Corporations are a threat to Democracy and society.
Citizens must become the masters of corporations or they will become slaves to corporate power. Corporations' aggregation of wealth, political influence and legal protections has far surpassed those available to citizens. Corporations have usurped citizens' contract with their elected representatives so that government primarily serve corporate interests rather than those of citizens. People must reclaim their rights and their government by demanding from legislators a regulatory framework that will reassert the primacy of people and the welfare of society. Citizens need to reclaim the power to: 1) exclude corporations from the political process, 2) hold management and shareholders responsible for corporate actions and 3) terminate corporate existence and imprison management for repeated or grievous breaches of the law.
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Corporations are by their nature amoral actors in society
Citizens must have power over corporations because, by their nature, they act like psychopathic people. Corporations are amoral; they act purely for their own gratification without consideration for society, without empathy for people and without remorse for the consequences of their actions on others (see, Joel Bakan, The Corporation).
All individuals and bodies are supposed to be equal under the law, but the executives of Corporations, in their effort to maximise the dividend to their shareholders (and thus keep their own position secure), wield the power and influence of their companies to effect the legal and socio-political environment of a country to meet their needs rather than develop the fundamentals of the business itself. Thus Unionisation is either legislated out of existence, or emasculated, sometimes in breach of acknowledged principals of Human Rights.
Where a corporation finds the situation in a country uncomfortable it is quite happy to ‘up sticks’ from that country. According to the BBC’s Analysis programme, even China can allegedly be cowed by the power of Corporations. It seems that the Chinese hierarchy realises that the country has a pollution problem but does not want to apply legislation restricting corporate pollution for fear of these companies moving to Vietnam, and the greater freedom to pollute there.
This presupposes that corporations can act in a manner that is unrestrained by law, commercial forces and public opinion. The law of tort restrains companies from being able to inflict unrestricted damages on people. For example, parties injured by cars and drugs are able to sue the corporations who manufacture these products.
The ability of companies to "up sticks" is a call for greater international co-operation to take a strong stand on employment and environmental issues, not for dissolving the companies which contribute vast amounts to national economies.
Corporations have Special Legal Protections and Rights Unavailable to Citizens
Corporations are more powerful than people. They can live in perpetuity; they are legally immune from almost all punishment except financial fines; they can commit criminal acts repeatedly without loss of liberty; they serve only their management and shareholders' interests - all other considerations, including the law, social welfare, the environment, human rights etc. are merely a cost/benefit analysis.
CEOs can be held accountable for the actions of their company. The company may continue but those running it may have to pay the penalty and serve the punishment.
Suggested Reading on Corporate Power and its Undermining of Democracy
Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power.
Ted Nace, Gangs of America:The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy.
This is not a point for the argument - could be posted in comments below.
The corporate agenda is to make money, not care for human rights.
The leaders of big, multi-national, corporations are only human. They are as greedy as the rest of us, and have been currupted by power. "Power currupts, and total power currupts totally." They, unfortunately are just assholes who need to be replaced.
Corporations support our living standards and ensure democracy and human rights are STRONGER, not WEAKER!
We live in a capitalist democracy - without corporations we would be socialist - a system which undermines human rights, is less likely to give us the standard of living we are accustomed to, and would be foolish when we look at historical examples of capitalist countries turning to socialism.
Corporations employ people and allow us to live well. And we have a social safety net to pick us up when we fall.
Get rid of corporations and you get rid of our high standard of living and destroy our economy. The idea that they are a threat to democracy is absurd because without corporations we would be socialist - we all know how well North Korea is performing on human rights, now don't we?!
Capitalist society - that is, a society based on free trade rather than coercion - has existed before corporations. Corporations were merely an addition to free-trade-based society, that gave investors the comfort of capping their personal losses in case of bankruptcy, thereby encouraging investment.
This capping of risk may now be unnecessary, and indeed harmful, as the risk-spreading measures of Credit Default Swaps and securitized mortgages have shown by evaporating trillions of dollars in value in the last crisis.
At any rate, abolishing corporations has nothing to do with abolishing free trade. Jobs can be granted by unlimited-liability companies, partnerships and individuals. Calling "Socialism" won't win this debate.
This is a counter to the argument to the left.
North Korea is an absolute totalitarian dictatorship. It is a failure of communism in its essence and cannot be held accountable for the whole system! You are judging the many based on the few!
Socialism is an often misused term. It is normally a functioning element of proper democracy. Denmark is socialist. France is socialist. Even my own US has socialist elements!
You say human rights are infringed in a socialist system? Do France, Denmark, Canada, Luxembourg, or Sweden have an even remotely unfair human rights system? No!
Corporations are greedy and currupt. They provide jobs, but so does the military, the oil companies, the tobacco companies, Walmart, etc.! I'm sure you are aware that the tobacco companies have fooled people many times before, regardless of human rights!!! Or is lung cancer worth it just so people can have a minimum wage job?
For hundreds of years, people had subsisted of of local businesses that provided everything they needed. Then, corporations bought those local businesses, and converted "Ted's Grocery" to Über-Mega-Super-Intense Wal-mart!!!
This to me is a blatant threat to democracy. Imagine corporations (as they do in eastern europe and central america) paying off the government to not enforce labor and minimum wage laws.
I'm having a really hard time understanding why you say outlawing corporations means automatically having socialism. Haven't you heard of a family owned and operated business? The corporate business model is relatively new and ugly. Corporations care about stockholders. Businesses owned by business owners care about building a strong company--not shareholders. They tend to focus on building a strong sense of family and well-being in their employees. Your argument that getting rid of corporations = socialism is confusing and poorly articulated.
Without limited lliability, innovation is in bad shape
Corporations give people with new ideas the ability to try without risking everything they have - by placing only their investment in the corporation at risk. Before corporation, a failed idea could cost an enterpreneur his entire assets, financial freedom and sometimes physical freedom. Innovators were employed by nobelty, which was in short supply, and innovation crawled along slowly while Humanity suffers through hard winters. Now that hundreds of thousands of corporations allow innovators to try with limited risk, innovation moves at dazzling pace, and so are standards of living.
What do you think?