What The Founding Fathers Thought About Corporations

Author: June 9, 2013 12:04 am
What the founding fathers would have thought of corporations.

How would the Founding Fathers feel about corporations? If you believe what the GOP says, you’ll be shocked by the truth. Images of Founding Fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin compiled from portraits.

How would the Founding Fathers feel about corporations? If you believe what the GOP says, you’ll be shocked by the truth.

Citizens United. This is the 2010 Supreme Court case that shocked America, influenced an election, and reversed over 100 years of campaign finance laws. In this case, corporations were declared as people and as such declared to have the same rights as people do. It also opened the doors for corporations to pour unprecedented amounts of campaign donations into elections, and what’s more, these donations can be totally secret. Corporations can now literally and legally buy elections and shape the government like never before in our nation’s history.

The economic world we live in today is dominated by corporations. Huge corporations that boast massive profits and span continents. But corporations also wield political power and are lobbying heavily to be free from any and all government regulations that would make them responsible and liable. Republicans have been defending corporations since the late 1800’s and have literally gone on a history revising crusade to show that even the founding fathers supported corporations. But is this the case? What did the founding fathers really think about corporations?

The origin of modern corporations can be traced all the way back to 17th century England when Queen Elizabeth I created the East India Trading Company. At first, corporations were small, quasi government institutions that were chartered by the crown for a specific purpose. If corporations stepped out of line, the crown did not hesitate to revoke their charters. Corporations generated so much revenue that they even began taking on increased political power. Corporations were also organized to finance large projects such as exploration, which leads us to the American colonies.

To say that the Founding Fathers supported corporations is very absurd. Its quite the opposite in fact.

To say that the founding fathers supported corporations is very absurd. Its quite the opposite in fact. Corporations like the East India Trading Company were despised by the founding fathers and they were just one reason why they chose to revolt against England. Corporations represented the moneyed interests much like they do today and they often wielded political power, sometimes to the point of governing a colony all by themselves like the Massachusetts Bay Company did.

But there is more evidence that the Revolutionary generation despised corporations. The East India Company was the largest corporation of its day and its dominance of trade angered the colonists so much, that they dumped the tea products it had on a ship into Boston Harbor which today is universally known as the Boston Tea Party. At the time, in Britain, large corporations funded elections generously and its stock was owned by nearly everyone in parliament. The founding fathers did not think much of these corporations that had great wealth and great influence in government. And that is precisely why they put restrictions upon them after the government was organized under the Constitution.

Back in the days of the Founding Fathers, corporations could only exist for 20-30 years and could only deal in one commodety.

After the nation’s founding, corporations were granted charters by the state as they are today. Unlike today, however, corporations were only permitted to exist 20 or 30 years and could only deal in one commodity, could not hold stock in other companies, and their property holdings were limited to what they needed to accomplish their business goals. And perhaps the most important facet of all this is that most states in the early days of the nation had laws on the books that made any political contribution by corporations a criminal offense. When you think about it, the regulations imposed on corporations in the early days of America were far harsher than they are now. That is hardly proof that the founding fathers supported corporations. In fact its quite the opposite. The corporate entity was so restrictive that many of America’s corporate giants set up their entities to avoid the corporate restrictions. For example, Andrew Carnegie set up his steel company as a limited partnership and John D. Rockefeller set up his Standard Oil company as a trust which would later be rightfully busted up into smaller companies by Theodore Roosevelt.

For those who need more evidence, how about statements from the founding fathers themselves. As we all know, big banks are also considered corporations and here is what Thomas Jefferson thought about them. In an 1802 letter to Secretary of State Albert Gallatin, Jefferson said,

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

Thomas Jefferson, one of the most prominent founding fathers, also said this in 1816,

“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Jefferson wasn’t the only one of the founding fathers to make statements about corporations. John Adams also had an opinion.

“Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.”

These statements make it pretty clear that corporations were not trusted by the founding fathers. The founding fathers knew that huge corporations only preyed upon the people. But as the founding generation began to fade away, corporations began using their power to gain political favor and eventually that political favor would turn into political power. And corporations would take advantage of a war to do it. As the Civil War raged across the land, corporations made an effort to take advantage of the situation, selling products at high prices, especially to the government. Corporations even sold to both sides throughout the war. Basically, corporations proved even then that they had no allegiance to any country when great profits were at stake. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican to be President also had plenty to say about corporations…

Abraham Lincoln — one of our great presidents, though not one of the founding fathers, said:

“The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. They denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw light upon their crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.”

And in a November 21, 1864 letter to Col. William F. Elkins, Lincoln wrote,

“We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood … It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”

Unfortunately, Lincoln’s suspicions were anything but groundless. They were in fact, prophetic. After the Civil War, corporations began aligning themselves with Republican politicians, who proved themselves to be up to the task of helping corporations gain more power. Corporations had free reign and total power over its workforce and could sell virtually anything they wanted even if the product was a bad one. Corporations treated workers like slaves. Wages were extremely low. Workers received no benefits, no vacation days, no health insurance, no workers compensation. President Grover Cleveland witnessed how corporations treated its labor force and had this to say in 1888,

“As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear, or is trampled beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.”

