The unofficial history of America

 
CCW On-Target!
Originally Inspired by Northpoint Tactical Teams (NPT)
 
          

From: CCW

 
"In boardrooms in all the major global capitals, CEOs of the world's  biggest corporations imagine a world where they are protected by what is  effectively their own global charter of rights and freedoms - the  Multinational Agreement on Investment (MAI). They are supported in this  vision by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank, the  International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Chamber of Commerce  (ICC), the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), the  Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other  organizations representing twenty-nine of the world's richest economies.   The MAI would effectively create a single global economy allowing  corporations the unrestricted right to buy, sell and move their  businesses, resources and other assets wherever and whenever they want.   It's a corporate bill of rights designed to override all "nonconforming"  local, state and national laws and regulations and allow them to sue  cities, states and national governments for alleged noncompliance. "  Kalle Lasn
 
 
The unofficial history of America, which continues to be written, is  not a story of rugged individualism and heroic personal sacrifice in the  pursuit of a dream. It is a story of democracy derailed, of a  revolutionary spirit suppressed, and of a once-proud people reduced to servitude.
 
http://silent-nation.com/the-unofficial-history-of-america
 
The unofficial history of America
 
By Kalle Lasn
 
 
The history of America is the one story every kid knows. It's a story of  fierce individualism and heroic personal sacrifice in the service of a  dream. A story of early settlers hungry and cold, carving a home out of  the wilderness. Of visionary leaders fighting for democracy and justice,  and never wavering. Of a populace prepared to defend those ideals to the  death. It's the story of a revolution (an American art form as endemic  as baseball or jazz) beating back British Imperialism and launching a  new colony into the industrial age on its own terms.

It's a story of America triumphant. A story of its rise after World War  II to become the richest and most powerful country in the history of the  world, "the land of the free and home of the brave," an inspiring model  for the whole world to emulate.

That's the official history, the one that is taught in school and the  one our media and culture reinforce in myriad ways every day.

The unofficial history of the United States is quite different. It  begins the same way - in the revolutionary cauldron of colonial America  - but then it takes a turn. A bitplayer in the official history becomes  critically important to the way the unofficial history unfolds. This  player turns out to be not only the provocateur of the revolution, but  in the end its saboteur. This player lies at the heart of America's  defining theme: the difference between a country that pretends to be  free and a country that truly is free.

That player is the corporation.

The United States of America was born of a revolt not just against  British monarchs and the British parliament but against British  corporations. We tend to think of corporations as fairly recent  phenomena, the legacy of the Rockefellers and Carnegies. In fact, the  corporate presence in prerevolutionary America was almost as conspicuous  as it is today. There were far fewer corporations then, but they were  enormously powerful: the Massachusetts Bay Company, the Hudson's Bay  Company, the British East India Company. Colonials feared these  chartered entities. They recognized the way British kings and their  cronies used them as robotic arms to control the affairs of the  colonies, to pinch staples from remote breadbaskets and bring them home  to the motherland. The colonials resisted. When the British East India  Company imposed duties on its incoming tea (telling the locals they  could buy the tea or lump it, because the company had a virtual monopoly  on tea distribution in the colonies), radical patriots demonstrated.  Colonial merchants agreed not to sell East India Company tea. Many East  India Company ships were turned back at port. And, on one fateful day in  Boston, 342 chests of tea ended up in the salt chuck. The Boston Tea  Party was one of young America's finest hours. It sparked enormous  revolutionary excitement. The people were beginning to understand their  own strength, and to see their own self-determination not just as  possible but inevitable. The Declaration of Independence, in 1776, freed  Americans not only from Britain but also from the tyranny of British  corporations, and for a hundred years after the document's signing,  Americans remained deeply suspicious of corporate power. They were  careful about the way they granted corporate charters, and about the  powers granted therein. Early American charters were created literally  by the people, for the people as a legal convenience. Corporations were  "artificial, invisible, intangible," mere financial tools. They were  chartered by individual states, not the federal government, which meant  they could be kept under close local scrutiny. They were automatically  dissolved if they engaged in activities that violated their charter.  Limits were placed on how big and powerful companies could become. Even  railroad magnate J. P. Morgan, the consummate capitalist, understood  that corporations must never become so big that they "inhibit freedom to  the point where efficiency [is] endangered." The two hundred or so  corporations operating in the US by the year 1800 were each kept on  fairly short leashes. They weren't allowed to participate in the  political process. They couldn't buy stock in other corporations. And if  one of them acted improperly, the consequences were severe. In 1832,  President Andrew Jackson vetoed a motion to extend the charter of the  corrupt and tyrannical Second Bank of the United States, and was widely  applauded for doing so. That same year the state of Pennsylvania revoked  the charters of ten banks for operating contrary to the public interest.   Even the enormous industry trusts, formed to protect member corporations  from external competitors and provide barriers to entry, eventually  proved no match for the state. By the mid-1800s, antitrust legislation  was widely in place.

