Corporate Personhood, Limited Liability, and Double Taxation

The politics of the left-oriented Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, like that of the right-oriented modern Tea Party movement, is not very well defined. But one of the things some of the OWS participants are calling for in their list of “demands” is an end to “corporate personhood.” In this they echo the views of left-libertarians who contend that state-chartered “corporations” are the source of grave social ills.1

Some of these issues were recently debated on the pages of Roderick Long’s blog, in the comments to his post “Double Standard.” Left-libertarians who oppose incorporation, and usually also “capitalism,” argue that firms derive some great benefit from the state by the privilege of incorporation. The standard leftist critique of the corporation is the “concession” theory outlined by Robert Hessen in his seminal study In Defense of the Corporation (see a key excerpt from pp. 18-21). They argue that the state grants to corporations three features: entity status, perpetual duration, and limited liability to shareholders, all of which are artificial and would not exist absent state intervention. Left-libertarians maintain that these privileges grant corporations more power than they otherwise would have, which distorts the market, nay, society in general. This gives rise to more “hierarchy” and “authoritarianism” than would prevail in what Hans-Hermann Hoppe calls a private law society, and indeed, to “exploitation” of the workers by the bourgeoisie.

The Alleged “Privileges” of Incorporation

Labor Theory of Value

There are several problems with the left-libertarian and leftist critiques of corporations. One is the acceptance of a Marxian-type labor theory of value—the idea that employers per se “steal” or exploit from workers the “social surplus product”—a discredited, hoary, unscientific view based on deeply flawed economics.

Entity Status

And as Hessen has pointed out, each of the three corporate features pointed to as a state-granted privilege—entity status, perpetual duration, and limited liability for shareholders—can be created purely by private contract. As for entity status (being able to represent the firm in lawsuits or for property ownership purposes, in the firm’s name) this is just a convenient legal fiction that could be created by means of trustees, or other contractual techniques (including agreements with private defense agencies, insurance companies, arbitral agencies, and the like). In any case, even stripped of this procedural convenience, firms could still organize themselves as joint stock companies or “corporations”.

Perpetual Duration

Hessen also easily disposes of the myth that perpetual duration is a privilege granted by the state; this can be achieved easily by means of continuity agreements and the like.

Limited Liability

The big objection to corporations is usually limited liability for shareholders. Now first let me mention that many non-attorney critics of this notion seem confused about what it means (and many attorneys also misapprehend it). They think the doctrine insulates a tortfeasor from liability even if he was negligent, so long as he is a shareholder. Or that the doctrine exempts managers and officers of the corporation from liability for torts of others. They are wrong. The doctrine merely says that shareholders are not jointly and severally liable for all the debts of the company that they have a share in. If a company that A owns shares in is sued and driven to bankruptcy, A loses the value of his shares but is not personally liable for the lawsuit against the company. (N.b.: to the extent some state incorporation statutes also limit the liability of managers for torts of the corporation, and not just that of passive shareholders, this is another matter and is more objectionable. However, the primary purpose of limited liability laws is to protect the shareholders from general liability; and in any case, officers and directors are routinely protected from any personal liability by the use of D&O insurance.)

Second, we have to distinguish here between contractual debts, and debts arising from torts (or even intentional crimes). As for the former, this is easy to dispatch: someone loaning money to, extending credit to, or engaging in a contract with a corporation is implicitly agreeing to pursue only the assets of the corporation itself in case of a claim, not the personal assets of shareholders (unless it insists on some shareholders personally guaranteeing a loan or contract, as if often the case for smaller companies).

So what about torts? The typical example is a truck driver for a company who negligently harms an innocent third party. The third party has no contract with the firm, unlike in the case of contractual debts noted above. The opponent of corporations maintains that the victim should be able to sue not only the employee-tortfeasor, and the corporation itself (to go after its assets and deep pockets, including its insurance policies), but shareholders themselves. After all, they are the “owners,” and should be liable too. Right? And thus, state limited liability provisions are short-circuiting the liability that shareholders would normally have. This lowers the cost faced by corporations; it makes shareholders less responsible in their decisions about who they elect for the firm’s board of directors; it lets the firm externalize costs onto the market.

The problem with this theory is the assumption that in a private law society, “shareholders” should be vicariously liable for the negligence of others. There is, in fact, no libertarian justification for this view, as libertarian theorists such as Robert Hessen, Murray Rothbard, and Roger Pilon have argued.2 In this situation, some employee of a firm has committed some tort—a negligent act (such as a FedEx truck driver negligently crashing into some victim). Here the victim has a right to sue the negligent employee-tortfeasor. The question is: Who else’s assets can the victim go after? Can he sue the managers, or the directors, or go after corporate assets, or sue shareholders?

We have to recognize that the prima facie answer—the default condition—is no: each person is responsible only for his own torts, not for those of others. To hold someone else liable requires some kind of “vicarious liability” theory. To do this, you need a theory of causation and responsibility, which Pat Tinsley and I have tried to sketch out in Causation and Aggression. Yes, you can be jointly responsible with the actions of others if you engage with them in cooperative action to cause the illicit result: for example co-conspirators in crime, a gang of bank-robbers, and so on.

But holding employers—or shareholders—vicariously liable for actions of their employees relies on the offensive, paternalistic, feudalistic  concept of respondeat superior—a master is responsible for his slaves’ or servants’ transgressions. As Hessen notes, this is just a vestige of the medieval mentality. Why would a shareholder be liable for actions of some employee? There are two aspects to being a shareholder that could conceivably give rise to vicarious liability for another’s direction actions. First, the shareholder may have contributed capital (money) to the firm. On the other hand, he may not have: he may have bought the share from a previous shareholder. This latter possibility is routinely overlooked by those who blame the shareholder for contributing money to a company that has an employee who commits a negligent act during the course of his employment. They assume that giving money to the corporation is akin to “aiding and abetting” it, so that the shareholder is responsible for all its debts that it incurs as a result of actions it engages in with the “aid” of the money contributed by the shareholder.

But contributing capital to a firm is nothing more than aiding it, which co-employees, customers, creditors, vendors, and suppliers also do. If you broaden causal responsibility so much that you would implicate a shareholder just because he gave financial aid to a firm (though as I noted, not all shareholders give money to a firm), then employees, customers, creditors, suppliers are also all liable, which is obviously absurd.

Second, the shareholder may have a vote in electing directors. But then again, he may not; not all shares are voting shares. Further, the shareholder might not exercise his right to vote; and if he does, he might vote against the directors who win; and even if his choice wins, his vote is almost never decisive; and, in any case, rarely is it the case that the director campaigns on a platform of directing managers to permit employees to engage in torts and negligence. These latter qualifications are rarely noted by corporate opponents who blame shareholders for corporate actions simply because they have a right to vote. But possessing a right to vote for directors does not obviously imply vicarious liability for torts committed by employees hired by officers appointed by those directors. In fact, the right to control property does not automatically imply responsibility. If I own a knife and it is stolen by a thief, I am not guilty of murder if the thief kills someone using the knife, even though I still own it. Ownership implies the right to control. It does not imply liability. Liability flows from actions, whether those actions employ means owned by the actor or not. In other words, whether one owns a means employed in an act of aggression is irrelevant. Likewise, having an ownership (control) right does not automatically imply responsibility.3 (A related point is that shareholders are not even “owners” of corporate assets in the same way that I own a knife. The state legally classifies shareholders as owners, but we have to be wary of relying on state classifications.4 The shareholder can influence board composition by vote, and has a right to receive dividends if paid, and some pro rata right to receive part of the assets of the corporation upon liquidation, but a Google shareholder doesn’t have the right to use the Google headquarters or corporate jet.)

What this means is that if you attribute vicarious responsibility to the shareholder merely because he has a vote—that is, he has “some influence” on who the directors are—then everyone who “influences” the firm is also potentially liable for torts of its employees—again, as in the case of holding people liable for aiding and abetting a firm, this can include creditors, who can influence company policy or board composition, employees and their unions, important suppliers, and the like. Again, this is obviously absurd.

The kneejerk and simplistic rules that would implicate shareholders for torts of employees based simply on the fact of ownership, voting, and contributing capital, would also render hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people jointly and severally liable for the negligence of Pepsi truck drivers. This is obviously not a result compatible with libertarian theory.

