Rolling Back Corporate Power: Lessons from the Past
It seems that corporations have been part of the scene forever. Not the case really. An 1886 landmark Supreme Court decision elevated corporations to its current special legal status. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the Court ruled that a private corporation was a person and as such, under the Constitution, was protected by the Bill of Rights. The consequences of that ruling were enormous. Today, corporations stand virtually unchallenged. Such behemoths as ExxonMobil and General Electric make billions in profits and straddle the earth. In many instances their bottom line is bigger than most of the economies of countries in the UN. Sure they create jobs and so-called wealth but at what cost? And who really benefits? Perhaps there are lessons from the past that can help us to contest corporate power today.
Richard Grossman, co-founder of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy, was an independent researcher and writer focusing on governance, law, corporations, and organizing strategies. He passed away in New York in November 2011.