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Totalitarianism no longer comes in the form of communism or fascism. It comes now from corporations. ~ Chris Hedges
As a psychopathic creature, the corporation can neither recognize nor act upon moral reasons to refrain from harming others. ~ Joel Bakan

Corporations are legal entities that are created under the laws of a state designed to establish the entity as a separate legal entity having its own privileges and liabilities distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter (i.e. by an ad hoc act passed by a parliament or legislature). Most jurisdictions now allow the creation of new corporations through registration.


  • As a psychopathic creature, the corporation can neither recognize nor act upon moral reasons to refrain from harming others.
    • Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004), p. 60
  • A century and a half after its birth, the modern business corporation, an artificial person made in the image of a human psychopath, now is seeking to remake real people in its image.
    • Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004), p. 135
  • I believe that if you go and ask a chief executive of a Goldman Sachs or a BP, and they answer you honestly ... they want monopolies, they want government subsidies, they want preferences – they're not interested in free markets.
    • Ian Bremmer, "The West Should Fear the Growth of State Capitalism," The Daily Telegraph (July 10, 2010)
  • Hitler also missed the point completely about American economic capabilities, for the cars and the refrigerators he sneered at were being produced by corporations that led the world in techniques of mass production and modern management. The Axis leaders deluded themselves into believing that, with the Great Depression, the American economic model had disintegrated. Yet despite the sluggish growth of aggregate demand in the mid to late 1930s, firms like General Motors were taking tremendous strides forward in efficiency, exploiting those economies of scale that were unique to the huge American market. Exports to Britain and the Soviet Union had given GM and its peers a foretaste of what was to come. With the American entry into the war, they were inundated with government orders for military hardware. In the First World War, the result had been a mess: production bottlenecks, chronic waste and inflationary pressure. In 1942 the opposite happened. 'The real news,' as Charles E. Wilson of General Motors put it, 'is that our American methods of production, our know-how about the business, could be applied to mass production of all these war things . . . and that is the one factor that I think our Axis enemies overlooked.' Here, too, a compromise was involved. With astonishing speed the big corporations converted themselves from the champions of a consumer society to the servants of a command economy. As John Hancock and Bernard Baruch observed: 'With the coming of war a sort of totalitarianism is asserted. The government tells each business what it is to contribute to the war program.'
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), pp. 527-528
  • It was at the microeconomic level, however, that the output war was really won. For the biggest wartime advances in mass production and management were made in vast factories like Ford's mile-long bomber assembly line at Willow Run, Boeing's B-29 plant at Seattle or General Motors' aero-engine factory at Allison. At peak, Boeing Seattle was churning out sixteen B-17S a day and employing 40,000 men and women on round-the-clock shifts. Never had ships been built so rapidly as the Liberty ships, 2,700 of which slid down the slipways during the war years. It was at wartime General Motors that Peter Drucker saw the birth of the modern 'concept of the corporation', with its decentralized system of management. And it was during the war that the American military-industrial complex was born; over half of all prime government contracts went to just thirty-three corporations. Boeing's net wartime profits for the years 1941 to 1945 amounted to $27.6 million; in the preceding five years the company had lost nearly $3 million. General Motors Corporation employed half a million people and supplied one-tenth of all American war production. Ford alone produced more military equipment during the war than Italy. Small wonder some more-cerebral soldiers felt they were risking their necks not in a 'real war . . . but . . . in a regulated business venture', as James Jones put it in The Thin Red Line. It was strange indeed that the recovery of the American economy from the Depression should owe so much to the business of flattening other peoples' cities.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 528-529
  • For all their alleged power, big corporations are often powerless when it comes to the simple task of surviving. As Williamson notes, “Only 67 of the firms in the Fortune 500 in 1955 remained there by 2011.”
    “The average age of a company listed on the S&P 500 has fallen from almost 60 years old in the 1950s to less than 20 years currently,” a team of Credit Suisse analysts wrote last month. And the death rate is accelerating.
  • When Bobby Kennedy went after organized crime in the early 1960s, one of the things he learned was that the Mafia had a series of rituals new members went through to declare their loyalty and promise they’d never turn away from their new benefactors. Once in, they’d be showered with money and protection, but they could never leave and even faced serious problems if they betrayed the syndicate. Which brings us to the story of Kyrsten Sinema. For a republican democracy to actually work, average citizens with a passion for making their country better must be able to run for public office without needing wealthy or powerful patrons; this is a concept that dates back to Aristotle’s rants on the topic. And Sinema... Apparently... she decided that if you can only barely beat them, you’d damn well better join them. Sinema quickly joined other Democrats who’d followed the Citizens United path to the flashing neon lights of big money, joining the so-called “Problem Solvers” caucus that owes its existence in part to the Wall Street-funded front group “No Labels.” ... Political networks run by rightwing billionaires and the US Chamber of Commerce showered her with support... She’d proved herself as a “made woman,” just like the old mafiosi documented by RFK in the 1960s, willing to do whatever it takes, compromise whatever principles she espoused...
  • And this is a genuine crisis for America because if President Biden is frustrated in his attempt to pass his Build Back Better legislation (that is overwhelmingly supported by Americans across the political spectrum) — all because business groups, giant corporations and rightwing billionaires are asserting ownership over their two “made” senators — there’s a very good chance that today’s cynicism and political violence is just a preview of the rest of the decade. But this isn’t as much a story about Sinema as it is about today’s larger political dysfunction for which she’s become, along with Joe Manchin, a poster child. Increasingly, because of the Supreme Court’s betrayal of American values, it’s become impossible for people like the younger Sinema to rise from social worker to the United States Senate without big money behind them.... While the naked corruption of Sinema and Joe Manchin is a source of outrage for Democrats across America, what’s far more important is that it reveals how deep the rot of money in American politics has gone, thanks entirely to a corrupted Supreme Court. In Justice Stevens’ dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn’t even exist when the Constitution was written...
