The birth of corporations
Startup Attorney, Advisor, History Buff
Corporations started as state-granted monopolies to pursue certain projects.
Over time corporations have developed their own set of rights.
The debate continues about how much personhood and rights a corporation should enjoy.
Lesson: Incorporating Your Venture with Augie Rakow
Step #1 Corporations: The birth of corporations
What is incorporation? Why do people do it? Little bit of history, corporations first started as state granted monopolies to pursue a certain business. So state governments, federal governments, would authorize someone to operate the queen's railroads. And people would pile money into that. And they would set up a committee to run it. And then over time, that thing itself started to have its own rights, and its own contracts, and relationships, and started to be recognized as its own legal person.
What it means to do that, and why we do that, and to what extent are they really their own legal persons, that debate continues to day. It's a debate that's been going on for hundreds of years. I think. At least 200 for sure. If there are any constitutional lawyers watching this, I'm totally butchering this, I know. But to what extent can corporations be political actors? Can they raise money? Can they donate money to finance campaigns? You can even say, can they vote? Should a corporation be able to vote?
So there's this evolution of thinking of bodies of business activity as their own people and giving them independent person status, to a certain degree. Just like, maybe, a minor in legal eyes. A minor has all the rights of a person to a certain degree. They can't vote. May not be able to hire people. There's sort of this concept of a legal person and the rights that a person has. So to what extent does a corporation enjoy all of those rights?
It's an ongoing debate. It's a debate that's going on today. So it started off as a huge state grant monopoly to run the railroad, run the queen's railroads, or run her international shipping, has over time, been polished and digested and made more efficient. And now you can go online and incorporate a company for yourself using a SaaS-based service. And it's pretty darn amazing.