Since the days of the Founding Fathers, corporations kept getting bigger and bigger.

To put it bluntly, corporations didn’t care about its workers or the people who bought their products. The only rule of the game was to make as much profit as possible, no matter what. As the 19th century ended and the 20th century began, corporations were getting bigger and bigger. Many began buying up smaller companies, becoming monopolies that controlled whole industries. This practice eliminated competition and as a result, prices had skyrocketed and no one could challenge them. That was, until Theodore Roosevelt became the President. Theodore Roosevelt did not hate corporations. He simply wanted them to treat workers how they deserved to be treated and to serve the public faithfully and honestly. He believed in honest competition and fair prices. Roosevelt believed that government had not only a duty, but a right to regulate corporations just as the founding generation had done, stating that,

“The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is duty bound to control them wherever the need of such control is shown.”

And in his State of The Union Address in 1902, Roosevelt stated his intentions toward corporations.

“Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to serve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.”

To that end he fought for corporate regulation, he fought for fair wages for workers, he fought for safe and healthy work environments, and he fought to protect consumers. And the people loved him for it. Roosevelt’s policies toward corporations were immensely popular. He busted up so many giant corporations that he became known as a “trust buster”. The busting up of these corporations created a lot more competition for customers and for employees, resulting in higher wages and lower prices and more jobs. And you know what? Corporate profits did just fine.

Teddy never stopped fighting for workers and consumers even after his presidency when he said this as the Progressive Party candidate for President in 1912,

“We wish to control big business so as to secure among other things good wages for the wage-workers and reasonable prices for the consumers. Wherever in any business the prosperity of the businessman is obtained by lowering the wages of his workmen and charging an excessive price to the consumers we wish to interfere and stop such practices. We will not submit to that kind of prosperity any more than we will submit to prosperity obtained by swindling investors or getting unfair advantages over business rivals.”

Roosevelt didn’t win the presidency in 1912, although he most certainly would have if the Republican ticket hadn’t been split. But Woodrow Wilson would continue the fight for workers and consumers. As America entered the 1920’s, corporations began to gain political favors once again as business minded Republicans controlled the White House and Congress. Regulations were being stripped away and banks as large entities were on the rise. These banks and corporations abused the stock market which would lead to the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Corporate profits had surged throughout the decade and unfair speculation had caused economic bubbles that had to burst.
Corporate bosses also flexed their muscles over America’s legal system, spending great deals of money to get away with nearly anything. In a statement of sarcasm that speaks to this despicable practice, Senator George Norris, after an industrialist was acquitted of charges of corruption, said that “We ought to pass a law that no man worth $100,000,000 should be tried for a crime.”

The Franklin Roosevelt era would bring new calls for corporate regulation and corporate tax hikes. These new regulations once again kept corporations honest and protected consumers. Workers also benefited from these new regulations, getting fair wages, pensions, and safe working conditions. Corporations were taxed at a rate of 91% and even with all of that, corporations still made huge profits. Life changed dramatically for the middle class. People had jobs with livable wages and promise for the future. Corporations once again served a purpose as consumers were treated fairly and the economy soared. Unemployment was also very low. But these trends did not last long as corporate greed would once again fuel another grab for political power. Corporations began aligning themselves more and more with the Republican Party, and as this relationship grew, corporations found a way to make record profits. Throughout the 1980’s up to today, corporations have outsourced millions of American jobs to cheap labor overseas. As a result of this, corporate profits have broke record after record, while the unemployment rate has jumped higher and higher. Corporate tax rates began getting lower and lower, while more tax loopholes were created to help corporations evade most of them altogether. When the Republican Party took control of government in 2001, they went on a crusade on behalf of corporations (how could they refuse, they were on the payroll), to blame workers for economic downturns and outsourcing. Corporations also decided to take advantage of a national tragedy. After 9/11, there was an understandable push to go to war against terrorists hiding in Afghanistan. But corporations, as in other times of war and tragedy, began pushing for a war against Iraq. And they got their wish. Corporations have since made billions in war profits off of the War in Iraq and have proven once again that profit is far more important than the lives of soldiers. Lincoln was right. This is yet another reason why corporations need to be put in their place. As Henry Ford once said, “Do you want to know the cause of war? It is capitalism, greed, the dirty hunger for dollars. Take away the capitalist and you will sweep war from the earth.”