  • The United States ... celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.
  • Totalitarianism no longer comes in the form of communism or fascism. It comes now from corporations. And these corporations fear those who think and write, those who speak out and form relationships freely. Individual freedom impedes their power and their profits. Our democracy, as Snowden I think has revealed, has become a fiction. The state, through elaborate forms of political theater, seeks to maintain this fiction to keep us passive. And if we wake up, the state will not shy away from draconian measures. The goal is complete subjugation, the iron rule of our corporations and our power elite.
  • Given the extensive involvement of state violence in the process by which the corporate elite not only achieved its wealth in the past but continues to maintain and augment it in the present, it is clear that the massive inequalities of wealth that characterise present-day “capitalist” society are radically inconsistent with any approach to justice in holdings that is even remotely Nozickian.
    • Roderick Long, "Left-libertarianism, market anarchism, class conflict and historical theories of distributive justice," Griffith Law Review, Vol. 21 Issue 2 (2012), p. 425
  • Corporations are people, my friend … course they are!
  • There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done. We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that the people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public. It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs. It has become entirely clear that we must have government supervision of the capitalization, not only of public-service corporations, including, particularly, railways, but of all corporations doing an interstate business. I do not wish to see the nation forced into the ownership of the railways if it can possibly be avoided, and the only alternative is thoroughgoing and effective legislation, which shall be based on a full knowledge of all the facts, including a physical valuation of property. This physical valuation is not needed, or, at least, is very rarely needed, for fixing rates; but it is needed as the basis of honest capitalization.
  • The economic fate of a corporation, like that of other business enterprises, is ultimately controlled by individual consumers. But most consumers may be no more interested in taking on management responsibility than stockholders are. Nor is it enough that those consumers who don’t want to be bothered don’t have to be. The very existence of enhanced powers for non-management individuals to have a say in the running of a corporation would force other consumers and stockholders to either take time to represent their own views and interests in this process or risk having people with other agendas over-ride their interests and interfere with the management of the enterprise, without these outsiders having to pay any price for being wrong.
    • Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, 4th ed. (2010), Ch. 7. Big Business and Government
  • All general business corporation statues appear to date from well after 1800.. The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans they had in mind.
    The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it….
    Unlike natural persons, corporations have ‘limited liability’ for their owners and managers, ‘perpetual life,’ separation of ownership and control, ‘and favorable treatment of the accumulation of assets….’ Unlike voters in U.S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled.
    ...It might be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.
  • (TH: In Justice Stevens’ dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn’t even exist when the Constitution was written in 1787 and got its first ten amendments in 1791, including the First which protects free speech)
  • In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices, there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter. Corporate ‘domination’ of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy. When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing. The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders ‘call the tune’ and a reduced ‘willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.’ To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled.
    Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation.
    On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to ‘hold officials accountable to the people,’ and disserve the goal of a public debate that is ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.’
  • Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
  • 13 million children are hungry in America. Yet most politicians do not even talk about it... The political establishment has simply normalized the despair of millions of American children who are chronically traumatized by poverty, hunger, and all manner of violence. This is what happens when government becomes more an instrument of corporate profits then of conscience... This country shouldn’t be run like a business, it should be run like a family.
Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 48-50.
  • We ought not to encourage vexatious prosecutions, which tend to throw corporations into confusion.
  • The Court are bound to consider all the circumstances of the case, before they disturb the peace and quiet of any corporation.
  • That corporations are the creatures of the Crown must be universally admitted.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., King v. Ginever (1796), 6 T. R. 735.
  • The situation the Lord Mayor holds is the first officer of the first city in the world in point of commerce and riches, and everything that can constitute the magnificence of a city. He is a judicial officer, and a municipal officer too, and from these combined characters there are duties incumbent upon him, which by all the ties that can bind a man to the discharge of duty, he is bound to discharge. It stands at the head of his duties, next after protecting the religion which binds us to God, to govern that civil policy which binds government together, and prevents us from being a state of anarchy and confusion.
  • We ought, as far as we can by law, to support the government of all societies and corporations, especially this of the city of London; and if the mayor and aldermen should not have power to punish offenders in a summary way, then farewell the government of the city.
    • Holt, C.J., Clark's Case (1696), 5 Mod. Rep. 320.
  • Corporations cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed, nor excommunicate, for they have no souls.
    • Edward Coke, Case of Sutton's Hospital (1612), 5 Rep. 303; 10 Rep. 32 b.
  • Cities are immortal.
    • Grotius, De Jure Belli et Pacis, lib. 2, cap. 9. See also 1st Inst. fol . 9 b. 3 Coke, 60 a.; 2 Bulstr. 233; 21 Edw. VI. f. 13.
  • A corporation can have no legal existence out of the boundaries of the sovereignty by which it is created.
    • Taney, C.J., Bank of Augusta v. Earle, 13 Peters' Sup. Court Rep. (U. S.) 588.
  • It is a fiction, a shade, a nonentity, but a reality for legal purposes. A corporation aggregate is only in abstracto—it is invisible, immortal, and rests only in intendment and consideration of the law.
    • Edward Coke, Case of Sutton's Hospital (1612), 5 Rep. 303; 10 Rep. 32 b.

See also


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