So it seems that a shareholder who is truly passive and does not manage the affairs of the firm, nor make management decisions or direct the actions of employees, should not be not liable for torts committed by such employees. Why should he be? Hessen, Rothbard, and Pilon are right.

It is important to recognize this because opponents of state incorporation claim that the state’s grant of limited liability to shareholders is a huge privilege granted to them that would disappear if the state were to get out of the business of granting corporate charters. In fact, here the state and the left-libertarians share the same presupposition: that absent state incorporation privileges, shareholders would be vicariously liable, via respondeat superior, for torts of employees of companies the shareholder owns stock in. The state uses this false claim to justify regulating the company; the left uses this false claim to exaggerate how much benefit existing state-chartered corporations must be receiving, and to predict that a state-free world would look vastly different, and that our current “capitalist” order is dominated by the state and not really free at all.

Likewise, as already mentioned, another fallacious view shared by the state and the left-libertarian opponents of incorporation is the idea that a corporation cannot exist unless the state grants it the privilege of “legal personality,” i.e. makes it a separate legal entity. The state makes this claim to hold itself out as the firm’s benefactor, and claims the right to place conditions on this grant—various regulations, etc. And if it’s a separate legal person or entity, why, gosh!, it owes income taxes! It’s a person, after all, isn’t it? And the left-libertarians join in this refrain by claiming that state incorporation grants the legal entity privilege to corporations, and they could not exist without it. Some privilege, that subjects you to regulation and income taxation! So: we can see that the state’s fallacious claim that it is granting a privilege of legal personhood to the corporation is used to justify double taxation: first, the corporation, as a “legal entity,” is subject to corporate income tax; then the shareholders are subject to capital gains or income tax when they receive dividends. Effectively, the shareholders are double-taxed. Some privilege.

But this view is confused too. As Hessen has explained (see previous references), a company having a “corporation”-like structure could arise on a free market using private contract alone. It could sue in “its own name” (as a convenience); it could have perpetual life; contractual debtors could go only against the corporate assets and not those of shareholders, since they agreed to it; and victims of torts of employees of the free-market “corporation” could sue the employee-tortfeasor but not the shareholders, since they are not causally responsible for his torts any more than the customers are.

Ending Incorporation

In any case, we can agree with the left-libertarians that the state ought to stop granting incorporation status. Contractual firms would arise—I don’t know if they would be called corporations, joint stock companies, limited liability firms or what—and the state would have less justification to subject them to income taxation—to impose double taxation on shareholders. Firms would be far better off—and shareholders would still have natural limited liability. What’s not to like?

Why left-libertarians think corporate status is some net “benefit” to every firm in the Fortune 500 (again, see the comments to Long’s post “Double Standard”) is a mystery to me. Removing SEC “public company” regulations (which cost each public company about $3–4M a year) and removing corporate income tax alone would be a huge boost to American capitalism. So what if the name of the standard form of organization changed? Small price to pay.

In sum, yes, get rid of state corporate chartering, and the corporate taxation and regulation that accompanies it.

For some more discussion of these and other ideas, see my post Capitalism, Socialism, and Libertarianism; I also discuss some of these issues in Episode 133 of This Week in Tech.

Appendix: Corporate America being “part of the state” and the calculation problem

Some final comments. Note that the left-libertarians’ confused adoption of the state’s underlying rationale for monopolizing, regulating, and taxing corporate-firms causes them to conclude that the US economy is basically dominated by companies that are in reality parts of the state. Instead of viewing only some firms as closely in bed with the state—defense contractors, say—they view virtually all of corporate America as agents of the state. Even a Walmart or Apple are thought of as parts of the state—in a fascist sense, that is: they are nominally private but really parts of the state because of the various state “benefits” and “privileges” these companies receive. (See my post Apple vs. Microsoft: Which Benefits more from Intellectual Property?) Walmart benefits—maybe disproportionately—from state subsidies to highways etc. (though the local mom n’ pop shops ship things in from far away too). Nevermind the corporate taxes and SEC regulations. It “benefits” from the “privilege” of the state grant of entity status (which it does not need to exist, as Hessen shows) and from exempting its shareholders from general liability from torts of employees (which they do not need since they would not be personally liable anyway in a free society; and which could be taken care of easily anyway by a simple and cheap extension of D&O insurance; and which the corporation usually has sufficient assets to handle in any case).

Take Walmart: the left-libertarian thinks it is unlibertarian (in a “left-thick” sense) because it has bosses and hierarchies that allows it to “boss people around” in ways it could not get away with on the free(d) market. It is only able to get away with these thick-libertarian oppressions and exploitation because of the net benefit and privileges it gets from the state. The non-left-libertarian agrees Walmart and other companies’ structure etc. is distorted because of the state but sees no reason at all why a Walmart of some type could not exist on the free market—in fact, I would think it highly likely Walmart could do even better, shorn of the costs the state imposes on it too. (That is not to say that there would not also be more local, small, diverse companies, more self-employment, more self-sufficiency, more early retirement. The free market would be rich and diverse.) Even an Apple Inc., which now does benefit in some ways from patent and copyright law that it uses to suppress competition, could exist and prosper, by selling high-end hardware, like the Mercedes of computers—even if it would be less able to stop clones or maintain its closed model.

In the recent debate on Roderick Long’s blog, some of the left-libertarian commentators imply that virtually every one of the top 500 public corporations in the US is illegitimate, and part of the state. This of course implies that many others are too, and even that a vast swath, if not most, of the US economy is effectively part of the state. Now I’ve detected this implicit view before, and I’ve (informally, in blog posts and comments) observed one problem with this view is that it implies that the apparent “capitalist” prosperity we see is all a mirage. (See Is Macy’s Part of the State? A Critique of Left Deviationists.) This is because, if you accept Mises’s calculation argument, a centrally run economy cannot be economically prosperous. If most of corporate America is “really” part of the state, then the calculation argument means we must be in a USSR-style shambles, despite appearances to the contrary. Sure, I realize the GDP measure has methodological problems, and that the state exaggerates and propagandizes, but what’s more plausible: that we are really all poor, living in a 1970s Soviet-Style morass with just faked prosperity (hey, maybe we never made it out of the Malthusian trap in the 1800s after all; maybe the whole Industrial Revolution is a mirage!); or that there is actually a vast amount of prosperity generated by the underling genuinely free market economy despite the state’s depradations? As far as I can see, the left-libertarians have to argue the former; I think most sensible libertarians will take the latter view.

The former view is what results from the idea that most state corporations are “net beneficiaries” of the state. As the state cannot produce wealth but can only destroy it, if the bulk of US enterprise is a net beneficiary of the state it must come from the remainder of society, meaning an overall impoverishment for everyone—meaning the apparent prosperity and productivity of the last 20, 50, 200 years is a mirage. Simply declaring “hierarchical” firms that have a corporate charter “net beneficiaries” of the state is obviously the wrong criterion, since it leads to absurd results: it leads you to deny the evidence of free market generated prosperity that is before our eyes. (This may be one reason Kevin Carson objects repeatedly to my Misesian calculation argument along these lines.) Obviously we need a more selective way of determining whether a given firm is a net beneficiary of state aid or not. It has to be a minority of firms—otherwise we would be living in a USSR-style third world shambles. A firm that is heavily dependent on something that would not appear the same way in a free society would be suspect, such as the military defense contractors. Firms heavily dependent on subsidies, or IP (like Microsoft), would be more suspect than others, but even here, Microsoft provides a useful product, albeit at prices inflated by its copyright monopoly. It may not be possible to develop rigorous criteria, but why do we need to? We have systemic and economic reasons—plus common sense and experience dealing with many firms in society that obviously do more harm than good—to doubt the claim that most of corporate America is a net beneficiary of the state. Hell, most of us even think that individual humans who rise to the top of power, like Barack Obama, are harmed in a deep sense by achieving “success” and power the way they do.

Update: See David Henderson’s EconLog post, Hummel on Moss on Limited Liability, and Jesse Walker’s 2001 Reason post, Killing Corporations.


