Monday, August 22, 2011

Corporations are People

It's interesting to read The Nation's reaction to Mitt Romney's "Corporations are People" remark. John Nichols obviously thinks that the activists of Iowa Citizens for Community Involvement scored a real coup by getting Romney to admit the truth of his oligarchic agenda.

When Romney began to ruminate on how he would not “raise taxes on people,” the Iowa activists shouted: “Corporations!”

As the crowd began to cheer on the idea of taxing corporations that enjoy the benefits of government bailouts and subsidies without—in all too many cases—giving anything back, Romney became incensed.

The former corporate CEO shouted: “Corporations are people, my friend.”

The crowd shouted: “No, they’re not!”

“Of course they are,” replied Romney, with a “there, I said it…” statement that he and his staff would later confirm as his true faith.

It is curious to experience just how central to the leftist faith is the idea of corporations as evil. And that a "corporate oligarchy" rules America.

One of the central articles of faith is a conspiratorial interpretation of the mainstreaming of the limited-liability corporation in the notion of immortal "corporate personhood." Lefties think that the development in law of corporations as entities separate from their managers and owners is a deep dark conspiracy to take over the world.

But as Thomas Crump reminds us in The Age of Steam, the truth is more prosaic. Corporate personhood was invented in the usual fudge job of legislators responding to crisis. In the mid 19th century limited liability corporations were needed in the development of railways. The risks and the scale of railway development just could not be met with informal methods of incorporation where all the equity investors were liable for debts of the enterprise without limit. People wouldn't sign up for that kind of risk. The limitation of liability meant that investors could routinely put their money into speculative enterprises like railways without worrying that mistakes or malfeasance by the managers could wipe out not just their investment bu the rest of their assets. And railways dwarfed the manufacturing industry in the mid 19th century.

The curious doctrines of our lefty friends require them to construct a narrative of corporate malfeasance. If there weren't a corporate oligarchy they would have to invent it. Otherwise there is no warrant for big government.

The immense value of the Obama administration is that it seems determined to utterly delegitimize the progressive project and its monument, big, unjust government in its massive effort to tax and regulate everything that moves. The effort bids fair to destroy the free-market economy.

The problem is that until we get there, the American people are going to suffer real hardships as the whole economy gets sucked into a maelstrom of liberal folly and fantasy.

No comments:

Post a Comment