Corporations -- Eric R. Pianka


© Eric R. Pianka

"Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow . . . until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." -- Abraham Lincoln

Some of Earth's greedy enemies can be identified: overpopulation, banking and economic systems, insurance companies, and corporations (especially big oil), to mention a few.

Early on, the framers of our American economic system attempted to control corporate priviledges and powers tightly. They wanted to subjugate corporations to democratic oversight and to exploit these regulated institutions as infrastructure for building canals, roads and bridges. At issue was who would control authority to grant corporate charters (Nace, 2003). The subject was discussed at length and voted on in the Constitutional covention, but because the states were opposed to federal control, the final text did not include any mention of corporations. States were given the power to charter corporations, but sparingly, because corporate power was seen as a potential threat to democracy (Nace, 2003). The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that a charter should not be given if the applicant's "object is merely private or selfish; if it is detrimental to, or not promotive of, the public good." Limited corporate powers were given for specific public projects like toll roads, bridges, canals, and banks. Incorporation was denied if it smacked of monopolistic power, and if not, charters were limited in spatial and temporal scope as well as activities allowed. Charters were revoked if transgressions occurred. Such restrictions on corporate powers were gradually lifted, especially by small states that needed revenue like New Jersey and Deleware. Railroads became powerful monopolies. Today's corporations have superhuman powers: they live forever, know no spatial or temporal boundaries, and can shape shift and rename themselves at will.

We have designed an economic system that has allowed greed to explode. Corporations now exist solely for whatever profits they can make and as such, they are inherently greedy at heart. Corporations have no conscience and because they are not people, they do not qualify to have constitutional rights despite the Supreme court's Citizens United decision that recently gave them such powers (indeed, America no longer enjoys a democracy but with that court decision, it has become a corporacracy).

Corporate executives are paid obscene salaries and are not personally liable for activities they oversee. Corporations control politicians, who pass legislation that allows tax evasion and assures obscene corporate profits. They may well also control judges. Our Supreme Court's absurd ruling gave corporations unlimited power to buy politicians. Corporations cannot be abolished because we can't live without them, but we must find ways to restrict corporate privileges. Obscene CEO salaries should be a thing of the past. CEOs should be held liable and should pay exorbitant taxes. Corporations should not be allowed to evade taxes by moving offshore. Corruption in corporations must no longer be allowed -- we cannot allow them to own our judges and politicians, and politicians must become more responsive to opinions of average citizens. Executive and political privileges must be eliminated. Politicians should not enjoy all the special perks they have given themselves -- they should have the same health insurance as the rest of us and should ride in tourist class alongside us in airplanes.

Our culture has institutionalized runaway greed as illustrated by the stock market: it is designed to assist Wall Street executives to profit from small investors who buy shares of corporate stocks hoping to grow their investment. Instead, each time the market crashes small investors lose while larger investors manage to gain at their expense.

With amazing prescience, in 1864 Abraham Lincoln said, "corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow . . . until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." He also said "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."


Nace, T. (2003). Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Last updated 26 June 2014 by Eric R. Pianka