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Occupy Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power

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Message Bill Quigley
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"Corporations are people, my friend." Mitt Romney at Iowa State Fair

 

Corporations are obviously not people.  But Romney is accurate in the sense that corporations have hijacked most of the rights of people while evading the responsibilities. An important part of the social justice agenda is democratizing corporations.  This means we must radically change the laws so people can be in charge of corporations.  We must strip them of corporate personhood and cut them down to size so democracy can work.  People are taking action so democracy can regulate the size, scope and actions of corporations.

 

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One of the most basic roles of society is to protect the people from harm.  The massive size of many international corporations makes democratic control over them nearly impossible.

 

Corporate crime is widespread.  The New York Times, ProPublica and others have revealed Wall Street giants like JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have been charged with fraud many times only to get off by paying hundreds of millions.  Professors at University of Virginia have documented hundreds of corporations which have been found guilty or pled guilty in federal courts.

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Corporate abuse is even more widespread.  For example, Corporate Accountability International named six to its Corporate Hall of Shame, including: Koch Industries for spending over $50 million to fund climate change denial; Monsanto for mass producing cancer causing chemicals; Chevron for dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon; Exxon Mobil for being the worst polluter; Blackwater (now Xe) for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians and hiring paramilitaries; and Halliburton, the nation's leading war profiteer.

 

Making corporations responsible to democracy of the people is challenging considering Wal-Mart, the world's biggest corporation, does more business itself annually than all but two dozen of the two hundred plus countries in the world.   Without dramatic changes, how can we expect people in small or even big countries to force corporations like Wal-Mart, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP, Toyota or Chevron to live by the same rules all the people have to? 

 

Justice demands we make sure corporations do not harm people.  Democracy must require that they operate for the common good.

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In order to cut corporations down to size, the people must strip corporations of the special artificial legal protections they have created for themselves.

 

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Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans.
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