« Citations, cold, headaches. | Main | Good news, and polar bears »

Corporate law

I'm interested in corporate law. Surprising? It shouldn't be. Since I have the sense that our society is being damaged by the behavior of large corporations far more than it needs to be, I'm curious about the law that governs corporations.

We tend to think of corporations as natural features of the world, when they're really just artificial constructs of law. Like all institutions, however, the corporate construct influences the behavior of people. In my opinion, these people often act badly under the cover and influence of corporate law.

Recently there's been a lot of debate over Article 1, 8, cl. 8 of the Constitution. That's the bit that gives Congress the right to issue patents (a legal construction) for a particular reason (to "promote the progress of science and useful arts").

Corporations are like patents. They're legal constructions, established by state governments, for a reason. "We the People" established the corporation because we thought it would serve a purpose: the accumulation of large amounts of capital necessary for big investments which would benefit the entire society.

We made corporations because we thought they'd benefit us. And they have. They've worked wonderfully well, made a lot of big investments, and benefitted society. But they've also behaved badly, and damaged the community around them, and committed injustice. Perhaps most perniciously, they've urged us to forget where they came from.

Some people suggest that the corporate focus on the bottom line is established and encouraged by law. Others assert that the narrow-minded focus on corporate profits is solely due to shortsightedness on the part of corporate directors, and that the law governing corporations is not responsible for their bad behavior.

Either way, we shouldn't forget that corporations aren't natural features of our world, but instead are human creations intended to benefit our society. Do they?

Comments

So, essentially everything we do in law school is about human creations. Property is a human creation. Torts are a human creation. Contracts are a human creation. Likewise, corporations are a human creation. Law in itself and our interaction with it is all about what humans create.

So the question is generically: are these creations at all good ones? It's as interesting a question as almost anything else.

I agree. The thing that makes this question interesting when asked of corporations is that some people (maybe not us lucky ones in law school) seem sometimes to forget that corporations aren't a given feature of the world, like snow. Or cold. Or wind-blown ice.

Uh, I apparently got sidetracked for a brief moment. Please forgive me.

Hear hear! There's a nice corrollary to the attempt to naturalize corporations, and that's the attempt to make "capitalism" synonomous with "democracy" and/or "freedom." Maybe we need to go one step further with the questions. If we're in danger of forgetting that corporations aren't natural, aren't we in even greater danger of forgetting that *profit itself* is not natural? The idea that humans are "naturally" selfish and will take whatever they can, even at the expense of others, is a really pernicious little bit of "common sense" (by which I mean the things we take for granted, those things which are so "natural" as to be almost invisible, a.k.a. "ideology").

thanks for the info