Republicans are now on the verge of stripping away all corporate regulations and worker’s rights. But it was the 2010 Citizens United decision that really made corporations into political powers. Not only were corporations declared to be people but corporations also now have the power to buy elections at will. The problem with this Supreme Court decision is that it goes against everything the founding fathers believed in. In the Constitution, it says “We the people…”, not “We the corporations…”. The founding fathers never addressed corporations in the Constitution because it never occurred to them that corporations would be perceived as people. And why would they have? Corporations don’t eat, they don’t breathe, they don’t vote, they don’t fight battles in wars. Remember all the limitations the founding fathers placed on corporations mentioned earlier? In the Constitution, the founding fathers speak only of the people. The founding fathers did not limit lifetimes of people, nor did they outlaw a persons right to donate to political campaigns. They also did not limit people to specific life goals like they did with corporations. This should make it absolutely clear that the founders never intended for corporations to be people. The decision by the clearly activist, conservative majority of the court is an abomination that can never be Constitutionally justified. Now it is our duty to call on Congress to bring forward a Constitutional Amendment that bans corporate personhood and bans corporations from interfering with government and legal elections that only real people have the right to donate to and vote in. Because whatever these greedy, arrogant CEO’s and Republicans think, its the opinion of the founding generation that matters most. Corporations are not people. People are people.

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71 Comments

  • Corporations have metastasized.

  • The author right from the start screws up the reason behind the revolution by saying “Queen Elizabeth I created the East India Trading Company.” It wasn’t because of the Corporation, it was because the GOVERNMENT (QE I) control the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies. The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament. Colonists objected to the Tea Act, especially because they believed that it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives. Please, learn history before you mis-represent the founding fathers!

    • …But that wasn’t government tea they were throwing into the harbor from a government ship. It was corporate tea from an East India Trading Co. ship.

  • It’s nice to see someone saying some of the things I have been for a while. The founding fathers definitely didn’t want institutions of any type exerting too much influence on individuals or the government, and this is a basic fact that is missed by 100% of our “original constitutionalists” today. The constitution gave freedom and rights to individuals, not corporations.

    A little bit to add, however, the corporations was given legal “personhood” status in 1886, not the recent court case. The 2010 court case simply applied the corporate personhood to freedom of speech rights. This has been an issue for quite a long time then, and the pro-corporate court simply chose to follow their own precedents. I would urge everyone reading this to start reading the history of corporate personhood (Wikipedia is a start and it mentions several good books) and start pushing for a constitutional amendment to get rid of this damnable SCOTUS precedent.

    • “Personhood” status was afforded, not by an actual ruling of the court, but by a note, written into the header of a decision re. Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad, in 1886… by a court clerk! While the decision was rendered that year, it was not actually filed until after Chief Justice Morrison Waite died, in 1888.

  • This article is shoddily researched and misrepresentative at best. The only evidence given for the Founding Fathers’ stance is that the Boston Tea Party occurred and a couple quotes from Jefferson. One Founding Father does not a sound conclusion make!

    Furthermore, as others have pointed out, the Tea Party occurred as a protest of the Indemnity Act’s 25% rebate on East India Company teas re-exported to the colonies and the financing of the rebate via the tea taxes on the colonies of the Townshend Revenue Act. The collusion of company and government could be accurately stated as a cause of the Boston Tea Party, but I can’t attribute any anti-corporate sentiment to it.

    • I think YOU need to do more reading. I have been researching Corporate Personhood for many years and that’s the ugly truth. The Founding Fathers didn’t want institutional rights (government or otherwise) to trump individual rights. I know it doesn’t fit into the narrative that the far right likes to weave, but those are the facts. If you need more evidence than go and read the Federalist papers.

  • Death to Corporatism! Stop the sacrilege of Corporate Personhood in the law! Corporate persons have far greater size, strength, and influence than real flesh and blood people. Corporatism is unfair and antithetical to humanity. Corporatism is Fascism! Stop it!

  • The founding fathers knew better. They would be disgusted.

  • While I appreciate the general gist, this article is filled with Bachmann-esque levels of partisanship and misinformation. Citizens United did not say corporations are people. It said citizens have their rights to political speech and free association. Creating the right kind of association for political activity as mandated and regulated by federal law cannot be the trigger for censorship or infringement, for obvious reasons.

    Also, the decision did not say the contributions can be totally secret. First of all, the donations must be disclosed under federal elections law and the decision had absolutely no impact on those obligations. Second of all, the disclosure requirement at hand in the decision was whether or not the corporations had to disclose their owners and contributors. Not only were those requirements upheld, but the Court encouraged Congress to close loopholes and strengthen the requirements.

  • wait till the 2012 elections. that will be our final voice..bye-bye tea baggers … hello RON PAUL

    • Ron Paul is delusional. Government can never shirk as the population continues to grow exponentially. Why anyone listens to that nut case and his son – nutcase #2 is beyond me. Many politicians, and past Presidents from Texas are delusional; I know, I lived in that racist state for 13 years where employers get away with treating employees like slaves, and blacks are treated like second-class citizens, as is the case in all Southern States. If the white controlled voting process was supervised by the Federal government in all these Southern states, and all minorities and the working class got to vote in fair elections, few Republicans, Tea Partiers and Libertarians would ever get elected, which is what will happen in 2012 – Power to the poor and middle class – the working class – the 99%.

