"Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became People."

Thom Hartmann Here with an excerpt from my book “Unequal Protection: How corporations became “people” - and how you can fight back.”

The British first got the idea about the importance of becoming a world power in the late 1400s when they observed the result of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America—he brought back slaves, gold, and other treasures. That got Europe’s attention and threw Spain full-bore into a time of explosive boom. Then, in 1522, when Ferdinand Magellan sailed all the way around the world, he proved that the planet was a closed system, raising the possibility of tremendous financial opportunity for whatever company could seize control of international trade.

In many of the European countries, particularly Holland and France, consortia were put together to finance ships to sail the seas.

England got into the act a bit late, in 1580, with Queen Elizabeth I becoming the largest shareholder in The Golden Hind, a ship owned by Sir Francis Drake. She granted him “legal freedom from liability,” an early archetype for modern corporations.[2]

The investment worked out very well for Queen Elizabeth. There’s no record of exactly how much she made when Drake paid her share of the Hind’s dividends, but it was undoubtedly vast, since Drake himself and the other minor shareholders all received a 5,000 percent return on their investment. Plus, the queen’s placing a maximum loss to the initial investors of their investment amount only made it a low-risk investment to begin with. She also was endorsing an investment model that led to the modern limited-liability corporation.

The queen also often granted monopoly rights over particular industries or businesses in exchange for a fee. The 1624 Statute of Monopolies did away with this ability of the crown, although in the years thereafter the British government used tax laws to produce a similar result for the corporations favored by Parliament or the royal family.[3]

A business can operate at a profit, a break-even, or a loss. If the business is a sole proprietorship or a partnership (owned by one or a few people) and it loses more money than its assets are worth, the owners and the investors are personally responsible for the debts, which may exceed the amount they originally invested. A small-business owner could put up $10,000 of her own money to start a company, have it fail with $50,000 in debts, and be personally responsible for paying off that debt out of her own pocket.

But let’s say you invest $10,000 in a limited-liability corporation, and the corporation runs up $50,000 in debts and then defaults on those debts. You would lose only your initial $10,000 investment. The remaining $40,000 wouldn’t be your concern because the amount of your investment is the “limit of your liability,” even if the corporation goes bankrupt, defaults in any other way, or causes millions of dollars in damage to the environment or even the deaths of people.

Who foots the bill? The creditors—the people to whom the corporation owes money—or the community that was devastated. The company took the goods or services from them, didn’t pay, and leaves them with the bill, exactly as if you had put in a week’s work and not gotten paid for it. Or it wreaks havoc and death and then simply shuts down, as so many asbestos companies have done recently.

And if the corporation declares bankruptcy and dissolves itself, there is nobody for the creditors to go after. That’s the main thing that makes a corporation a corporation, and it’s why in England the abbreviation for a corporation isn’t Inc., as in the United States, but Ltd., which stands for limited-liability corporation (which is also used in the United States and other nations).

If you were a stockholder in a corporation that went under, it wouldn’t even be reflected on your personal credit rating (unless you had volunteered to personally guarantee the corporation’s debt). Your liability is limited to how- ever much you invested.

Moreover, a corporation can outlast its founders. If you started a one- man glassblowing business, for example, when you die or can’t work anymore, the income stops. But a glassblowing corporation is an entity unto itself and can continue on with new glassblowers and managers after the founders move on. The implication, of course, is that a corporation can pay profits as a divi- dend to its shareholders for centuries, theoretically forever.

This is what Queen Elizabeth had in mind. Incorporating The Golden Hind would limit her liability and that of the other noble and lesser noble investors and maximize their potential for profit. So after the big bucks she made on Drake’s expeditions on The Golden Hind, she started pondering what could be done about the small role England played in world trade relative to Holland, France, Spain, and Portugal.

In part to remedy this situation and in part to exploit a relative vacuum of power, she authorized a group of 218 London merchants and noblemen to form a corporation that would take on the mostly Dutch control of the global spice trade. They formed what came to be the largest of England’s corporations during that and the next century, the East India Company. Queen Elizabeth granted the company’s corporate charter on December 31, 1600.[4]

It went slowly at first. For several decades the East India Company struggled to establish a commercial beachhead among the many Spice Islands and distant lands where there were potential products, raw materials, or markets.