  1. See vol. 20, no. 1 and vol. 19, nos 3-4, of the Journal of Libertarian Studies, focusing on these and related issues, in particular articles by, and in response to, Piet-Hein van Eeghen’s anti-corporation views, and Kevin Carson’s views on mutualism. 

  2. See Roger Pilon’s Corporations and Rights: On Treating Corporate People Justly, which has some very good stuff on why limited liability does not give any special privilege to shareholders; also my posts Legitimizing the Corporation and Other Posts; Rothbard on Corporations and Limited Liability for Tort; Defending Corporations: Block and Huebert; Pilon on Corporations: A Discussion with Kevin Carson; Corporations and Limited Liability for Torts; In Defense of the Corporation; also my comments to “Jeff Tucker’s post Scrupulosity and the Condemnation of Every Existing Business”; and list of resources on this in Sean Gabb’s Thoughts on Limited Liability

  3. See my posts The Libertarian Approach to Negligence, Tort, and Strict Liability: Wergeld and Partial Wergeld and The Non-Aggression Principle as a Limit on Action, Not on Property Rights; also IP and Aggression as Limits on Property Rights: How They Differ

  4. See my post The Over-reliance on State Classifications: “Employee” and “Shareholder”

68 comments… add one

  • Suppose Bob lends Morgan his pistol. Morgan then robs a liquor store using the gun. Should Bob have any liability in the event Morgan gets caught?

    I’m sure some would want to see Bob punished, but I would have a hard time making the case that Bob should be punished for the actions of Morgan. I don’t think he should be held responsible or liable in this case.

    However, what if Morgan regularly robbed liquor stores with Bob’s gun and Bob received a cut each time a store was robbed?

    I think it is rather hard to make the case that Bob should not share the responsibility with Morgan for the losses of the robbed liquor stores.

    I do believe that it is hard to make the case that most corporations benefit from the state. On the other hand, it isn’t hard to make the case that executive management of large corporations benefit from the state. There may even come a time when investors will get fed up with it.

    Reply
    • Suppose Bob lends Morgan his pistol. Morgan then robs a liquor store using the gun. Should Bob have any liability in the event Morgan gets caught?

      I’m sure some would want to see Bob punished, but I would have a hard time making the case that Bob should be punished for the actions of Morgan. I don’t think he should be held responsible or liable in this case.

      However, what if Morgan regularly robbed liquor stores with Bob’s gun and Bob received a cut each time a store was robbed?

      I think it is rather hard to make the case that Bob should not share the responsibility with Morgan for the losses of the robbed liquor stores.

      Yes, he probably should, because he helped cause it–in the sense that Pat Tinsley and I lay out in the Causation article linked above.

      I do believe that it is hard to make the case that most corporations benefit from the state. On the other hand, it isn’t hard to make the case that executive management of large corporations benefit from the state. There may even come a time when investors will get fed up with it.

      Where is the case? I don’t think this case can be made. Some do. Not all, or even most, IMO.

      Reply
    • “I think it is rather hard to make the case that Bob should not share the responsibility with Morgan for the losses of the robbed liquor stores.”

      If Bob knew about the purpose, then anybody would agree. If not, it’s a different story, and every state around the world disagrees in principle, because they immunize every officer that is responsible for the abuse. The state simply claims capricious power to apply the principle at whim.

      Reply
    • “I think it is rather hard to make the case that Bob should not share the responsibility with Morgan for the losses of the robbed liquor stores.”

      If Bob knew about the purpose, then anybody would agree. If not, it’s a different story, and every state around the world disagrees in principle, because they immunize every officer that is responsible for any such abuse. The state simply claims capricious power to apply the principle at whim.

      Reply
  • Good post. The whole Long-Carson “left-libertarian” project emphasizing assignment of blame to whoever they think benefits the most (or is harmed the least) by mixed economy statism existing vs. some counterfactual pure free(d) market existing seems bewilderingly pointless and counterproductive to me, never mind the methodological problems or the nauseatingly partisan, divisive, and moralizing terms in which it is pursued. It has all the promise and potential of its state socialist predecessors.

    Reply
    • Left-libertarianism is what happens when Trustifarians are treated as serious thinkers.

      Reply
  • I was tempted to stop reading this post at the point where you tried to poison the well with the false and tendentious Labor Theory of Value claim.

    Glad I didn’t stop. Interesting piece. But you should probably excise the LTV thing, since it has nothing whatsoever to do with any of your subsequent arguments and just makes you look like an asshole.

    Reply
    • Tom, thanks for the compliments, but I fail to see how you justify your asshole charge. The left is confused and all over the map. Don’t blame me for trying to understand their vague theories. You’re free to correct where I’m wrong–in fact trying to state the view of a vague adversary is sometimes an attempt to get them to clarify exactly what the hell they are talking about. Instead of attacking me for attacking bullshit views, why not criticize your fellow travelers for having bullshit views?

      Reply
      • Stephan,
        I didn’t think I was unclear:
        Your “Labor Theory of Value” paragraph simply has no place in this piece. Apart from falsely characterizing the LTV as universally characteristic of left-libertarians (which is apparently its intent), it serves no function whatsoever. It neither introduces nor illuminates any of the subsequent material.

        Reply
        • Well it’s just a blog post. I can only do so much. No time to write a 60 page piece rebutting all the confusions and setting all this straight.

          Reply
          • Stephan,
            Well, that’s kind of the point.
            You didn’t throw in a paragraph falsely claiming all left-libertarians prefer pistachio ice cream.
            Or a paragraph falsely claiming all left-libertarians practice bestiality.
            Why throw in the false LTV claim, since it has nothing to do with the piece?

          • If I said left-libs liked pistachio, it would either be obviously false–or you could simply refute it by denying it, and making me look like a fool. Instead of criticizing my chutzpah of having a paragraph about pistachio. If you had a post where you said Kinsella’s problems is he hates the Japanese, I would simply deny this. Note that you have not denied my LTV claims. Do they not inform the hoary economic views of some left-libertarians, e.g. the nonsense about exploitation and employers etc.? INstead of focusing on meta-nonsense, why not just set me straight? Show that the paragraph is wrong instead of doing an 11th grade teacher’s version of a critique of the placement of a paragraph? Because I think you are acting like you are just doing a formalist critique, but it’s standing in place of a substantive one–which is just equivocation of another type.

          • Stephan,
            You just changed the claim to “some” left-libertarians. The original claim was universal in scope. I can prove the original claim wrong with two four-word sentences:
            I am a left libertarian. I am an Austrian subjectivist.
            QED, not all left libertarians are LTV supporters.
            All that said, my objection is less that the claim is false than that it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything in the rest of the piece. It’s as relevant to the question you’re addressing as the pistachio or bestality claims would be, which is to say not relevant at all.

          • Tom:

            You just changed the claim to “some” left-libertarians. The original claim was universal in scope.

            I don’t remember making it universal. But if it was, I would agree that it is wrong insofar as some self-described “left-libertarians” reject this hoary doctrine. Okayyy. But then, you would need to carefully and rigorously define what ‘left-libertarian” means.

            I am a left libertarian. I am an Austrian subjectivist.
            QED, not all left libertarians are LTV supporters.

            Okay. I am glad.
            So, may I assume you join me in rejecting the LTV views of the other left-libs?

            All that said, my objection is less that the claim is false than that it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything in the rest of the piece.

            Right–so it’s like an editor’s comment. THanks, and as I said, it was jsut a blog post.

            blockquote> It’s as relevant to the question you’re addressing as the pistachio or bestality claims would be, which is to say not relevant at all.

            IT seems to me that what is relevant is substantive truth and accuracy, not the “appropriateness” of the placement of a given commentary.

          • “may I assume you join me in rejecting the LTV views of the other left-libs?”
            I reject all variants of the Labor Theory of Value of which I am aware, regardless of whom is advocating for said theory.
            “Value” is entirely subjective. What is something worth? Whatever it’s worth to the person valuing it.
            Even the instrument of “price” doesn’t reflect some imaginary “objective” value. All that can be said about the price of an unsold item is that it reflects at least the lowest value its would-be seller places on it, and that nobody’s come along yet who places a higher value than that on it. All that can be said about price of a sold item is that it sold for at or more than the lowest value the seller placed on it, and for at or less than the highest value the buyer placed on it.