      A constitutional amendment is needed stating that corporations are legal entities, not people. In addition, this amendment should prohibit them from making any form of political contributions, including throwing political parties or anything else related to electing someone or supporting politics or any political party or any group working for any political party.

      Unions and collective bargaining are needed to protect all employees, including all governmental employees. All “at-will” employment laws need to be declared unconstitutional and replaced with collective bargaining laws whereby no one can lose their job without documented evidence that they performed below expectations or violated company policy or proof that the company can no longer afford to employ that person and then only if that person is the lowest in seniority.

      A complete redistribution of wealth from the top 1% is needed. That includes taxing their income from all sources at rates up to 95% annually, and a one-time tax on existing estates and trusts, including university and church trusts, whereby everything over $10 million dollars is redistributed. Thereafter, all new estates would be taxed at rates up to 95% on amounts over $5 million.


      • A complete redistribution of wealth from the top 1% is needed. That includes taxing their income from all sources at rates up to 95% annually, and a one-time tax on existing estates and trusts, including university and church trusts, whereby everything over $10 million dollars is redistributed. Thereafter, all new estates would be taxed at rates up to 95% on amounts over $5 million.

        how are you gonna do that? use the army? and how do we know the money appropriated from the wealthy will go to the poor. We have a 4 trillion a year budget now and crumbling infrastructure. If the rich ever did pay 95% that would just mean more wars and subsidies.

        This article is on corporatism which would not exist without the government. No government, no corporatism. problem solved.

  • ‘Can we please stop propagating the fake Jefferson quote about “PRIVATE BANKS”?’ ->
    http://www.dailypaul.com/80247/can-we-please-stop-propagating-the-fake-jefferson-quote-about-private-banks

  • The robber barons like Carnagie and Rockefeller financed the public schools to create a cumpulsory system of indoctrination that socializes students to the government line of thought, the dumbed down America. We have the same school system that Nazi Germany had used, the system that came out of Prussia. Students of history should take this into account and study it before making a sweeping statement that its only the corprations that are bad. The truth is that its the unholy alliance of corporation and government that causes problems for the common people. They should never be bailed out and never given special favors like Obama is doing now. For example, the Federal Reserve is a banking empire supported by govenment. Lincoln waged war against his own people to protect northern companies. He was a liar and a racist. He worked and defended corporations as a lawyer under the Henry Clay Whig Party for 25 years. If you think he was a hero, think again. Read The Real Lincoln by Dilorenzo. Vote Ron Paul to support free enterprise, not corporate/state fascism as run by the Democratic and Republican Parties.

  • The only thing to do is to do what our founding fathers were willing to do to change things. Get involved. Make the necessary sacrifices and find out how you can insert yourself into the political process to help. Posting online is great. But, the forces that led to “Citizens United vs. The Fed. Election Commission” were very organized and worked extremely hard for decades to make sure that they were involved in appointing judges that would support their efforts. They did their homework. Everybody else seems to just complain and do nothing except argue with the antagonists which is a waste of time and energy. I know that the power, and money, of corporations and their seeming control of our government seems overwhelming. But, it is incumbent upon the people of this country to fight back. If we don’t, they will win.

  • Walter James McIntosh

    The very premise of this article is incorrect. Our founding fathers were not against corporations but they were against the Brits and Crown adminstrators . They wanted to get rid of them and take over themselves. Specifically the East India Company had become way overextended and was losing money. The Tea Act of 1763 was supposed to fix that by giving them a monopoly . What really galled the Founding Fathers was that only friends or relatives of members of Parliment would now be able to get a license to sell tea. The Founding Fathers were the elite aristocrats of the USA and wanted to form a republic where the elites or better people could decide what was best for the common people. They did ,in fact, formed a government of mercantile capitalism wherein property owners and corporate entites held all the power – replacing the Crown and the Brits.

  • I am glad to see this article. The social contract is an operating law for societies. If the state refuses to balance the desires of the wealthy and powerful against the legitimate demands of the middle and working classes the government becomes dysfunctional and untrustworthy. With all our fear of big government, right now large corporations exercise more power in prying into our lives and our privacy and in forcing us to submit to unwarranted rules and demands. All has become subservient to their profits even if it means a subjugation of our legitimate rights under the Constitution such as union membership and operation. It worries me when we adopt strategic and overall war plans based more upon ensuring the profits of the defense contractors than establishing a course toward victory.

  • Show me an online source for your Jefferson quote

    “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

    The above is a retroquote, hence false. The closest paraphrase is the closing sentense in Jefferson’s May 28 1816 letter to John Taylor, in which he said,

    “and I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous then standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

    source: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mtj:@field(DOCID+@lit(tj110172))

    • The article also uses an entirely phony Lincoln quote (“corporations have been enthroned”), and a second one I suspect is phony (“the bankers in my rear”).

      This is exactly the sort of “scholarship” one gets from conservative bloggers, and no one who is serious about these historical matters should have any part of it.

