Ccscs

In: Business and Management

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Corporations in the Modern Era
The Commercial Transformation of Material Life and Culture

I hope we shall . . . crush in [its] birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
—Thomas Jefferson (letter to Tom Logan, 1816)

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ustice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court cited the third president of the United States in his strong dissent to the majority’s 2010 decision allowing corporations unlimited spending on behalf of political candidates.1 Quoting the court’s earlier McConnell decision, Stevens wrote, “We have repeatedly sustained legislation aimed at ‘the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with
Jefferson’s animus may seem curious in light of the history of British corporations that financed the settling of the first North American colonies and, as discussed in this chapter, are often credited with providing the model for representative government adopted by the framers of the U.S. Constitution (Tuitt 2006).

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Corporations in the Modern Era——281

the help of the corporate form.’” The court’s decision, Justice Stevens continued, “will undoubtedly cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process.” The essence of Justice Steven’s dissent in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is that corporations are legally devised entities that organize activities and are given special legal protections similar to those afforded individuals. Their rights and obligations are a matter for the state to decide. Justice Stevens emphasized how the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech—the basis for the court’s majority to rescind a hundred years of…...

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