The Divine Right of Capital: Chapter 12

Chapter 12: A Little (r)Evolution

Chapter 12: A Little Rebellion

The Principle of (r)Evolution:
As it is the right of the people to alter or abolish government, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish corporations that now govern the world.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, & as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” The aim here is not an overthrow of the whole edifice, as in the abolition of stockholder rights – but the expansion of these rights to include others. We must return to  America’s founding ideals; among these include:

  • the liberty of states to control corporations
  • the liberty of casting a vote that has substance
  • the liberty of enjoying the fruits of our own labor
  • the liberty of individuals to enjoy equality under the law

It all begins with enlightenment, with public acts that raise the public consciousness. The American Revolution, as serious as it became, started as a prankster’s revolt – dressing in native garb and throwing tea off ships was just one of the stunts. Early leaders also made heavy use of communications through “Committees of Correspondence” throughout the colonies. The revolutionaries had gained widespread support for the ideas behind the revolution years well before wrangling actually began over the Constitution.

The American people’s right to abolish corporations is not imagined. It is still present in all state constitutions as the right to revoke charters. Writing limitations into these charters is another potential instrument of the people’s power. Charter revocation has not been used with success. It is a bludgeon, not something you pick up often – but a potential tool for rebellion. Charter revocation may be thought of more as a warning shot across the bow, but there are other tools as well.

Through the organizing work of Thomas Linzey of the Community Environmental Defense League, two townships in Pennsylvania passed ordinances prohibiting corporate ownership of farms. Wayne Township in Pennsylvania adopted a “three-stikes-and-you’re-out” ordinance to give them control over corporations with a history of repeated bad behavior. Author William Greider suggests that we must “raise the bottom line cost of lawlessness” with corporations. At the federal level, we might, for example, establish a “felonious status for ‘corporate citizens'” that would bar them from campaign financing and lobbying, the same we we deny these rights to human felons.

Kelly then breaks down the rest of the chapter with specific recommendations for rebellion for different groups:

Employees: running for the board of directors, demonstrations, refusal en-masse to agree to employee drug testing, challenging ownership over their intellectual property.

Business students: challenging the frames taught today in business school, academic research into the topics in this book.

Investors: socially responsible mutual funds, lobbying for greater SEC social disclosure.

CEOs: pioneer true models of economic democracy, rewriting corporate bylaws, testing state statutes to protect stakeholders rather than buckling to takeover raiders.

Activists: develop schools for revolutionaries, national days of action.

Unions: shift focus from protecting certain categories of workers to a broader focus on economic democracy, focus on wage data transparency.

Generating public discussion is critical to building public resolve. This was the focus in the early days of the American Revolution. We need new organizations to step forward in the cause for economic democracy.

As Joel Barlow suggested in 1792, what separates the free from the unfree of the world is merely a “habit of thinking.” Change begins in the mind, but unfolds into the reality of historic moments – moments of crisis like what we saw in the 1930s.

Kelly closes the chapter with the following:

“Corporations today are governments of the propertied class, exercising power over Americans that is greater than the power exercised by kings. They are governments that have become destructive of our inalienable rights as a people. We can end their illegitimate reign and institute a new economic government, laying its foundation on such principles as seem most likely to effect our safety and happiness. We can one day complete the design in the economic realm that the framers began in the political realm, the design of novus ordo seclorum – a new order of the ages.”


Overview Index:
Chapter 1: The Sacred Texts
Chapter 2: Lords of the Earth
Chapter 3: The Corporation as Feudal Estate
Chapter 4: Only the Propertied Class Votes
Chapter 5: Liberty for Me, Not for Thee
Chapter 6: Wealth Reigns
Chapter 7: Waking Up
Chapter 8: Emerging Property Rights
Chapter 9: Protecting the Common Good
Chapter 10: New Citizens in Corporate Governance
Chapter 11: Corporations Are Not Persons
Chapter 12: A Little Rebellion

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