The Dutch had so sewn up the world at this point in the early 1600s, however, that the only island the company was able to secure on behalf of England was Puloroon (leading King James I, who commissioned the translation of the Bible into English, to declare himself “King of England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Puloroon”). In addition, the company’s hard-drinking captain, William Hawkins, managed to befriend the alcoholic ruler of India, the Mogul emperor Jehangir, building a powerful presence for the East India Company on the Indian subcontinent (which the company would take over and rule as a corporate-run state within two centuries).

During this time England had exported colonists to the Americas in large numbers, including many as prisoners (a practice they later moved to Australia, when it was no longer practical to send them to North America). There was also a steady and growing exodus from England of various types of malcontents who, on arrival in America, redefined themselves as explorers and pioneers or set up theocratic communities.

Much of this transportation was provided at a profitable price by the East India Company, which laid claim to parts of North America and created the first official colony in North America on company-owned land, deeded to the Virginia Company in 1606. (The companies had interlocking boards, as Sir Thomas Smythe administered the American operations of both from his house. Smythe was also the first North American governor of both the East India Company and the Virginia Company.)

The company called it Jamestown, after company patron and stockholder King James I (who took the throne and the royal share of the company’s stock when Queen Elizabeth died in 1603), and placed Jamestown on the Chesapeake Bay in the company-owned Commonwealth of Virginia, named after the now- deceased “virgin queen,” Elizabeth I, who had granted the company its original charter. On the maps from that time, the two companies’ claim of Virginia extended from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Mississippi River.*

I'm Thom Hartmann and you can find out more about how corporations became people and how you can fight back in my book Unequal Protection at ThomHartmann.com.


RFLBob's picture
RFLBob 8 years 44 weeks ago

Thom, I know that you are moving to new studios and I wish you all the best with that.

However, I have to register my deep resentment about your guest during your last show of this past week on Tuesday. And I called in to contest some of his assertions but the only call you took was with someone who agreed with Max Blumenthal's beliefs. Max Blumenthal is probably a very fine reporter, but to refer to Israel as an Apartheid State because it is the Jewish homeland is disgusting. Arabs are not being subjugated. Arabs in Israel can vote, they have a party in the Knesset. Arabs in the West Bank, who I think Max was referring to, do not have the right to vote because they are not part of greater Israel and will never be. His book should be called the 10 year war. He's completely OFF in stating, as he did that Israel invaded last year and then Hamas began firing off rockets into Israel. Tom, I know you know that those rockets began flying into Israel the day after Israel unilaterally left Gaza in 2005. And they have continued since then, not the day after Israel invaded last year–having had enough of a growing number of rockets AND attacks from the myriad of secret tunnels. And comparing Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto, my word what an inappropriate, inaccurate and ghastly comparison. The Israelis are waiting for a Palestinian partner to make peace with. The Palestinians have had at least two peace offers that included part of Jerusalem for their new state. Turned down twice! Why? They don't want part of the land that is Israel, they don't want peace; they want all of what we know as Israel and Max confirmed that by asking why Israel won't allow the return of all the Palestinians who voluntarily left their properties in 1948 so surrounding Arab countries could come in and smash the Israelis. Thankfully, from my perspective, that did not happen.Nor did the surrounding Arab armies have success in 1967, 1973 or afterward. Two years ago, Abbas said publicly, "How much longer must we be punished for the mistake we made in 1948?" The Israelis don't have a death wish for the country--they are not going to allow the Arabs to outnumber the Israelis--which is why they don't want the West Bank. Tom, I don't like PM Netanyahu for many of the same reasons that you don't and I especially do't like his disdain for a peace process or the new UN representative who is an avowed opponent of two states. So, I do see Israel for its good and bad. If the Palestinians want a two-state solution, they should force Israel's hand by agreeing to sit and negotiate without preconditions. The Israeli public WILL vote out any government that does not seize the opportunity to make peace--and that's not at all the case with either Hamas or Fatah. I respect your program, on reasons being that it takes guts for any American media to dispute Israeli positions, but the absurd propositions of Max Blumenthal were outrageous and needed to be contested. I know that you do not want your guests to be attacked after they leave your show, but I was disappointed that you did not allow me or someone else to take him on. Bob Lederer RFLBob@Gmail.com

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 8 years 44 weeks ago

Children will behave like this!

ANNofARK's picture
ANNofARK 8 years 43 weeks ago

Sorry, double post

ANNofARK's picture
ANNofARK 8 years 43 weeks ago

Sorry, double post

ANNofARK's picture
ANNofARK 8 years 43 weeks ago

Amen to this, RFLBob.

