The Death Penalty for Corporations
The venerable Dave Winer had some interesting comments this morning:
And today, If there were a death penalty for corporations, AT&T may have just earned it.
Imagine, they have designs of selling access to movies and stuff over the Internet, so they decide to join with the MPAA and the RIAA to spy on and prosecute their customers.
What a lack of awareness of their relationship with customers. They should do things to reward customers for being smart enough to have chosen AT&T as their Internet service provider. Instead, they would make their customers the stupidest people on the planet, choosing the only ISP that will send you to jail to create a new business model for them. Instead of competing to provide great service at the lowest possible price, they want to drive their customers to financial ruin, for having made the mistake of choosing AT&T.
AT&T — a company that doesn’t deserve to live.
I believe it’s one of the fundamental flaws in our modern society that we extend the rights of personhood to corporations – an abstract legal entity that exists to shield shareholders from liability and personal responsibility. The results are kind of predictable, given that purpose.
Originally, corporate law was focused on protection of the public interest. This changed over the course of the 20th century, until we reached the rather sorry state we’re in today – where the public interest is lucky to be an afterthought to shareholder value and the never ending growth demanded by Wall Street. If you haven’t seen the fantastic film The Corporation, it’s really worth a viewing. It was released for free on bittorrent some time ago, and perfectly legal to download.
Personally, I think the “death penalty” for corporations is a great idea – I’d love to see the revocation of corporate charters hung over the heads of shareholders who allow their corporation to act in ways contrary to the public interest, such as AT&T is doing here. Sadly, it’ll never happen though.