The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Amelia Kashian
Amelia Kashian
Features Editor

Being passionate is one of the best parts of being human, and I am glad that writing has helped me recognize that. I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, and over...

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Direct corporate anger at government officials, not business CEOs and stockholders

American citizens seem to distrust corporations. Most recently, the Occupy Wall Street movement has shown a defiant group of people who are calling for change. The question remains, why were corporations created and why do we hate them?

According to the U.S. legal code, “The term ‘person’ shall be construed to mean and include an individual, a trust, estate, partnership, association, company or corporation,” and “The term ‘corporation’ includes associations, joint-stock companies, and insurance companies.”

The bottom line is a corporation is a person—at least according to the legal fiction enforced by U.S. law.

When corporations first came into existence, corporate charters were only granted to such institutions that were for a public purpose, such as a town or city. When a city becomes a corporation, the members of that corporation (e.g., the people of Detroit) will not lose their belongings if the city goes bankrupt. This makes sense.

Story continues below advertisement

As time went on, companies were allowed to become corporations if they served a public purpose. Later, after judicial rulings and passed legislation, corporations could form if they were granted a charter by the state they resided in. They no longer had to serve a public purpose, but instead were created in the hopes of further industrialization.

Now, there are numerous corporations in existence. While they may not serve a public good, they contribute to our economy by offering stock in exchange for capital. Stockholders, those that buy stock in a company, are not liable for the debts of a company but only the loss of their initial investment. Stockholders have limited liability for a corporations actions.

Here is the question I ask you: If corporations are in business to make a profit, who should they keep in mind when making decisions? Should it be the stockholders of a company or society as a whole?

The answer to this question comes down to philosophy. Even Plato knew the way humans act and the way humans ought to act were two different things. We do not operate on a subconscious moral code; we have to make conscious decisions with regards to the moral implications of those decisions. Corporations, too, have this obligation.

What is a corporation to do then? Should they try to become as efficient as possible to please the stockholders, or should they try and make the most morally sound decisions to benefit society? I think the choice is the former of those two options. Corporations are in the game for profit, and they do not need to make decisions that benefit society as a whole. If that was the case, then they could exist as a not-for-profit corporation.

The answer to keeping corporations in line is having regulations on the environmental impacts and the ethics of business. If they dump waste on their private property and that waste finds its way into the water supply on another person’s property, then that is illegal. If someone knows of a shift inside of a corporation and they tell someone else about it for the purpose of public trading, that is insider trading, and illegal.

What is our problem then? Why are Americans so mad? I believe we could learn something from rapper Ice T in the pursuit of our answer: “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.”

It is not corporations themselves that are at fault. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, many are playing by the rules. The problem is the rules allow corporations to make morally unsound decisions to make the largest profit.

If they are following U.S. law, then they are clearly not in the wrong. They cannot be sued. They cannot be reasoned with. Corporations are in it for money and the only people they will listen to are those that hold a significant amount of stock in their company.

What can you do? For starters, you can vote. Research the candidates and see who is funding their campaign. The younger generation wants to be heard in government, yet the majority of us don’t vote. We act so jaded, as if the government has been crushing our souls year in, year out. Be humble and have faith. Get out there and pick a candidate that you can live with.

On a smaller scale, think about where you spend your money. Corporations lobby with their money because money talks. Think about who you are giving a voice to when you pull out your cash at the register.

It is not the corporations that we should be upset with. It is our government.

Ask yourself what you want to do about it: wag your finger saying, “shame, shame” or answer the call of civic duty?

More to Discover