  • Why This premise is Misstated…

    “Citizens United. This is the 2010 Supreme Court case that shocked America, influenced an election, and reversed over 100 years of campaign finance laws. In this case, corporations were declared as people and as such declared to have the same rights as people do.”

    It is not “people”, it is “person”
    And.. it is not the Supreme Court decision that “declared”… but rather it was the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and its subsequent interpretations in the late 1860’s.

    If you want to stop the boat from leaking, please apply putty to the area where the hole is… All other efforts, however incurred serve other means than saving the Ship of State.

  • One critique of the end, there… corporations are persons, as the author of the 14th Amendment stated in his testimony to the Supreme Court. That his testimony was perjured and the perjury discovered some 50 years later is irrelevant to the court: the precedent was established in the 1880s, so there we are. Corporations are people.

  • Health Guardian

    Good Article. Right on Point.

  • THE PREMISE IS FALSE “The economic world we live in today is dominated by corporations”. The opposite is true. Government dominates the economic world we live in. Corruption begins with govt when they interface with the private sector. Our founding fathers would have SUPPORTED massive corporations– that’s what freedom means, minimal interference from govt. Our founding fathers OPPOSED massive govt because of its corruptive influence thru coersion of loss of freedom. GOVERNMENT IS THE ROOT OF ALL CORRUPTION!….. Joe Schaller

  • just another voice

    I agree with most of the article. The only thing I would point out, AND STRONGLY ENCOURAGE, both sides of this debate to consider is to distinguish a subtle, but important difference. These arguments against capitalism are both, right and wrong. Pure capitalism is a fertile breeding ground for corruption and profiteering (like pure democracy is mob rule, “founders words”). FREE MARKET capitalism, however, lends no favors to anyone and recognizes that a corporation is a creature of the state. If you are required to have a license or permit (ie: business license), to be recognized as legitimate, you are subject to the recognizing party. Individuals, simply surviving, do not need such things.
    Though municipal rhetoric tries to enforce such things (to create an idea that all businesses are corporations), there is no legal, individual, requirement to be licensed to make and sell a product or provide a service.

  • I would rather have an article about the over reaching power of the executive branch of the govt. and slowing its power. This is the the same govt. who went into a guitar shop and used gestapo like tactics to the employees because they may be using improper wood on their frets. who closes down kids lemonade stands, hey kid you could be an evil corporation one day. How about the EPA trying to shut down whole industries in the name of “global warming garbage”? Funny how democrats and our dear leader talk about the evils of corporations, yet seem to have no problem taking money from them. Some of them GE pay no taxes and still ship jobs overseas, Under this leadership monopolies or corporations are getting bigger and the little guy is getting squeezed out. This government is so anti small business with their never ending regulations to justify their existence, its no wonder “those evil corporations” take their jobs overseas. Simplify the tax code, close the loopholes for the Warren Buffet types and this country can prosper. Run it like it is now and Greece, Spain and Portugal is the future.

  • Any company that lays off American workers so they can go overseas to increase their profits, is the true UN-American. Any company that does everything they can to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, is the true UN-American. The loss of jobs, the loss of revenue….the loss of manufacturing most of our own products….we have indeed given away our wealth while helping to build the economic wealth of other countries, including a Communist nation! None of it makes any logical sense to me at all. I believe that all people deserve to have their basic needs covered, but we must take care of ourselves first…then we can teach by example & reach out to others….through humanitarian means, not military might.

    • Janaki,

      While I agree with many of the ideals that you are describing here, I’m not sure why shipping jobs to cheaper locations overseas is not logical to you.

      It is unreasonable to expect businesses to hire more Americans simply because it is less un-American to do so. The cost of labor is soooo much less expensive in places like China and India. That’s what corporations do: maximize profits.

      If a majority of Americans believe that their basic needs should be covered (and are willing to pay what they can toward that end), then they (we) are not being vocal enough about it — not in public forums, not in our economic activities, and certainly not at the ballot box. It took a radical governor in Wisconsin to mount a protest — and I don’t think that a protest is necessarily the best way. Politicians need to feel that their seats aren’t safe if they don’t protect the people. We as a democracy aren’t doing enough to make sure that that “check and balance” is effective.

      • Janaki, your comment misses an important point: If corporations want to move to China, hire cheap labor there and sell their products in China, that’s fine, I have no problem with that. But if they want to rape our nation’s resources, move their manufacturing overseas,evade taxes, buy off our politicians, exploit cheap labor and lack of safety regulations, then bring those products back here and sell them in the USA, that’s wrong, and it’s even more wrong if they take advantage of USA government business loans and our government subsidized university research while they are at it. Do you see the point now?