I, too, found Blumenthal's ignorance disgusting. (I sincerely hope its just ignorance combined with brainwashing, since the guy sounded like someone well paid with terrorists’ oil money to promote their wet dream of destroying The Holy Land)

It's obvious the guy never spent time in the country he somehow claims to be "expert" in.

It's sad to see how successful anti-Semitic propaganda is in USA.

For anyone who bothers to check facts all this "refugees" issue is nothing but scam.

What happened in 1948 was, in fact, population exchange. Happens commonly whenever the country's minority is been abused. (Like Cyprus' division into Christian and Muslim parts, for instance) Palestine was divided into tiny sliver of Jewish state of Israel and the rest 99% of Palestine territory became Muslim state named Jordan.

Jewish population of Arab countries was forced out by violence. Those who survived, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees left Arab countries leaving behind all their property. They were naturalized by the state of Israel and I never heard of Jewish refugee demanding return to their ancestor's land or even their property back.

Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand, were refused naturalization in Arab countries on purpose, to create perpetual "refugees' issue" to help destroy the state of Israel.

Moreover, as you mentioned, nobody ever forced out Arab population of Jewish part of Palestine. They were specifically asked to stay and live in peace. Some of them stayed.

But most of them followed Arab countries' leaders directions to leave Israel and wait until the new state is destroyed. They were misled, indeed, but not by Israeli government, so they have been barking up the wrong tree ever since.

As for those Palestinian Arabs who stayed, they became Israeli citizens like everybody else. (Like Palestinian Jews, Palestinian Christians and Palestinians of all other creeds now populating Israel.) They have exactly the same rights and freedoms. They have one duty less, though. They are not subject to mandatory army service. Though, I know that Bedouins, who are also Muslims and Israeli citizens, do serve in IDA and are the best border guards.

Then Egyptian officer of oversized ambition ( remember Arafat?) ,who failed to make himself career in his country, decided to create himself a state of his own and make himself a "top dog" . He emigrated to The Holy Land and came up with the "new" name for Palestinian Arabs, he named them "Palestinians” and demanded to divide this 1% of Palestine AGAIN into Muslim state and Jewish state. Which scam was supposed to act in accord with "Arab refugees” scam to weaken and eventually destroy the young state of Israel.

It's unbelievable how Christian world seems to eat this "two-states solution" nonsense up.

The problem with antisemitism is that this unfortunate condition impairs human judgement to the extent of acting irrationally, against their own interests if there's a slightest chance of causing damage to the demonized nation. It happens over and over again and still history teaches humanity nothing, we still cannot resist assisting our sworn enemies who openly proclaim our destruction as their primary objective - just because we hope those cannibals will destroy our allies first. Just think about how such despicable policy is going to damage US reputation as a trustworthy ally among world community. Granted, they might claim support to our irrational actions in hopes to appease the monstrous aggressive regime. After all, they are not on the extremists' "hit list" just yet, its USA that is. And they will hope that the aggressor will be satisfied as soon as it reaches its objective of destroying "Big Satan" (just like our "negotiators" are apparently hoping the aggression will stop after the "Small Satan" has been sacrificed). But the truth is - aggressors NEVER stop unless STOPPED. Humanity have been there not once in history.

tom kauser 8 years 43 weeks ago

why not write a book and maybe you could fleece the public for money instead of boring us with bile.

tom kauser 8 years 43 weeks ago

it would be alot easier to bring Israel into the community of nations if you would cut BIBI loose ? the guy at the top is the problem and needs to be replaced by a British viceroy who could solve this difficult situation by force of arms if needed? A neutral third party needs to intervene to return this region to normalcy? a map needs to be made to establish a permanent border around this rogue nation? hiding behind your walls in fear of what or who?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 43 weeks ago

tom kauser -- Who are you suggesting should write a book? Of course, even the book would need a 3rd party reviewer.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 43 weeks ago

RFLbob -- Who called it the 50-day war?