          • I reject all variants of the Labor Theory of Value of which I am aware, regardless of whom is advocating for said theory.
            “Value” is entirely subjective. What is something worth? Whatever it’s worth to the person valuing it.”

            I am glad you say this, but elsewhere you said:

            Energy and the direction of it (“action”) are scarce resources, and I own some of them by virtue of having created them from other scarce resources (e.g. food) which I homesteaded or otherwise honestly acquired.
            Since I own them, I can sell them. And in a wage labor scenario, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

            This implies, I am afraid, that you “own” your “labor” and its “results”.

          • I certainly own my labor — unless I sell it. And if I sell it, its results go with it.

          • Knapp: “I certainly own my labor — unless I sell it. And if I sell it, its results go with it.”

            You do not own your labor. Labor is just an action. Do you “own” your actions? This is absurd. And this is exactly why I detect even in your side of the left-libs a latent labor theory of value: you adhere to this nonsensical metaphor, and use it to say that you own your labor “and” the “results” that “go with it”. Hmm, who does this sound like? Marx? Yup.

            This is all metaphorical, non-rigorous, liberal arts confusion.

  • Kinsella: “The problem with this theory is the assumption that in a private law society, “shareholders” should be vicariously liable for the negligence of others.”

    Let’s not use the word “shareholder.” Let’s call the stockholder what he is: the (or, an) owner. There is nothing vicarious about the damage caused by the (an) owner of anything, whether it be a dangerous pit bull or a dangerous corporation, such as a nuclear-power generating corporation.

    Kinsella: “We have to recognize that the prima facie answer—the default condition—is no: each person is responsible only for his own torts, not for those of others. To hold someone else liable requires some kind of “vicarious liability” theory. ”

    The pit bull can’t pay, so his owner is responsible. Same with the owners of corporations. No need for any “vicarious liability” theory because there is nothing vicarious about the relationship nor the liability of an owner for his pit bull or her corporation. There is no “vicarious liability” theory involved because there is no “someone else.” There is only the owner.

    Kinsella: “But holding employers—or shareholders—vicariously liable for actions of their employees relies on the offensive, paternalistic, feudalistic concept of respondeat superior—a master is responsible for his slaves’ or servants’ transgressions. As Hessen notes, this is just a vestige of the medieval mentality. Why would a shareholder be liable for actions of some employee?”

    What is offensive is this is that this statement is deceptive and utter nonsense. The agent-principal relationship is alive and well in law and in relationships recognized as such throughout the world. It is ancient, of course, but most truths are, and modern lawyers are as unable to refute them as were their medieval predecessors down through the ages. Why didn’t the author or Hessen use this modern, non-offensive, non-paternalistic, non-feudalistic term? And since you repeat the same unjustified assertions over and over, let me also be repetitive: We are not talking about a “stockholder” liability for “some employee,” what the author is talking about is an owner’s responsibility for his or her potentially dangerous property or operation. The author would incise the owner from his property, but the ownership of property (viz., private property) is crucial to every libertarian theory I have ever encountered.

    Kinsella: “On the other hand…he may have bought the share from a previous shareholder. ”

    This is a silly argument. Whether one bought the pit bull as a puppy or a trained fighting dog is immaterial to our owner’s relationship to the property.

    Kinsella: ” They assume that giving money to the corporation is akin to “aiding and abetting it…”

    This is a strawman, one of so many in this article that I can’t even begin to count them let alone address them all. For this one let me just say, no one need assume anything of the sort, and I doubt anyone so assumes. No owner (stockholder) of a business “gives” it money. An owner either creates the business by an initial investing, or buys it as a going concern. Obviously how ownership is obtained has no affect whatsoever on the pit bull’s behavior nor on whether or not the reactor core melts during a tsunami. Nor does this point have any place in a *rational* argument. Like the argument in total, it is a lawyer-like attempt to ameliorate if not eliminate the personal responsibility involved in human action upon which liberty utterly depends.

    If I were to characterize the argument in this article, as it characterizes any imagined opposing view, the kindest thing I could say is that it is silly. Not only is personal responsibility compatible with libertarian theory, it is the ultimate foundation of liberty. The author’s attempt to relieve owners of responsibility for their pit bulls or their dangerous operations engaged in for profit is essentially an attack on individual liberty in the manner of a lawyer defending a losing cause with one frivolous argument piled upon another until the judge finally orders her to “shut up.”

    I could pick the rest of the article apart straw man by indirect ad hominem aimed at whoever might have the temerity to oppose this sanctimonious view, but suffice to say again that the only “vicarious” relationship is a figment of a creative imagination. And if my counter to this diatribe should be characterized as left-libertarian, I would have to classify this article as pure statist, but that would be adopting the methodology of this author’s endeavor to oppose personal responsibility and the individual liberty resulting therefrom.

    There are other good reasons why corporations, which are purely products of State legislation, are harmful to liberty not addressed by the article. One big one is the so-called “legal fiction,” which holds that corporations are “persons” for the purpose of standing in legal proceedings. As a direct result of this fiction, many court rulings (including those of the Supreme Court) have been made in cases wherein the parties were the State and a corporation which established important precedents, which precedents were later applied to cases involving the State and individuals as though the latter were equivalent to corporations and without the human rights that can only be claimed by individuals. An example of this is the famous case of Brushaber vs. Union Pacific Railroad (http://laws.lp.findlaw.com/getcase/us/240/1.html), in which SCOTUS declared that the newly enacted federal income tax did not violate the Constitution as claimed in that case and therefor Union Pacific must pay it. From then (1916) until the present, that case has been cited in lower federal courts as having determined that the income tax was constitutional. It has been cited as precedent to deflect thousands of cases of individuals who have tried to challenge the constitutionality of the income tax as applied by the IRS against them, even though Brushaber never even considered the constitutionality of the income tax as applied to real individuals who are not legal fictions created by State legislation.

    The State and corporations are so intimately tied to one another that defending the latter is virtually defending the State and its illicit powers, without which no corporation has ever existed.

    Mr. Kinsella, I’ve embraced your arguments in opposition to intellectual property. IMHO, in this case you’re case falls flat.

    Reply
    • “The pit bull can’t pay, so his owner is responsible. Same with the owners of corporations. No need for any “vicarious liability” theory because there is nothing vicarious about the relationship nor the liability of an owner for his pit bull or her corporation. There is no “vicarious liability” theory involved because there is no “someone else.” There is only the owner.”

      I do not think this is quite accurate. The corporation is not an entity, like a pit bull is not an entity. It is a bunch of people associating with one another by contract. A pit bull is owned, yes. It has no rights and no responsibilities. The people forming a corporation, however, are not owned by the owners of the corporation. Why would they be shielded from the consequences of their own actions?

      Reply
    • I think you should read the articles NSK cites because you seem to have some misunderstandings of what is involved.

      First off, a corporation can be viewed as a network of contractual relationships. No action by the state is required, and in some other legal systems there is no special state sanction of the corporation. Furthermore, when you look at what the actual contracts have to be, the shareholders are legally no different from any other creditor. They aren’t true owners. The only reason we call them the owners is because of historic quirks in our legal system’s history.

      There’s a marked difference between owning a dangerous piece of property and owning shares in a corporation — in the former case, a person has complete control over the thing in question because this is what ownership mean. In the latter, a person is a party to various and sundry contracts and has only as much control and say as those contracts allow.

      As for your claims that respondeat superior liability is widely recognized, I will point out that being in widespread use today does not make it right. Plenty of other legal systems get by fine without the concept. Some of those systems would even say that a person is not liable for paying someone else to commit an intentional tort against another person!

      In short, you shouldn’t be so dismissive of NSK’s arguments. He’s well read on this subject and knows what he’s talking about. Look into his sources and go beyond the overview presented here. I think you’ll come around to NSK’s view here just like you came around on IP.

      Reply
    • “Ned,” I replied already, as follows, to your similar comment on Mises:

      Kinsella: “The problem with this theory is the assumption that in a private law society, “shareholders” should be vicariously liable for the negligence of others.”