In the early history of America, the corporation played an important but  subordinate role. The people - not the corporations - were in control.  So what happened? How did corporations gain power and eventually start  exercising more control than the individuals who created them? The shift  began in the last third of the nineteenth century - the start of a great  period of struggle between corporations and civil society. The turning  point was the Civil War. Corporations made huge profits from procurement  contracts and took advantage of the disorder and corruption of the times  to buy legislatures, judges and even presidents. Corporations became the  masters and keepers of business. President Abraham Lincoln foresaw  terrible trouble. Shortly before his death, he warned that "corporations  have been enthroned .. . . . An era of corruption in high places will  follow and the money power will endeavor to prolong its reign by working  on the prejudices of the people . .. . until wealth is aggregated in a  few hands . . . and the republic is destroyed."

President Lincoln's warning went unheeded. Corporations continued to  gain power and influence. They had the laws governing their creation  amended. State charters could no longer be revoked. Corporate profits  could no longer be limited. Corporate economic activity could be  restrained only by the courts, and in hundreds of cases judges granted  corporations minor legal victories, conceding rights and privileges they  did not have before.

Then came a legal event that would not be understood for decades (and  remains baffling even today), an event that would change the course of  American history. In Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, a  dispute over a railbed route, the US Supreme Court deemed that a private  corporation was a "natural person" under the US Constitution and  therefore entitled to protection under the Bill of Rights. Suddenly,  corporations enjoyed all the rights and sovereignty previously enjoyed  only by the people, including the right to free speech.

This 1886 decision ostensibly gave corporations the same powers as  private citizens. But considering their vast financial resources,  corporations thereafter actually had far more power than any private  citizen. They could defend and exploit their rights and freedoms more  vigorously than any individual and therefore they were more free. In a  single legal stroke, the whole intent of the American Constitution -  that all citizens have one vote, and exercise an equal voice in public  debates - had been undermined. Sixty years after it was inked, Supreme  Court Justice William O. Douglas concluded of Santa Clara that it "could  not be supported by history, logic or reason." One of the great legal  blunders of the nineteenth century changed the whole idea of democratic  government.

Post-Santa Clara America became a very different place. By 1919,  corporations employed more than 80 percent of the workforce and produced  most of America's wealth. Corporate trusts had become too powerful to  legally challenge. The courts consistently favored their interests.   Employees found themselves without recourse if, for example they were  injured on the job (if you worked for a corporation, you voluntarily  assumed the risk, was the courts' position). Railroad and mining  companies were enabled to annex vast tracts of land at minimal expense.

Gradually, many of the original ideals of the American Revolution were  simply quashed. Both during and after the Civil War, America was  increasingly being ruled by a coalition of government and business  interests. The shift amounted to a kind of coup d'état - not a sudden  military takeover but a gradual subversion and takeover of the  institutions of state power. Except for a temporary setback during  Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal (the 1930s), the US has since been  governed as a corporate state.

