January 16, 2006

Baltimore Neighborhood Proposal to Limit Corporate Power

Residents of the Baltimore City neighborhood have proposed limiting the entry of large corporate franchises. According to the Baltimore Sun, this initiative has been led by Benn Ray, the owner of Atomic Books located on 36th Street in Hampden (The Avenue). Sun Article

Some people have interpreted this proposal to be "elitist," as reflected in a letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun
Opposing Letter to the Sun They seem to envision chic towns, like Carmel California, which have passed similar laws. According to the Jan. 3, 2006 Sun article, the initiative is backed in concept by Mary Pat Clarke, in legislation regarding "formula businesses."

However, this desire to limit franchises has been championed in places around the country for reasons other than preserving the look and feel of trendy places like Carmel, California. This alternative motivation is that of resisting the growth of corporate power and influence on our culture. One of the leaders in this has been the community of Arcada California, led by a group called Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County. Highly Recommended Link

Below is a letter to the Baltimore Sun on this subject, which expresses concerns about excessive corporate power.

I can understand how some might believe that the sole motivation for preventing franchises from locating to Hamden is "elitist" ("Hampden elitists unfairly limit trade," Jan. 9, and "Hampden strives to preserve its style," Jan. 3). However, there is another motivation for the legislation that would limit large corporate franchises in Hampden. That is the undeniable need to curtail the excessive power that has been amassed by corporate entities beginning in the mid 1800s.

This concern regarding corporate power might also sound "elitist." However, an honest appraisal reveals that, for generations, the true elite of society are those who have used corporations to amass wealth. This consolidated wealth has, in turn, been used to influence the creation of laws and judicial decisions that have conveyed even greater power to corporations. The classic example occurred in 1877, during the corrupt Robber Baron railroad era, when the corporate elite managed to have corporations recognized by the US Supreme Court as "persons" under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

After generations of repeating this cycle of using corporate-generated wealth to game the democratic system, corporate persons have accumulated far more power than persons of flesh and blood. The corporate "person" is immortal and amoral (profit motive is independent of moral choices). A single corporation can operate in multiple places on the globe at all times through legions of lawyers, lobbyists, researchers and truly elite executives. Corporations can hammer away tirelessly at their desired goals, which are often contrary to the desires of human goals, even when the humans are in the majority. This is because it has been found unconstitutional to "discriminate" against a corporate "person".

I support shifting the balance of power back in favor of the human person, away from the corporate person. To the tiny degree that the proposed legislation helps accomplish this, I view it as a positive step in the ongoing multi-generational struggle for humans to regain control over excessive corporate power.


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