      Let’s not use the word “shareholder.” Let’s call the stockholder what he is: the (or, an) owner.

      Well you are just buying into the state’s classifications. Who says he “is” an “owner”? Ownership is the right to control. What resource does he have the right to control?

      There is nothing vicarious about the damage caused by the (an) owner of anything, whether it be a dangerous pit bull or a dangerous corporation, such as a nuclear-power generating corporation.

      well if you call him an owner, as the state says, I guess you are done! How convenient for you. And why, again, does the right to control a resource imply that you are responsible for harms caused with that resource being used as a causal means? I realize you just want to rely on this without justifying it –but bear with me–how do you know this?

      Kinsella: “We have to recognize that the prima facie answer—the default condition—is no: each person is responsible only for his own torts, not for those of others. To hold someone else liable requires some kind of “vicarious liability” theory. ”

      The pit bull can’t pay, so his owner is responsible.

      Is your chauffer or delivery man your property? do you own him?

      Same with the owners of corporations. No need for any “vicarious liability” theory because there is nothing vicarious about the relationship nor the liability of an owner for his pit bull or her corporation.

      Again, you are speaking simplistically. Did you read my post? I explained the problems with assuming ownership implies liability. And in any case, the owner of a corporation owns property, not people. Helloooo

      There is no “vicarious liability” theory involved because there is no “someone else.” There is only the owner.

      So…. if a fedex truck driver runs you over, he is not really there?

      Kinsella: “But holding employers—or shareholders—vicariously liable for actions of their employees relies on the offensive, paternalistic, feudalistic concept of respondeat superior—a master is responsible for his slaves’ or servants’ transgressions. As Hessen notes, this is just a vestige of the medieval mentality. Why would a shareholder be liable for actions of some employee?”

      What is offensive is this is that this statement is deceptive and utter nonsense. The agent-principal relationship is alive and well in law and in relationships recognized as such throughout the world.

      Well that settles it, then! Let’s hang up libertarian theorizing–the “world” has “established” the “right way” to proceed!

      We are not talking about a “stockholder” liability for “some employee,” what the author is talking about is an owner’s responsibility for his or her potentially dangerous property or operation.

      Ah, well when you put it that way it’s all settled! Wow.

      Kinsella: “On the other hand…he may have bought the share from a previous shareholder. ”

      This is a silly argument. Whether one bought the pit bull as a puppy or a trained fighting dog is immaterial to our owner’s relationship to the property.

      So… owning a piece of paper that represents a legal title to a sliver of a legal claim to the assets of a firm upon dissolution is … “dangerous”, “like” a pit bull? Wow.

      Kinsella: ” They assume that giving money to the corporation is akin to “aiding and abetting it…”

      This is a strawman

      It’s not a strawman at all. Since you ignorami cannot even articulate a coherent explanation of how corporations work much less what is your theory of rights or liability or causation, I am tyring to help you out by charitably articulating your implicit views for you.

      No owner (stockholder) of a business “gives” it money. An owner either creates the business by an initial investing, or buys it as a going concern.

      This sounds like an amateur observation by a clueless grad student in a dorm room session bullshitting about stuff they have no clue about. With David Letterman playing in the background, and the whiff of Mary Jane from the suite-mate next door. Good for you! But when you buy a share of Exxon stock from a previous owner, using the stock market to facilitate the exchange, how do you “buy it”?–and what is “it?”; as a “going concern”–and pray tell, what is the relevance of GAAP terminology like “going concern” to libertarian theory? methinks you are utterly clueless.

      Reply
      • Kinsella, if the shareholder is not the owner, then who is?

        The fundamental issue is one of responsibility – not just legal, but (dare I say it) moral.

        With a “private” individual, generally, s/he is the owner, and s/he is responsible for their or their business’s actions. Responsible in law, but also, responsible as a member of a social group.

        The corporation is a legal fiction, stemming from one off investments in colonial times, where the shareholder could lose only what s/he invested. The ensuing imperialism, based primarily on the profit motive, led to some horrendous outcomes, many of which the world is still, indirectly, dealing with (I am not claiming that ‘only’ corporations were responsible but they played a significant role).
        We look for someone to blame, to take responsibility for actions that cause harm to others. When a corporation is the face of that blame, it rarely suffers as a private individual would. Even something as seemingly insignificant as social stigma can have a heavy effect on an individual and the way the rest of society relates to them – conversely, a corporation can perform a whitewash, pay off some directors and replace them. It is harder for an individual to do this, “finding God” may work once with one or two people but, generally ‘man’ is viewed by their actions. The corporation can blame previous corporate culture (ie the actual “real” people) and continue on with little real consequences after time.
        If Dr Evil is responsible for forcing native Australians into slavery to ensure profits in his pearl diving industry, Dr Evil may well have his life shortened by someone who cares (I am being extreme only to stress a point). The Dutch East India company will simply replace their pearl diving manager with another individual who will likely carry on the same business practices.
        Netterville was more thorough in his analysis of your paper, and I find his points compelling. I have tried to limit my position, to this single point of “responsibility and consequences”.

        Reply
    • If I may, the use of the word “stock holder” implies the original means of investment, to “buy” a portion of the “stock” being sold, and thus to gain some of that portion of the profits.

      Nothing what so ever about ownership of the company.

      It is likely that, rather than “shares”, a firm seeking investment could sell bonds. In effect, claims upon future profits without any claim of ownership.

      I’m quite curious why the shift occurred, to the assumption now that stockholders always exercise ownership privileges, rather than a “share” of the “stock”.

      Reply
  • “Who says [the shareholder] ‘is’ an ‘owner?’ Ownership is the right to control. What resource does he have the right to control?”
    A share of stock in a corporation is an undivided ownership interest in the assets of that corporation.
    Because it’s an undivided interest among many, control is exercised through collective instrumentalities, and there are options for exercising more control (common stock) or less control (preferred stock) as compared to other owners of interest, but the claim that control is not exercised is absurd.
    “Is your chauffer or delivery man your property? do you own him?”
    I own his work — that’s what employment is.

    Reply
    • “Who says [the shareholder] ‘is’ an ‘owner?’ Ownership is the right to control. What resource does he have the right to control?”
      A share of stock in a corporation is an undivided ownership interest in the assets of that corporation.

      That’s how the state’s positive law classifies it. So what? Is it libertarian? Is it accurate? Do I, as a Google share owner, have a right to use the HQ for a meeting or the google corporate jet for transportation?

      In any case: you guys seem wedded to the conventional notion that if you own something you “are” “responsible” for “it”. Why? This is not libertarian. Ownerhip is the right to control. It does not mean you are responsible for anything involving those means, unless you employ them as means.

      Because it’s an undivided interest among many, control is exercised through collective instrumentalities, and there are options for exercising more control (common stock) or less control (preferred stock) as compared to other owners of interest, but the claim that control is not exercised is absurd.

      Well I don’t think Rothbard, Pilon, and Hessen’s careful arguments about this are absurd.

      “Is your chauffer or delivery man your property? do you own him?”
      I own his work — that’s what employment is.

      Nonsense. You are in thrall to imprecise and metaphorical–maybe leftish?–concepts. No one owns “work”. Not the worker, not the employer. Work is just an action. You don’t own your actions. This is nonsense. It leads to confusion and imprecision. You own your body. Period. Not your “work”.

      Reply
      • Stephan,
        Like you say, ownership is the right to control.
        You have the right to control — in other words you own — your actions.
        The employer-worker relationship is an agreed transfer, on given terms, of ownership of the right to control certain of one’s actions, e.g. “from 9am to 5pm, Monday thru Friday, my hands will be doing what YOU want them to be doing rather than what I’d otherwise have them doing, in return for which you shall pay me $X.”

        Reply
        • Tom, I can see why you would view it this way, but it is confused. Ownership is the right to control–what? A scarce resource. Nonscarce resources need no “control.” What you have the right to control is your BODY, a scarce resource, and other previously-unowned scarce resources that you either homesteaded, or acquired from a previous homesteader or his assignee-in-title.