  • The equal rights of all to compete in the political, economic or religious spheres for the vote, the dollar or the soul is like a race with many competitors who try to get as many votes, dollars or souls as possible. This is a healthy situation for promoting the greatest good for the greatest number of people. To remain healthy the competition must never end. As soon as a single competitor is allowed to win and triumph over the other competitors thus shutting them down, you have tyranny. All human efforts and organizations must be moderated by some system of checks and balances in order to maximise the benefit and minimise the cost to individuals and society as a whole. The “free market” is no exception and must be regulated to ensure free and equal access by all who would be a buyer or seller. No tyrannical monopolies can be allowed.
    Two fundamental principles help me determine what my opinion will be on almost any subject. I agree with the Creator and the Declaration of Independence that it is the government’s primary goal to ensure that all humans are recognised as being equal in value as humans and all are equally endowed with an unalienable human right to justice, free market opportunity, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  • President Wilson was not a saint watching out for the good of the citizens. He and a couple of other corrupt politicians started the largest bank under his term, the FEDERAL RESERVE. He let British debtors to the Fed and Wall st con him into getting the US into WWI when it should have been a European matter. The British heavily borrowed from the Fed and other Wall St bankers and they were on the verge of going bankrupt ala the Soviet empire of 1991. And the Fed & Wall st losses would have been sever at the British default. So Wilson got us into WWI to bail out the British and the rest is history. Not to mention another 90 years of corruption by the Fed and incompetance in trying to keep the economy smooth from bubbles and bursting and preventing the depressions or recessions from them. Even If the corruption is at best conspiracy theories, the Fed has been incompentant with the US monetary policies.

    • While Wilson and a couple of corrupt politicians might have started the Federal Reserve, there has been plenty of opportunity since then to regulate it. Most American probably doesn’t know what the Federal Reserve is — much less whether it’s corrupt or not.

      We need to put more pressure on representative to represent the people. Posting on a .org website isn’t enough, but maybe–just maybe–it catalyzes more bona fide activity. Those representatives who don’t represent the people’s interests need to be threatened with losing their seats. Peacefully.

  • You article was compelling initially in its focus on the founders views of corporations. Then you turned it into a simpleton, binary, partisan “the Democrats sh@#% don’t stink” article. Wake up fool. Who do you think that Warren Buffet called before bailing Bank of America out to the tune of 5 Billion this week? Hint: it wasn’t a Republican. It was your president, a Democrat. I’m not saying that Republicans aren’t in bed with their corporate handlers but PLEASE don’t paint it like the Dems aren’t also.

    • Uh…he was trying to prevent thousands of people from losing their investments and their 401ks from having BoA’s stock plummet. He single-handedly saved THOUSANDS of people.

      You should try learning things before you comment on stuff you clearly know nothing about.

      • Matthew, it is YOU who are speaking about something you know nothing about. BofA’s stock DESERVES to plummet.

        They are the very embodiment of crony capitalism, and had the free market been allowed to function, they’d have been put out of their misery in 07/8. Instead they got access to capital at rates NO ONE in the general public could, to shore up their corpse of a balance sheet. And don’t even get me started on their acquisition of Countrywide.

        Warren Buffett didn’t give BofA $5B out of the goodness of his heart to “prevent thousands of people from losing their investments” (Jesus this might be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read) – he did it to protect his investment in Wells Fargo, because once BofA starts to (rightfully) go under, it’ll spread to the rest of the TBTF’s like Citi, JPM, and Wells. The market will have its say, whether Warren Buffett or you want it to or not.

        Go fist yourself, you TBTF apologist.

      • and made about $250,000,000 in the end but it’s not about the money…

      • He didn’t do it for the sake of “THOUSANDS” of people you putz…

  • The democrats get as many corporate donations as the republicans. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the democrats are any better. You forgot to mention that corporations also needed to be in the public’s interest.

  • We were sold into slavery with the 14 Amendment. We are chattel, we belong to the corporation of The United States of America, Incorporated.
    Each of the 50 states are corporations also. They hold title to us. We do business for them, we generate wealth for them, we produce replacement slaves for them. They allow us to raise these replacement slaves and get to think they are our children.

    One day they may call in our debt and we will see how free we aren’t.

  • We were sold into slavery with the 14 Amendment. We are chattel, we belong to the corporation of The United States of America, Incorporated.
    Each of the 50 states are corporations also. They hold title to us. We do business for them, we generate wealth for them, we produce replacement slaves for them. They allow us to raise these replacement slaves and get to think they are our children.

    One day they may call in our debt and we will see how free we aren’t.

    http://www.stopthepirates.blogspot.com

  • This is a very simplistic solution to this problem, but why don’t people just stop working at and buying from corporations that are “evil” or “undesirable”? I mean I know enough people that are against them that we should be able to create alternatives and I know enough people on the fence that should be swayable, and then there are the ignorant that can be otherwise re-propagandized into buying from better corporations. So why don’t we just do that instead?

    • Most of the time, creating alternatives requires capital. If there’s boycotting, fine; but there also needs to be boycotting (and protesting) of Congressional representatives (and presidents) who do not represent the people also.

  • After reading this “analysis” of the founders intent and corporations, I must say the author creates a very good argument against corporations having the ability to contribute to or, in the way now allowed, to political campaigns. Without getting into the theoretical arguments of Citizens United, I prefer to address the authors logic and conclusion.

