Stop the greedy giants!

We have a bug in our legal system. On this page I explain that bug, how we might fix it and why we don’t do it.

Corporations aren’t humans

Corporations have rights like owning things, trading with goods and services, entering into contract with others or introducing a law suit against them. Corporations are legal persons, and everybody is equal before the law, right?

Wrong. Corporations are not humans. They are part of the spiritual world. They are just ideas, born out of human minds, registered in some public database, personified as legal persons. It seems to me that we often fail to clearly differentiate between humans and trade unions.

Dangerous rights in wrong hand

The freedom to have secrets (About privacy) and to own resources (About private property) are human rights, but let us stop to assume that they are also a right for private corporations.

Our problem is that we are also giving corporations the right to be greedy and to have secrets.

First of all they don’t need these rights. The humans who interact with a corporation (employees, customers, providers, …) do need these rights, but not the corporation itself. A corporation does not need to get rewarded in order to remain motivated. The “motivation” of a corporation results from its mission statement, which bundles the collective motivation of the individual humans who support or own the corporation. A corporation does not need to have secrets. There are many examples of corporations (basically all non-profit organizations) that work well without having any secrets. An edge case are security issues, we treat these in a separate article. See About whistleblowing.

Secondly, corporations can potentially misuse these rights against humans. They are immortal and have neither good nor bad conscience. Letting them function on their own inevitably leads to unwanted results. Corporations must remain under human control. We must not give them any chance to get out of our control.

This bug was tolerable as long as corporations remained relatively small. The bug is becoming dangerous only in the digital era where corporations have at their disposal new unlimited ways of communication and data processing, giving them a chance to become more powerful than the national government that controls them.

Theoretically this bug is easy to fix. Read on.

How to fix the bug

Basically we just need to change the legal base that regulates corporations.

One idea is to say that every private corporation must convert into a foundation when its investors have received a reasonably profit from their capital.

Any private corporation can convert into a public foundation at any moment by simply deciding to buy back all shares. Such a change is not more complicated than a change of ownership. It is just a new strategy of distributing the profit.

The price to be offered per share is to be determined by legally regulated rules, based on the corporation’s available reserves. There must be a balance between giving to the owners what they deserve and keeping the corporation’s activity alive.

Responsibility

A positive side effect of fixing the bug is responsibility. At the moment we grant corporations unlimited rights to profit from their activity while demanding only limited responsibility for the risks of their activity. This is not right. Humans should get protected from carrying more responsibility than they can reasonably bear. But corporations should not.

Why we don’t do it

Yes, the idea described in How to fix the bug is naive. It needs feedback and help from experts.

The main challenge is that it is a fundamental change in a complex system. The majority of the relatively few humans who understand it won’t want us to fix it because that would deprive them from a convenient source of income they have gotten used to. And most of the many humans who would benefit from it don’t have the expertise to defend it.