          Owning your body, combined with your natural ability to control it, gives you the right to choose what actions to perform. It is confused to say you have a right to control your body AND a right to control your actions; this is double counting. If you own your body this gives you the practical right to control your actions but this description is unnecessary and confusing. All I need is to have a right to control my body, and any resources I homestead or contractually acquire. Then I can use them as I see fit. The right to use them as I see fit is just a consequence of my basic ownership right. Stating that consequential right as a primary right gives rise to confusion.

          The employer-worker relationship is an agreed transfer, on given terms, of ownership of the right to control certain of one’s actions, e.g. “from 9am to 5pm, Monday thru Friday, my hands will be doing what YOU want them to be doing rather than what I’d otherwise have them doing, in return for which you shall pay me $X.”

          I disagree completely. First, the employment relationship is NOT one of slavery. The employer does NOT own the employee. HE does NOT own the employee’s body, or time, or actions. Rather, he transfers title to money on the condition that the employee use his body to perform certain specified actions. The employee’s ability to control his body, combined with his legally recognized right to his body, gives him the legal and practical ability to decide to perform an action to trigger the payment, or to withold services to induce the employer to enter into the bargain. IN short: the employment agreement is a one-way transfer of title: of money, which is conditionally transferred upon a certain specified triggering condition (which happens to be an action the employee can perform). But the action is not owned by either the employee or employer.

          Right?

          Reply
          • Stephan,
            I find your elaborate construction more confusing than my simpler one.
            Energy and the direction of it (“action”) are scarce resources, and I own some of them by virtue of having created them from other scarce resources (e.g. food) which I homesteaded or otherwise honestly acquired.
            Since I own them, I can sell them. And in a wage labor scenario, that’s exactly what I’m doing.
            As an example, when I worked at a factory where boat trailers were built, I was not selling the factory owner X trailers per day. Sometimes I came to work and was put to work loading trailers onto trucks for shipment. Sometimes I came to work and was put to work on the assembly line, hanging trailer parts on racks to be run through a paint sprayer and oven. One time, for about two weeks, I came to work and was told to get in a minivan and pull this or that trailer to this or that boat factory so that the fit between prototype boat and prototype trailer could be tested. The result of my work and the work of others was X trailers, but that’s not what the employer was buying from me. He was buying the use of my body and my energy at his direction for a set period of time.
            As a side note, I don’t consider commodification of labor or the wage system to be inherently exploitative in some evil way as some left libertarians seem to. I suspect that the incidence of wage labor would go down, and its price up, in a freed market, but my toes would still be tapping if that were not the case.

          • Tom,

            I find your elaborate construction more confusing than my simpler one.

            Okayyy… but… so? this is an irrelevant comment, and distracts from substance.

            Energy and the direction of it (“action”) are scarce resources, and I own some of them by virtue of having created them from other scarce resources (e.g. food) which I homesteaded or otherwise honestly acquired.

            No you don’t. This is all confusion and liberal arts metaphorical nonsense. You don’t own energy, or the “direction of it”. Now you wonder why I accused you guys of falling prey to a version of the labor theory of value.

            Since I own them, I can sell them.

            Wrong. This does not follow at all. A huge confusion. Owning something does not mean you can sell it: for example your body (or do you believe in voluntary slavery?!).

            And selling something does not mean you own it: You do not own your actions but you do own your body which gives you the ability to perform, or withhold, certain actiosn and thus “exchange” or “sell” them for payment.

            “And in a wage labor scenario, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

            No, it is not “exactly” what you are doing at all. In a wage labor “scenario,” you are simply using your rights over your body to induce an employer to agree to transfer title to money to you if you perform certain actions. That is all. It is a one-way transfer of title. There is no *legal* exchange.

            As an example, when I worked at a factory where boat trailers were built, I was not selling the factory owner X trailers per day.

            Right: legally speaking you were not “selling” anything, since you did not part with title to anything that you owned. How hard is this to grok?

            Sometimes I came to work and was put to work loading trailers onto trucks for shipment. Sometimes I came to work and was put to work on the assembly line, hanging trailer parts on racks to be run through a paint sprayer and oven. One time, for about two weeks, I came to work and was told to get in a minivan and pull this or that trailer to this or that boat factory so that the fit between prototype boat and prototype trailer could be tested. The result of my work and the work of others was X trailers, but that’s not what the employer was buying from me. He was buying the use of my body and my energy at his direction for a set period of time.

            Economically, he gave you title to his money, in “exchange” for getting “what he wanteD” which was your “doing X”. But that does not mean you owned X, or that you transferred title to X or to “doing X” to him. This is just a confusion. You guys really need to read Rothbard’s title transfer theory of contract. Sheesh.

            As a side note, I don’t consider commodification of labor or the wage system to be inherently exploitative in some evil way as some left libertarians seem to.

            I don’t either, but I really don’t care if it is, since “exploitation” is not aggression, and thus exploitation, whatever this means, is not a rights violation.

          • Talking about selling my labor or action is absurd. My labor and actions are not a finite resource and I can reproduce them on a whim at no real cost to myself or anyone else as often as I choose to. My time, however, is an extremely scarce resource. I’ve always looked at employment as selling 8 hours of my day to an Employer, who then dictates how I am to utilize my time. Austrians talk about the value of time constantly, and I think this makes for a more rational understanding of wages.

          • > You don’t own energy, or the “direction of it”

            Really? Then who does? This is a little like the anti-IP position in which only physical property is subject to “ownership.” Such a position totally denies the common-sense idea that plagiarism is unethical.

            Clearly, there are different flavors of “ownership,” but the idea that the work product of personal energy expenditure is somehow divorced from the person expending it, I find totally nonsensical.

            I’m certainly willing to consider any clarifying theory, though. Especially as it might help sort out a simple, ethically actionable common denominator for various kinds of ownership.

          • No one owns “your energy”. It’s not an ownable thing. Likewise you do not own your actions, your love for chocolate, your memories, or your jogging.

          • Why are you putting “energy” in quotes? Energy is a real thing. The idea that it can’t be owned is really quite novel, IMO.

          • There is a problem leftists seem to have with linguistic precision. I have read many libertarian-left attacks on, for example, Misesian rationality that start out with “It ignores the irrational elements like whims and emotion and social pressure”, etc. I get the feeling that they don’t even CARE what they are talking about, as long as they can pick up stinky hipster women.

  • Stephan,
    How else would one interpret relationships within an institution created by state fiat than with reference to “the state’s positive law?” Get rid of the state’s positive law and the corporation doesn’t exist, so the question goes away.
    The right-libertarian argument that criticism of corporations are illegitimate since institutions like corporations might come into existence absent the state is like arguing that since some other economic actor in some other economic system might produce a car like the Volvo 740 wagon, it’s illegitimate to complain about the seat-warmer in my actual 740 wagon not working.

    Reply
    • Tom, you are a citizen now because the state grants you this status. If the state disappeared does that mean you would not exist? No. You would still be Tom Knapp, human, but you would not have the state status of “citizen.”

      Same with corporations. At present they are companies, or firms, that receive a certain entity status from the state. Remove state incorporation and they remain companies with shareholders, employees, assets, products, contracts, customers. The company would exist. Amazon Inc. would now be Amazon LLP or Amazon Firm or whatever. So what?

      Reply
      • “Tom, you are a citizen now”
        How is it that you think you know that?
        “Same with corporations. At present they are companies, or firms, that receive a certain entity status from the state. Remove state incorporation and they remain companies with shareholders, employees, assets, products, contracts, customers. The company would exist. Amazon Inc. would now be Amazon LLP or Amazon Firm or whatever.”
        Agreed. Companies absent state privilege would still be companies — companies without state privilege.
        “So what?”
        Yup.

        Reply
        • How do I konw you are a citizen? Well I guess you sound American. Are you not?

          In any case, the point holds.

          Reply
          • “How do I know you are a citizen?”
            You don’t.

  • “You don’t own energy, or the ‘direction of it.’”
    Cool. Thanks for resolving that. Now that I know that, I’m just going to scrawl “you didn’t own those 667 kilowatt hours that I used last month, or the direction of them to my breaker box, so I’m not paying you for them” on my bill from Ameren UE instead of paying it.
    “Owning something does not mean you can sell it: for example your body (or do you believe in voluntary slavery?!).”
    No, I don’t believe in voluntary slavery any more than I believe in dry water. If it’s voluntary, it isn’t slavery. And if I can’t sell something, I don’t own it.