In the post-World War II era, corporations continued to gain power. They  merged, consolidated, restructured and metamorphosed into ever larger  and more complex units of resource extraction, production, distribution  and marketing, to the point where many of them became economically more  powerful than many countries. In 1997, fifty-one of the world's hundred  largest economies were corporations, not countries. The top five hundred  corporations controlled forty-two percent of the world's wealth. Today  corporations freely buy each other's stocks and shares. They lobby  legislators and bankroll elections. They manage our broadcast airwaves,  set our industrial, economic and cultural agendas, and grow as big and  powerful as they damn well please. Every day, scenes that would have  seemed surreal, impossible, undemocratic twenty years ago play out with  nary a squeak of dissent from a stunned and inured populace.

At Morain Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois, a student  named Jennifer Beatty stages a protest against corporate sponsorship in  her school by locking herself to the metal mesh curtains of the  multimillion-dollar "McDonald's Student Center" that serves as the  physical and nutritional focal point of her college. She is arrested and  expelled.

At Greenbrier High School in Evans, Georgia, a student named Mike  Cameron wears a Pepsi T-shirt on the day - dubbed "Coke Day" - when  corporate flacks from Coca-Cola jet in from Atlanta to visit the school  their company has sponsored and subsidized. Mike Cameron is suspended  for his insolence.

In suburban shopping malls across North America, moms and dads push  shopping carts down the aisle of Toys "R" Us. Trailing them and  imitating their gestures, their kids push pint-size carts of their own.   The carts say, "Toys 'R' Us Shopper in Training."

In St. Louis, Missouri, chemical giant Monsanto sics its legal team on  anyone even considering spreading dirty lies - or dirty truths - about  the company. A Fox TV affiliate that has prepared a major investigative  story on the use and misuse of synthetic bovine growth hormone (a  Monsanto product) pulls the piece after Monsanto attorneys threaten the  network with "dire consequences" if the story airs. Later, a planned  book on the dangers of genetic agricultural technologies is temporarily  shelved after the publisher, fearing a lawsuit from Monsanto, gets cold  feet.

In boardrooms in all the major global capitals, CEOs of the world's  biggest corporations imagine a world where they are protected by what is  effectively their own global charter of rights and freedoms - the  Multinational Agreement on Investment (MAI). They are supported in this  vision by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank, the  International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Chamber of Commerce  (ICC), the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), the  Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other  organizations representing twenty-nine of the world's richest economies.   The MAI would effectively create a single global economy allowing  corporations the unrestricted right to buy, sell and move their  businesses, resources and other assets wherever and whenever they want.   It's a corporate bill of rights designed to override all "nonconforming"  local, state and national laws and regulations and allow them to sue  cities, states and national governments for alleged noncompliance. Sold  to the world's citizens as inevitable and necessary in an age of free  trade, these MAI negotiations met with considerable grassroots  opposition and were temporarily suspended in April 1998. Nevertheless,  no one believes this initiative will remain suspended for long.

We, the people, have lost control. Corporations, these legal fictions  that we ourselves created two centuries ago, now have more rights,  freedoms and powers than we do. And we accept this as the normal state  of affairs. We go to corporations on our knees. Please do the right  thing, we plead. Please don't cut down any more ancient forests. Please  don't pollute any more lakes and rivers (but please don't move your  factories and jobs offshore either). Please don't use pornographic  images to sell fashion to my kids. Please don't play governments off  against each other to get a better deal. We've spent so much time bowed  down in deference, we've forgotten how to stand up straight.

The unofficial history of America, which continues to be written, is  not a story of rugged individualism and heroic personal sacrifice in the  pursuit of a dream. It is a story of democracy derailed, of a  revolutionary spirit suppressed, and of a once-proud people reduced to  servitude.