process of law. And that was intended to prevent the states from taking away life liberty or property from black people as they had done for so much of our history. And what happens is the corporations come into court and corporation lawyers are very clever. And they say: Oh you can't deprive a person of life liberty or property. We are a person. A corporation is a person. And so supreme court goes along with that. And what was particularly grotesque about this, was that the 14th amendment was passed to protect newly freed slaves. So for instance between 1890 and 1910 there were 307 cases brought before the court under the 14th amendment. 288 of these brought by corporations, 19 by African Americans. 600,000 people were killed to get rights for people and then with strokes of the pen over the next 30 years judges applied those rights to capital and property while stripping them from people.

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 55 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 129
Posted by: rafaelmatheus on May 30, 2010

How the corporation came to be. Originally, corporations were set up to serve the public good. Corporation lawyers gained rights through the US Supreme Court using the 14th Amendment (set up to protect slaves) that gives them the rights of a person. In the last century, the corporation is given more and more rights while people are increasingly stripped of theirs.

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