Somebody once observed that you had to be wary of the things
you did only once. The reference was to buying a house (and paying
closing costs) - which many of us actually do more than once.
But maybe our focus should be on the familiar things that
surround us every day - and we don't talk or think about. Maybe it
is the things that are commonplace, things that are everywhere,
that deserve our attention. For example, corporations.
In one sense, corporations are as American as apple pie. In
another very important sense, hardly a more "un-American" form of
As we know, corporations helped settle the land we called
America under charter from the king and his legislature. We won the
war and gained our independence - but kept the corporation.
We kept it for good reasons. It was a good form of business
organization - and not a very important one at the time. We were a
nation of farmers and individuals after all. All men were created
equal - a radical notion. Corporations were not very important in
the scheme of things. We believed in individual, human
We still honor that idea today. We still think of ourselves as
individuals and value individual responsibility. Corporations
really don't. And today they are everywhere. They are big and
small. We have individuals who have incorporated for tax reasons
and the Fortune 500. We even have corporate farmers. Today
corporations - not farmers - dominate the nation's economy.
One reason is the "corporate shield." With it, the incorporated
firm can be considered an individual in court - and can cheat
death, living long after its founder has passed on. Most
importantly, with the "corporate shield," the individuals within
the film are not liable for the corporation's debts or sins against
others or the environment. In short, the individual is not
Many times, corporations are not responsible either. In theory
they do the bidding of their owners, the stockholders, based on
commands of their boards of directors, some of whom may come from
outside the firm.
In practice, those who run the firm (and who may not actually
own a very large chunk of the company) are really in charge. How
else to explain the salaries to corporate leaders, without regard
to the financial performance of the firm?
Why did the salaries of executives who control some of our
largest corporations rise by 212 percent during the 1980s, while
salaries of workers and engineers went up by 53 and 73 percent
respectively, while dividends increased by only 78 percent? …