    Reply
    • Knapp:

      “You don’t own energy, or the ‘direction of it.’”
      Cool. Thanks for resolving that. Now that I know that, I’m just going to scrawl “you didn’t own those 667 kilowatt hours that I used last month, or the direction of them to my breaker box, so I’m not paying you for them” on my bill from Ameren UE instead of paying it.

      This is eristic. This sarcasm proves nothing. Today’s contract law is based on the idea of binding promises backed by consideration, for one. So who cares about what current law is? Are we legal positivists? Second, the contract can be viewed as a single unilateral title transfer from customer to “Ameren” [I assume this is some yankee utility company]: I hereby transfer $x to you IF such-and-such event happens (where the event may be: provision of certain kilowatts of electricity; it could aslo be: “if it rains tomorrow,” which does not mean either party “owns” the rain).

      “Owning something does not mean you can sell it: for example your body (or do you believe in voluntary slavery?!).”
      No, I don’t believe in voluntary slavery any more than I believe in dry water. If it’s voluntary, it isn’t slavery.

      Evasion. The question in libertarian circles is whether a contract to sell your body into slavery is legally enforceable. Your trite formulation in your last sentence sounds like that of a politician, and does not answer the issue.

      And if I can’t sell something, I don’t own it.

      This is nonsense. Ownership means right to control. It is not obvious that the right to control implies the “rihgt to sell”. This is yet another assumption unbacked by anything but inchoate intuition and not carefully squared with other libertarian property rights principles.

      Reply
      • “The question in libertarian circles is whether a contract to sell your body into slavery is legally enforceable.”
        Whether or not something is “legally enforceable” is, as you’ve pointed out numerous times, irrelevant to whether or not it is a right.
        If I (voluntarily) contract to sell my body, it’s not slavery, any more than if I (voluntarily) contract to sell something else I own it’s robbery.
        Slavery is involuntary servitude.
        “It is not obvious that the right to control implies the ‘right to sell.’ ”
        The right to control does not imply the right to sell, it subsume it. The specific activity of “selling” is an instance of the broader category of activities of “controlling.”

        Reply
        • “The question in libertarian circles is whether a contract to sell your body into slavery is legally enforceable.”
          Whether or not something is “legally enforceable” is, as you’ve pointed out numerous times, irrelevant to whether or not it is a right.

          Correct. I should have said, whether it ought to be legally enforceable.

          If I (voluntarily) contract to sell my body, it’s not slavery, any more than if I (voluntarily) contract to sell something else I own it’s robbery.
          Slavery is involuntary servitude.

          the contract is not slavery, but enforcing it might be. You are aware of the debate in this area, right? And you realize most libertarians do not believe a contract to sell your body ought not be enforceable, right? And I would think almost no left-libertarians think voluntary slavery agreements ought to be legally enforceable.

          To enforce a slavery contract the master would need to be able to legitimately use force against the slave’s body, if the slave tried to run away, if he tried to change his mind. At that point, it would be involuntary–that is, not consented to. Your argumet would then be, “no no, he consented earlier, and that consent…. is somehow irrevocable.” Your argument relies on this last key step: saying that an earlier grant of permission cannot be undone; that you cannot change your mind. BUt where does libertarianism say this? Suppose a girl consents to a kiss. THe guy kisses her. It’s not a battery, since it’s consented to. What if she says, “You may kiss me anytime you like, from now to the end of time!” and so the guy plants a kiss on her at random times, every day, over the following week. Then one day she gets upset with him, and says, “Don’t you ever kiss me!” If he kisses her now, it is not with her consent. Why not? Because she changed her mind. Because when an action is to be performed that uses the body or property of, or that changes the physical integrity of, or that crosses the borders of, someone else, the question is of course: at the time of the use, is it consented to or not? And so that is just a question of proof and evidence and communication: if the person just said 3 seconds ago “go ahead” then we reasonably assume that he is consenting now. That is, the previous communication serves as evidence that this is a standing order or standing presumption he has set up, that persists until the moment of use. In the kissing example the girl’s consent given a week earlier persists into the future, as a default presumption of what her consent is at the time of each kissing act. Yet that is only because she has not changed this default assumption with a new communication.

          If I step into the boxing ring to box you, we both consent to blows. If I say I will box you tomorrow, but then 5 seconds before stepping into the ring I get cold feet, you can’t physically drag me into the ring so that you can hit me.

          Same with a guy who promises to be a slave. So long as he does not object to following orders or letting the master hit him, no problem; but when he changes his mind, at that point, he is no longer consenting.

          “It is not obvious that the right to control implies the ‘right to sell.’ ”
          The right to control does not imply the right to sell, it subsume it. The specific activity of “selling” is an instance of the broader category of activities of “controlling.”

          I don’t think you’ve thought this through. You’re assuming that an contingent incident of one type of ownership is an essential feature of ownership per se. Ownership means the legal right to control. That does not imply the right to get rid of the right to control. I have explained this in detail elsewhere, e.g. http://blog.mises.org/18608/the-relation-between-the-non-aggression-principle-and-property-rights-a-response-to-division-by-zer0/ and http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/17_2/17_2_2.pdf . When you, as a body-owning agent, use your rightful control over your body to engage in the action of appropriating some previously-unowned and unused external scarce resource, then you become its owner by homesteading. This type of ownership can obviously be undone by the nature of its origin: an acquired thing can be un-acquired, or abandoned. The right to abandon it gives rise to the ability to sell it, since you can abandon it “to” a given recipient. Thus, the nature of ownership of acquired things means that you can, in fact, sell or give away the thing. However, the same is not true of the nature of ownership of our bodies, since we do not acquire our bodies by homesteading, in the same way; there is no original act of body-appropriation to “undo”. You own your body because of your intimate connection with it, not because you homesteaded it.

          Thus, ownership does not imply the right to sell.

          Reply
          • “the contract is not slavery, but enforcing it might be.”
            Only if the contract is defective in some respect.
            “You are aware of the debate in this area, right?”
            I’m aware of the existence of discussions in this area, and of their content. Characterizing those discussions as “debate” seems to be to me taking it a little far, given the crystal clarity of the matter. If it’s a voluntary contract, it’s not slavery, period.
            “And you realize most libertarians do not believe a contract to sell your body ought not be enforceable, right?”
            No, I was not aware of that. And I’m still not.
            “And I would think almost no left-libertarians think voluntary slavery agreements ought to be legally enforceable.”
            Since there’s no such thing as “voluntary slavery agreements” (if it’s a voluntary agreement, it’s not slavery), I suspect you’re right.
            “To enforce a slavery contract the master would need to be able to legitimately use force against the slave’s body, if the slave tried to run away, if he tried to change his mind.”
            Except that there’s no slave or master involved in the scenario. Your statement is the equivalent of “To enforce a contract under which one party was entitled to a television, that party would need to be able to legitimately use force against anyone trying to take the television, if someone tried to take the television, or if the party who owed and had delivered the television tried to steal it back.”
            Which, of course, is in fact that case and is hunky dory in anything resembling rational libertarian theory.
            “At that point, it would be involuntary–that is, not consented to.”
            Only in the same sense that it would be “involuntary” for you to keep the television that you offered me $100 for, that I accepted $100 for, and that you now possess.
            ” Your argumet would then be, “no no, he consented earlier, and that consent…. is somehow irrevocable.’”
            Whether or not the consent is revocable is a matter of the terms of the contract.
            “Your argument relies on this last key step: saying that an earlier grant of permission cannot be undone”
            I’m not saying that NO earlier grant of permission can be undone. I’m saying that a binding contract without provisions for its undoing can’t be done at the whim of one party.
            You can’t have it both ways. Either you own your body, or you don’t. If you own it, then it is your property, and absent some convincing proof otherwise, the rules that apply to property in general apply to it specifically.
            “If I step into the boxing ring to box you, we both consent to blows. If I say I will box you tomorrow, but then 5 seconds before stepping into the ring I get cold feet, you can’t physically drag me into the ring so that you can hit me.”
            Actually, whether or not I can do that depends on the terms of any contract we have or don’t have pertaining to the matter.
            “Same with a guy who promises to be a slave. So long as he does not object to following orders or letting the master hit him, no problem; but when he changes his mind, at that point, he is no longer consenting.”
            And it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s “consenting.” If he’s sold his body, his body no longer belongs to him, so his consent or non-consent is irrelevant.