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 43 weeks ago

As another South African anti apartheid leader once said, "Those who think of themselves as victims soon become victimizers of others." No amount of previous victimization entitles anyone to victimize others.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 43 weeks ago

RFL Bob et al., don't play the disingenuous victim card (Reminds of a time when the Clinton Administration tried to mediate the conflict and Israeli negotiators objected to their approach complaining, "No, no, no! We must be the victims!") . Max Blumenthal didn't call Israel an apartheid state because it was Jewish. Pleeeze, don't play that card! He called it that because apartheid is what is practiced there, especially in the West Bank to accomodate illegal settlements built in contravention to UN agreements and basic principles of human rights. In fact, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize winning, non violent anti apartheid leader called it "worse than apartheid". (Did you know that Israel, according to a report on Democracy Now! of several years ago, during the BDS movement on South Africa in the early '90s, used to help South Africa circumvent the sanctions by importing South African goods, stamping "Made in Israel" on them and exporting them, then, to their original destination - brothers and comrades in apartheid, how touching?)

Israelis routinely murder Palestinian leaders and negotiators or violate a sacred Muslim site like Ariel Sharon at the Temple Mount or willfully do something else that can't but provoke Palestinians whenever peace negotiations seem to be approaching fruition. They even invaded Yassar Arafat's compound when he publicly accepted the two state solution after decades of he wanting to "push Israel into the sea".

The fact is, Israelis don't want peace. Not only do their actions leave no doubt about it but their motives are plain too. Bottom line is there is a finite amount of land and water in the region and Israel has to make room for any Jew in the world who wants to move there so there SURE ain't no room for any Palestinians.

Israel is a colonial settler state, the "A land without a people for a people without a land" business is an inhuman, genocidal cannard. The parallel between the Palestinians and Native Americans was made long before Max Blumenthal. The land was already very crowded but the indigenous people there were not European so they didn't matter.

Israel can't continue to play the helpless, hapless, homeless victim of the Jew in diaspora anymore. Israel is a major world power - in alliance with most other world powers - and, like other world powers, it abuses defenseless people (Palestinian homemade rockets are hardly more effectual than the rocks the youths throw and, besides, they are the resistance) whose concerns and survival are inconvenient for it.

I was part of an Eastern European exile community of WW II refugees in Chicago, growing up, and I was of the only small handful of its members who openly, publicly and strongly opposed the anti semitism within it - and took a lot of heat for it - and I will oppose anyone's ethnic cleansing and naziism, Jewish or otherwise (I am also of the opinion that much of the Eastern European mind, imported into Israel from Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, accounts for much of Israeli thinking and sentiment on the issues. There are a lot of "authoritarian personalities" there). I accept NO double standard!

By the way, the Israeli media has reported that the Israeli Army used the same methods to put down the Intifada as were used to suppress the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - and if you don't think Gaza's a ghetto I don't know what universe you are from.

Jussmartenuf's picture
Jussmartenuf 8 years 43 weeks ago

Thank you Mark. I just tuned in and am reminded of my trip to Israel in '97. When the issue of the Palestinian "apratheid" and the Gaza issue came up, there was always double talk and avoidance of the issue by our Isralei military officer guide.

Apartheid was my bottom line for a discription of what we encountered, the same bottom line as Jimmy Carter came to.

As long as Bibi can keep his ultra right wing fear tactics going, Israel can continue to cast themselves as victims. You are right; for some reasons, yours among them, most of Israels Jews do not want peace; they want it all and they want the United State to fight a war for them while they "hold our coats". Is it any wonder the hawks of the U.S. do not want peace in the mid East any more than they do. McCain/Graham/Boehner/Bibi et al do not want a peace agreement with Iran.

Penny Rewis 8 years 42 weeks ago

AnnofArk, You have most of your history straight, however, prior to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, world maps designated that little strip of land on the Med as Palestine. Not all, but the majority of Palestine's population were ethnic Arabs. After 1948 Palestine was divided into two states, Israel and Palestine. So, the logical deduction is that they are or were, in 1948, Palestinians, and in 1967, and in 1969 when Arafat took over the PLO or Fatah. What should they be called?

Don't toss all of the U.S. into the anti-Semitic "pot" please. Questioning the moralilty and legality of policy and actions is the norm among concerned people. My concern, seriously: justification for bulldozing of Arab/Palestinian homes in occupied territory? The territories presently controlled by Israel as a result of the Six Day War of '67 were designated "occupied" territory by an international court.

Kreativekkj's picture
Kreativekkj 8 years 42 weeks ago

I wonder if Thom realizes that the only part of his excerpt of his book is the first part - over and over and over?

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 42 weeks ago

Kreativekkj, are you talking about the newsletter running on autopilot?

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