The Corporation as a Dispenser of Welfare and Security
The image of the modern corporation, run by managers trying to maximize shareholders' profits, belies the vital role today's corporations play in promoting the commonweal. Indeed, today's corporations promote social welfare directly by serving as an agent for the employee in purchasing pension, health, and other welfare benefit plans and for the government in collecting records and revenue and partially administering related public programs like social security. Governments also enhance the corporation's natural agency role by providing both public mandates and private incentives for it to perform a variety of social welfare functions.
In this chapter we trace the development of the corporation's agency roles by focusing on how the government has come to use the corporation to promote and administer social welfare programs like social security and on how the corporation has become the primary vehicle for providing health and retirement benefits for the majority of Americans. Although this social welfare role is not entirely new, it is only in recent decades that it has received much scholarly attention. Indeed, Mason's classic 1959 volume The Corporation in Modern Society failed to devote even a chapter to this issue.
The corporation's role in social welfare is a direct consequence of its natural structural and economic capabilities. Both government and em-