    In summary, the argument against the courts determination in Citizens United presented by the author is seriously flawed, contains conclusionairy statements, leaps from point to point, ignoring intermediary points that prevent or disprove the proof of “fact” intended by the point, and is overall wrong.

    Rather than go through a complete sentence by sentence rebuttal, I will address the first and most fatal point to this argument:
    Corporations, as they existed at the time of the founding of the US, and in particular, the East India Trading Company, resemble nothing like nor any in any way set up or operate like any corporation the exists today in the US.

    The difference between corporations then and corporations today is like the difference between reading this text on a hand pressed movable type sheet of linen paper, versus on the internet, through the LCD computer screen you are currently using to take in my contribution. You see letters combined into words on both, but the way each delivers, operates and exists is so totally different, it is impossible to place them into the same category.

    Continuing on, the author provides argument after argument supporting his flawed presumption through out the paper. But as the initial argument is fatally flawed, and therefore incorrect, the supporting arguments presented support nothing, other than the authors what the author believes. In sum: What the founding fathers objected to was an entity they saw as an extension of the government, which in reality it was

    Today’s corporations are not an extension of the government. Rather they are an entity which is allowed to exist to fill a need for ownership of a certain operation, asset(s) or so on, through, generally, multiple owners, and in the public interest.

    With only a very few exceptions, corporations existence is not only independent of the government, but is contrary to the government, that is it seeks to provide a profit to it’s owners.

    Finally, one point is correct by the author. At the time of the East India T.C., only the few could own or had the ability to own, any part of a corporation. Additionally, the governments participation with the EITC would be considered unprecedented today, more akin to something seen elsewhere in underdeveloped nations, where the politicians end up owning most of the countries wealth.

    Today, a great majority of the people in the US have some vested interest in corporations. Whether it is through 401(k)’S, a company retirement program, self bought stock, mutual funds, bank interest bearing deposits, union pension programs, home loans and even a mutual insurance corporation of credit union.

    I would conclude that the author has done a poor job of presenting facts, and a rather decent job of presenting his opinion. And those that take his summary statements as factual, and wave the banner of against corporate contributions, need to take a more through examination of the history and the current environment.

    Sincerely,
    Michael Kristian

    Post note: I have studied this subject a little, my education:
    B.S. and M.S. in Finance, Juris Doctor and LLM Taxation.
    Recovering Corporate Attorney and history buff.

    • If 50% of the population owning 0.5% of the stock market, means that a great majority has a vested interest… Considering that interest is not totally liquid (most are retirement type accounts), and most people only have control over how much their weekly contributions are, while not having any real buy/sell control over how the money is actually invested… Let alone any voting rights in the companies their money is invested in…. That is your best pro-corporatism argument??? Did you go to the cracker jack school of law??? I don’t know if the founding fathers opposed corporations in theory. However, I think that, if they could see what a modern corporation looks like, and how they operate, they would be against them. They would certainly not want the corporations of today in government.

  • I really enjoyed your piece but would love the citations of your sources so I may be better informed.

    For example:
    After the nation’s founding, corporations were granted charters by the state as they are today. Unlike today, however, corporations were only permitted to exist 20 or 30 years and could only deal in one commodity, could not hold stock in other companies, and their property holdings were limited to what they needed to accomplish their business goals. And perhaps the most important facet of all this is that most states in the early days of the nation had laws on the books that made any political contribution by corporations a criminal offense.

  • >>It had little to do with the East India Trade Co.

    May I suggest reading up at the Boston Tea Party Historical association site: http://www.boston-tea-party.org/

    And especially at this page ojn the economic issues leading to the “tea party:” http://www.boston-tea-party.org/economic-causes.html

  • There REALLY needs to be an audio version of this article so it can be spread even further. Both the blind and the lazy need to be able to take in the history so well laid out in the article. I hope to hear of a podcast version soon.

    • God forbid Foster’s version of history spreads any farther than this page. Only lazy people would buy into Foster’s interpretations rather than read up on history for themselves. How exactly would listening to a podcast rather than reading several history books be anything but lazy?

      • Truth must really be hurting you if you think this article isn’t true. Corporation-worship much?

      • Oh my. Something that disagrees with the corporate capitalist right wing “Christian” revision of history. It must be “Foster’s version”, not anything based on actual facts.

      • Just because historical facts disagree with the conservative corporate capitalist christian revision of history that you fervently believe in doesn’t make it “Foster’s version”. Perhaps you’re the one who needs to reas several history books? Real history books by real historians, that is.

      • If you have factual information that undermines the premise of this piece, please share it.

        Foster has taken the time to make a very compelling argument, and your mere contradiction of it does not constitute any kind of proof to the contrary.

      • How, likewise, is quoting a bunch of historic statements accurately providing faulty “interpretations”? Either the people cited said what they said or they didn’t. And, based on my own intense study of history on this topic, I say they did. READ. Problem is, of course, the people who most need to read this, won’t. THAT’s why there should be a podcast. Because the people who are too lazy to THINK and realize that the current situation is a SCAM and they’re being PLAYED are also too lazy to read.

