Sure, there are crooks out there. But the overwhelming majority of actions by corporate directors and managers that have created today’s messes have been legal.
Not only legal, but also widely regarded as necessary and essential to sustain the American Way of Life. To put food on our tables. To heat our homes. To provide jobs. To defend liberty and freedom…
Simply put: Giant business and financial corporations govern. The few who run them make the governing decisions that dictate people’s work, living conditions, health and the nature of our communities.
Business and financial corporations are not simply “market players.” Although in legal terms corporations are mere “fictions of the law,” they function as political forces. They concentrate wealth and power so their directors and managers can impose their values upon communities, the nation, the Earth.
Corporate directors and managers have long defined how people live, what people do. Sometimes they take their paychecks from their corporations; sometimes, from our governments. For generations, they’ve been writing our laws, propagandizing our children, dictating policy, plundering the planet. To gain such power, they long ago got Congress, federal judges and state legislatures to wrap their corporate bodies in the Constitution of the United States. To bestow upon their corporate “fictions” the authority to govern.
Armed with “freedom of speech,” “due process” and “equal protection of the law,” the “commerce clause,” “the contracts clause,” and other constitutional powers, corporate directors and managers have been wielding the law to deny people’s most fundamental human rights.
Corporate directors and managers have been making “private” decisions which in an authentic democracy must be made by people in community via democratic processes.
Their real bottom line is not that their corporations are “just too big to fail.” It’s that without giant corporations, we helpless human Earthlings could do nothing to meet our needs. That we would languish freezing, starving, unemployed, unentertained, vulnerable, in the dark.
After the great Savings and Loan thefts, after the great WorldCom and Enron corporation thefts — after every financial cataclysm of the past century — people have been assured that the problem was “greed and excess.”
There were always pundits and politicians galore to declare “greed and excess,” just as there were always Madoffs galore to personify such evils. So as night followed day, legislatures passed laws to regulate “greed and excess.” And then they told us to go home and relax… everything would be OK.
Sure, Madoff and his ilk are major crooks. They’ve caused great harm to many people. There are laws aplenty to deal with such obvious crooks — so they’ll end up in jail and good riddance.
But after the Madoffs of every generation are all locked up, most of the corporate directors and managers who “legally” plunged the nation into these messes continue governing over the nation. They keep instructing people that the source of the nation’s problems is “greed and excesses,” and “crooks.” They keep spending the people’s money to set things right. And they keep writing We the People’s laws.
Isn’t that what’s happening today?
Corporate directors and managers count on our being desperate to return to the way things were, on our not changing who’s calling the shots or the laws of the land which have long enabled a corporate class to rule.
So let’s not let ourselves be distracted by a few high-profile crooks on perp walks. Let’s beware “greed and excess.” Instead, we can scrutinize constitutional law and statute law and judge made law that have long empowered a relative handful of corporate directors and managers to deny We the People’s most fundamental rights….to prevent us from governing ourselves.
To stop corporate cataclysms from crashing down upon us and the Earth over and over and over again, and to drive human-friendly, planet-loving values into law and policy, We the People can rewrite basic constitutional doctrines regarding corporate “fictions,” flesh and blood human beings, and Earth rights.
To do this, we’ll have to assume the authority to govern ourselves.
Isn’t that a revolutionary idea!
RICHARD GROSSMAN is author of articles and books about corporations, the economy, labor, environment and legal history. He is also co-founder of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) (1994); co-founder of Stop the Poisoning Schools (1986) and Democracy Schools (2003). He lives in New York’s Catskill Mountains and is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.