Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Today -100: September 1, 1910: Of exploding trolleys, legal fictions, new nationalisms, and fat tsars

Another trolley is blown up in Columbus, and there is a threat to turn the trolley strike into a general strike if it is not resolved in 72 hours.

Woodrow Wilson, speaking to the American Bar Association’s annual convention, says that the “fatuous, antiquated, and quite unnecessary fiction” that corporations are legal persons should be abandoned. When they do wrong, their directors should be punished, not their shareholders. Society “cannot afford to let its strongest men be the only men who are inaccessible to the law.”

And Teddy Roosevelt makes exactly the same point – “officers, and, especially, the directors, of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law” – in a speech at the John Brown Celebration in Osawatomie, Kansas which marked his first use of the term “new nationalism,” which would feature in his 1912 presidential campaign, and which meant a much stronger president, capable of overriding “local selfishness,” Congress, corporations etc in the national interest. He also called for a progressive income tax and a progressive inheritance tax on large corporations, and said, “There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains.”

Headline and Scoop of the Day -100: “Czar Growing Stouter.”

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