As of May, 2003, I have decided to no longer run for this office. I am maintaining the website for several reasons, not the least of which is that the effort expended in developing the ideas was clearly worthy, and the work produced should therefore be preserved. My further reasons for no longer seeking elective office can be found in this essay - Saving America from Ourselves.
from the 2004 Presidential Campaign of Joel A. Wendt: working paper # 10
National Sovereignty and
the Future of the Corporation
For some time now it has been the intention of the elite financial and corporate interests to bring about a condition of complete civic freedom for the Corporation. This has been a long term process, and not always thought out by everyone involved, but certainly well understood by the necessary few. The effect of this process, were it to reach maturity, would be to permit the Corporation to no longer be subject to the laws of Nation-States, that is the Corporation would find itself as possessing a kind of super-citizenship, wherein it would be, in itself, both Citizen and State.
The Corporation, being hierarchical in nature - that is it takes the form of a pyramid like structure with rulership at the pinnacle, would then find a kinship with an older social form, basically feudal in structure. There would be a king (or queen), princes and their lackeys at the top, while the masses below would be reduced to a condition of landless peasantry.
Already the Corporation works to create for itself a working environment free of the ordinary civil rights for which individuals have struggled and still struggle. For example, one really does not have free speech if one is a worker within a corporate structure, as the culture of the corporation makes it clear that wrong speaking of certain kinds will produce economic consequences, from lack of advancement down to termination of employment. Where Unions have been successful, this power is somewhat restrained, but if we look at long range tendencies, unionization is a process that has lost its edge, and which is currently being coercively restrained by Bankruptcy judges to the benefit of shareholders and debtholders.
Computers now make it possible for managers to moniter the smallest detail of a worker's activities, and while Big Brother (in its State version) watches from the electronic eye of Homeland Security, another Big Brother (in its corporate version) watches from atop the pyramid.
All we really need to do is look at the tendencies, and we will see that more and more the Corporation is emancipating itself from the necessity of complying with the rights protections won within the civic realm. These tendencies within the social organism of humanity represent a kind of "fundamentalist" regression at the level of polticial and legal life. What presently lives within the Corporation, as its Idea, is not something any longer progressive for humanity, but something retrograde and fundamentally destructive of those advances already won.
At the same time, it would be false to think that the Corporation has not served a purpose valid in the development of humanity. The point here is to realize that if matters continue in their current direction, this developmental process will turn into its opposite. In a sense, as a social form, the Corporation needs to be rethought. Its excesses need to be restrained, and those positive elements that remain, need to be developed further.
In a very real way, Nation States need to act for the benefit of their various Peoples by finding some combined (international) way of retraining the Corporation. Its Idea must be reconceived, and its freedom of action restrained.
At the root of the problem is the idea of private property, a dilemma that has perplexed humanity now for many millennia. In common and superficial polticial discourse, the idea of private property is frequently debated as some kind of conflict between economic systems, for example a free market capitalist society versus some kind of socialistic or communistic alternative. We need first, however, a wiser way of facing up to the real underlying issues.
That the idea of private property has limits in its social application is clearly evidenced by the problem now being exposed by the striving of the Corporation for political autonomy. In a sense, the idea of private property appears in the social organism as a kind of formative power, producing in its wake all manner of subsidiary social arrangements. In those societies where this idea - the idea of private property - finds its expression, there then arises structures which allow the resulting social power to naturally concentrate. In America, for example, this problem was faced briefly during the Constitutional Convention, with private property obtaining a very definite victory. Those who owned things, could then pass on that ownership right in all manner of ways which were exclusionary in nature, such that now we admit that less that one percent of American citizens control forty percent of all wealth (probably an underestimation by the way).
This process of concentration of wealth continues, and with the tendency for the full emancipation of the Corporation from any restraint by Nation-States, there is basically no end in sight. More and more will be owned by fewer and fewer, and it is the idea of ownership itself which leads to this effect. Ownership naturally leads to power within the civic organization, which then expresses itself in laws mostly favorable to ownership. In America this appears in the fact that the Federal Government is totally interpenetrated by what we recognize as economic powers (this power being the consequence of ownership), a power so single minded that one of our wisest Presidents warned us of its excessive influence, and named it the military-industrial complex.
No one should be surprised that our shared social existence continues to produce unwanted cancerous organisms within the Social Body. Humanity is still on a process of discovery of its own social dynamics - we really don't yet have a proper science of the Social/Polticial.
As mentioned in previous working papers, in the coming into being of Civil Society, and the Citizen Governance Movement, there arises the antidote to the excess concentration of power arising quite naturally from the idea of ownership of private property. With the understanding of the utility of renewal groups, that is if Citizen Governance emerges as a creative force in determining the qualitative nature of the political conversation, it then becomes possible to introduce into that dialog a reconsideration of the idea of private property.
You will notice I am not advocating a particular conclusion to this discussion, but rather pointing out that the tendencies, in social life leading toward the undesirable emancipation of the Corporation from any restraint by the Civic Body, are a natural consequence of the idea of private propery. The antidote is then to introduce into the conversations the opposite Ideal, that of stewardship. What if, in certain circumstances, ownership is replaced with stewardship.
Now stewardship is neither a communist nor a socialist solution (the apparent conflict between capitalism and other economic forms is the result of a superficial understanding of the real dynamics of social existence). The real questions are: What Ideal do we as a social community choose to incorporate within our laws, and can we incorporate one Ideal in one place, and another Ideal in another place?
Stewardship is really a different kind of "right". Instead of the right of ownership, which is largely unrestrained and subject to individual whim, stewardship can clearly be defined in some way as having to benefit the whole community, and not just the "owner". We already try to do this with all the restraints we have tried to put in place in order to protect the environment. We have demanded of "owners" the act of stewardship. What I am suggesting is the consideration of the Ideal of replacing ownership itself, with stewardship. For example, instead of granting property rights to oil reserves in public lands, we form organizations that are stewards of these lands. As stewards, they can still receive compensation for development, but the "right of control" is limited by that fact that if the standards set for stewardship are not kept to, the existing stewards can be replaced. Under the old way, as private property rights, oil rights once gained cannot be lost, while under the new way, the only right is to just compensation for behavior that must benefit the community and not just the owners (whether shareholders or corporate executives).
In a sense, we call forth a different kind of individual self interest, one more limited in nature in terms of the gaining of personal wealth, while at the same time allowing for a more altruistic impulse to arise in the same situation. In this way we work right within the fundamental social processes which effect how Corporations behave, because we change the basic rules. By considering the problem at this level, at the level of forming a distinction between ownership and stewardship, we change the underlying dynamics out of which Corporations operate.
Now lest someone object that we would be taking personal property away, the fact is that this "personal property" was most frequently obtained by exercises in abuse of power and theft. It exists as a right after the fact of being stolen. Moreover, it is the Fundamental Right of a People to order the Laws to which they subject themselves. Neither a sitting government nor a corporation can claim a superior right, as an Ideal, although we know from history how frequently the assertion of superior rights have been obtained by the exercise of might.
This is then the struggle - to further develop that life of rights so that the rules that apply to all, truly arise from our mutual consent, and not from the exercise of power by elites.
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For an interesting parallel point of view, check this out.