  • In addition to the points in this article, Adam Smith, the “father of capitalism” taught us in his “wealth of Nations” that for a country to build wealth, it had to manufacture the goods it needs domestically, not important them. http://rjw-progressive.blogspot.com/2011/06/economic-wrong-turn.html

    He was a Scotsman, and Scotland was under the same restrictive laws as were the American colonies on domestic manufacturing. He knew the critical importance of a domestic/national manufacturing base.

    He also taught us that pursuit of economic self-interest _can_ benefit the society and nation, not that it always will.

    So, when corporations pursue their self-interest by shipping production and jobs overseas, they are impoverishing our nation, not helping us build national wealth.

    Until the GOP resolves its internal conflict between (i) supporting corporate power regardless of the consequences and (ii) the dictates of patriotism, it cannot chart an economic course which will make us a stronger nation.

    The problem isn’t that we take care of the needy, the problem is that we have supported the drive for a “global economy” which strips away our wealth.

    Look at this way: when the US was a great manufacturing center, we grew strong.

    Now that we’ve shipped jobs to China, they are stronger and we are weaker.

  • WOW what a twist of history you have portrayed here. The colonists were a culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the “Tea Act”, which had been passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act for a variety of reasons, especially because they believed that it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives.
    Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party in 1774 with the Coercive Acts, which, among other provisions, closed Boston’s commerce until the British East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea. Colonists in turn responded to the Coercive Acts with additional acts of protest, and by convening the First Continental Congress, which petitioned the British monarch for repeal of the acts.
    It had little to do with the East India Trade Co. but had much to do about the Monarchy favoring a monopoly.

    • “A resistance movement throughout British America”??

      Um, no. Only a few colonies rebelled, and those were the least profitable of the British colonies in the Americas. Most colonies cost the British more money than they generated and Barbados alone generated more revenue in a year than all the “13 colonies” combined.

      • looks like mark only wishes to believe only the modern ‘tea party’ (what a joke) version of history. This is the same version that claims the founders were all evangelical christians. Ironically, the ‘tea party’ just LOVES them some corporations. And is very adept at fooling folks like my parents into thinking they are fighting for their ‘freedom’.

        and just look at the power of corporations today. Even the more moderate faction of the the GOP (Boehner, et al) are completely controlled by them such that they are unable to do their work, so busy are they bowing to the ‘tea party’ (aka ‘moneyed interest party’).

        • just another voice

          I agree, if you are referring to the “bachmann/perry” tea party types. But please know that these ideas are not the heart of the modern “tea party” movement. To those of us that ARE fighting for our liberty, but don’t follow either platform (dem or repub), we know that the republican party is doing their level best to co-opt the organic uprising against BOTH parties. They parade people like romney, perry, palin, bachmann, etc.
          Sadly, they have managed to convince a lot of people that this republican forum, with a tea party twist, is the tea party. It just isn’t true. Those that fall for this dog and pony show from the republicans cannot “really” claim to be part of this movement; only a watered down republican interpretation. The real movement began because of realizing that both sides give us the exact same thing. No “true” tea party candidate will be encouraged by either side because they would be a threat to both.
          When republicans start touting any candidate as a favorite, or frontrunner, RUN!!! Same for dems… Both parties helped to get us here!!!

          • The really obvious untruth to this rant is that: if indeed the “real” tea party types are fighting for LIBERTY, why are they so supportive of authoritarian law, and what exactly do they think they’re fighting for, PRECISELY? That is, freedom from WHAT? And how will they know if they’ve reached it?

            It’s ridiculous to claim that middle class taxes are high and rising. Middle-class taxes are the lowest they’ve been since shortly after WWII. It’s absurd to think that hundreds of thousands of young people (disproportionately poor and racial/ethnic minority young people, incidentally– there is no DRAFT in this country) are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for FREEDOM. Again– freedom from WHAT? How will they win?

            Of course Bachmann and Perry are buffoons, and absurd political opportunists. Sarah Palin is another, only worse because she’s so blatant about taking advantage of all those folks for her own personal enrichment. But saying that the “real” tea party is anything else is kinda like Rick Santorum saying he isn’t homophobic because he “has gay friends.”

          • I second the notion that the Tea Party and the Republican party are not exactly the same thing. This notion should be clear from the debt-ceiling “negotation”, where the Tea Party caused the broader Republican bloc to be more protective of corporations and more radical than they even would have been on their own.

            Maybe you’re arguing that they are different shades of the same thing, but one is even darker than the other, causing the mix to cast a bigger shadow on the fate of our country.

    • And the fact the east india trading company was a corporation chartered by the crown has nothing to do with it? Cmon, use your brain.

  • The fact that the GOP has been re-writing history shows their lack of patriotism but more about their lack of respect for our Country’s citizens and workers

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