Paul Cienfuegos’ September 23, 2014 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org, or subscribe via ITunes.)
Greetings! You are listening to the new weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
Once upon a time, beginning after the American Revolution, people had a very different attitude about for-profit business corporations. The general belief at the time was that each individual business corporation should serve the common good, should exist to provide for one specific social need, and should cause no harm. People also understood that corporations were not created to interfere in the political process, or to participate in the civic life of a community. The earliest business corporations built bridges, roads and canals, milled grain and cotton, and ran banks.
You might be surprised about this history, but it’s really not that surprising when you consider that the early colonists in this country already had a very bad taste in their mouths when they thought about corporations, because our original 13 colonies were themselves business corporations created by kings and queens across the Atlantic Ocean. For example, the state of Delaware as we know it today, was originally known as the Delaware Company. The state of Massachusetts was originally the Massachusetts Bay Company. And so on. Every one of the founding 13 states had, at one time, been a Crown Corporation, chartered by a monarch.
The American Revolution was, to a large degree, an anti-corporate-rule revolution. The colonists revolted against the monarch’s corporations. We didn’t learn this in school, but it’s true. And this is why, after the American Revolution, the early colonists chose to fundamentally redefine and redesign the business corporation, so that it could never again oppress them.
State legislatures were given the job of deciding which new business corporations would be given the privilege to exist. Investors would come to their respective state legislatures with a proposal for a specific new corporation, and the legislature would then write a charter for that new corporation. A corporate charter is what we now refer to as the Articles of Incorporation. The charter was the defining document. It laid out what the corporation was allowed to do, what it was required to do, and what it was forbidden to do. The rules were very strict, and if they were broken, the state legislature would commonly respond by revoking the charter, which also allowed it to seize the corporate assets and sometimes also to imprison the directors.
So let’s not get too depressed about what We The People can do when our business corporations cause serious harm to our communities and to nature. Because it’s American as apple pie for us to respond by revoking that corporation’s charter, which automatically dissolves the corporation. The only problem is that We The People have mostly forgotten our history, so we don’t even know that we have the right to do this.
But there’s more! Here’s a list of the kinds of rules that corporate charters used to include after the American Revolution, and as I read you this list, imagine how useful these rules would be to put back into law today.
* A corporate charter could be revoked at any time and for any reason by a State Legislature
* Directors and stockholders would be held fully liable for all harms and debts – there would no limited liability protections
* A unanimous vote from the stockholders was required to approve a major change in corporate policy
* All stockholders had to live in the state where the corporation was chartered
* Corporations were usually chartered for 10 to 30 years, and then their charter was revoked unless it was renewed by the state legislature
* Corporations were not allowed to own or merge with other corporations
* Corporations were prohibited from donating money to candidates or elected officials in government.
* Corporations were prohibited from donating to charitable or civic organizations * Corporate financial records were all considered public information
It’s as American as apple pie – We The People having full political control over our business corporations. It’s not socialism. It’s not communism. This is our own revolutionary history. And we can’t afford to not know this history, because this is exactly the sort of rule making that we so desperately need today in this country, as giant corporations run roughshod over our political institutions.
The first step towards bringing corporations back to being our servants and not our masters is to end their so-called constitutional “rights”. Which is what we in the Community Rights movement are working towards across the United States. I invite you to join us!
You’ve been listening to the new weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News. I welcome your feedback.
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