          • “the contract is not slavery, but enforcing it might be.”
            Only if the contract is defective in some respect.

            I think you don’t realize how much you are taking for granted and that you are reversing things, assuming too much. Contract is not a source of rights, as you are implicitly thinking of it; it is just a transfer of title to alienable property. Rothbard wrote on this in Ethics of Liberty. You could profit from reading it. This means that you can only transfer title to things that are alienable. You can’t assume it’s alienable because you make a contract. That’s question-begging. It’s frustrating you can’t see this. You can’t just make these mainstream-ish pronouncements relying on legal doctrines as if it settles it. You are just engaged in question-begging, because you apparently cannot even see that you are doing it.

            “You are aware of the debate in this area, right?”
            I’m aware of the existence of discussions in this area, and of their content. Characterizing those discussions as “debate” seems to be to me taking it a little far, given the crystal clarity of the matter. If it’s a voluntary contract, it’s not slavery, period.

            It’s not crystal clear at all, and you are just being obstinate here. Talk to your fellow libertarians, man. This is an empirical matter, but I’d be willing to put some money on it.

            “And you realize most libertarians do not believe a contract to sell your body ought not be enforceable, right?”
            No, I was not aware of that. And I’m still not.

            Well, then I think you are a bit clueless. Ask around.

            “And I would think almost no left-libertarians think voluntary slavery agreements ought to be legally enforceable.”
            Since there’s no such thing as “voluntary slavery agreements” (if it’s a voluntary agreement, it’s not slavery), I suspect you’re right.

            I cannot debate you on this if you are going to pettifog. You konw what i’m talking about. This is eristic and not serious, Tom. We are not really having a semantic debate, are we? If so, I’m not interested.

            “To enforce a slavery contract the master would need to be able to legitimately use force against the slave’s body, if the slave tried to run away, if he tried to change his mind.”
            Except that there’s no slave or master involved in the scenario.

            This is such eristic nonsense. Put effing quotes around “slave” and “master” if you want. Are you just trying to evade serious discussion? If so, you are doing a good job.

            ” Your argumet would then be, “no no, he consented earlier, and that consent…. is somehow irrevocable.’”
            Whether or not the consent is revocable is a matter of the terms of the contract.

            You are qeustion begging again. Can you not see this? This is now how you establish your point dude. YOu can’t show that contract includes the power to sell or bind your body, by just asserting that if you make a contract with the right terms it is effective to do this. tHat is just restating your conclusion.

            I’m not saying that NO earlier grant of permission can be undone. I’m saying that a binding contract without provisions for its undoing can’t be done at the whim of one party.

            THe questio nis whether it is “binding”. You seem to be totally unfamiliar wiht the libertarian view of contract–again, i urge you to read rothbard’s ethics of liberty chapter on this. Contracts have nothing to do with “binding” promises. They are just transfers of title to alienable property. And you can’t prove that bodies are alienable propety just by saying that you can make a contract to bind yoursefl–this is a perfect case of question-begging, circular reasoning.

          • “Contract is not a source of rights, as you are implicitly thinking of it; it is just a transfer of title to alienable property.”
            I’m not thinking of contract as a source of rights, either explicitly or implicitly. Contract is merely an instrument. You can only contract with things you “own” — a word which we seem to agree means “have a right to control.”
            Which brings this whole discussion down to the notion of property as alienable or inalienable. I have never seen any good case for the existence of the latter.

          • “Contract is not a source of rights, as you are implicitly thinking of it; it is just a transfer of title to alienable property.”
            I’m not thinking of contract as a source of rights, either explicitly or implicitly.

            I think you are, when you characterize it as binding obligations.

            Contract is merely an instrument. You can only contract with things you “own” — a word which we seem to agree means “have a right to control.”

            But then you are question begging since you are assuming “right to control” implies “right to bind/alienate my future decisions about how to control”. It is question-begging, whether you see it or not. I am not saying you are wrong: there are good arguments for body-alienability. But you are not making them. You are question-begging. You apparently do not even see that your proposition is controversial and that you bear the burden of proof. You think it’s sufficient to hand-wave and spout statist legal positivistic legal doctrines as if that settles the issue. Sort of how the Civil War “settled” the issue of secession, I suppose.

            Which brings this whole discussion down to the notion of property as alienable or inalienable. I have never seen any good case for the existence of the latter.

            I believe that: you don’t seem to have read much in this area. I’ve given you resources: my articles, and many cites therein; Rothbard’s contract theory. You can handwave and pretend it’s simple, but you are wrong. And you are also wrong to think most libertarians would agree that a contract binding your body ought to be legally enforceable–or so I think: I’d bet good money on it. Find 5 of them. There’s you, Walter Block, and … crickets chirping.

          • “I am not saying you are wrong: there are good arguments for body-alienability. But you are not making them. You are question-begging. You apparently do not even see that your proposition is controversial and that you bear the burden of proof.”
            I most manifestly do NOT bear the burden of proof. We both agree that I own my body. If you think there’s something I shouldn’t be able to do with that which I own, it’s your job to prove that to me, not my job to prove it to you.
            As far as previously made arguments on the subject go, I’ve read some of them. I guess I’ll go re-read some of them, after looking back up the trail that we took into this dry hole to decide whether or not it’s worth it.

          • “I am not saying you are wrong: there are good arguments for body-alienability. But you are not making them. You are question-begging. You apparently do not even see that your proposition is controversial and that you bear the burden of proof.”
            I most manifestly do NOT bear the burden of proof. We both agree that I own my body. If you think there’s something I shouldn’t be able to do with that which I own, it’s your job to prove that to me, not my job to prove it to you.

            Again, you do not seem to see the issue. Yes, we agree you own your body. But that just means we agree that you have the right to decide who gets to use it. That is what we agree on. You are equivocating b/c you are saying we agree on ownership, but we only agree that you have the right to control your body; then you later use the ownership-means-right-to-sell meaning in an equivocating way.

            You are so stuck in conventional legal thinking that you cannot see your error. You think “ownership of COURSE means the ‘right to sell’”. But that is wrong.

            As far as previously made arguments on the subject go, I’ve read some of them. I guess I’ll go re-read some of them, after looking back up the trail that we took into this dry hole to decide whether or not it’s worth it.

            the “dry hole” is your arguing that we ought to be able to sell ourselves into slavery. sorry, “slavery.” Yeah, um, that’s really what will win over democrats to our side….

  • The purpose of a corporation is to serve a public interest. It is not to protect wealth or bestow privilege.
    If the people protesting the injustice (perceived or real) of Wall Street Billionaires continuing to fatten their pocketbooks at the direct expense of working people is offensive to you because it doesn’t meet your intellectual standards regarding their ‘corporate personhood’ argument, then I suppose there is no real harm in making an argument out of it and declaring yourself a winner. I think that you could just as easily make the argument that it is unlawful and immoral to use the power of government to deprive one class of people of their rights (property – through taxation) to protect another class’ property through this privilege.
    Do you not understand the damage that it does to all of us, our rights and our society to perpetuate the myth that what is good for corporations is good for the people? If not, I don’t think a thorough explanation will help.
    Balderdash!
    Rich

    Reply
    • This is a thoroughly mainstream and incoherent “argument”.

      Reply
      • Do you disagree that a corporation’s purpose is to serve a public interest?
        Or do you fail to understand its relevance to your argument?

        Reply
        • I disagree that you are saying anything coherent. You have no argument at all, just boring, vague bromides you learned in civics class in 7th grade.

          Reply
          • No, I learned that fact by reading the law.
            Perhaps you misunderstood.

          • “the law” at one point said negroes were slaves and we should imprison Japanese Americans in concentration camps. What is the possible relevance of what the state’s “law” is?

          • Your question regarding the possible relevance of state law is a good one [in general], and I’d like to see it addressed on its own with a fresh article posting. Here however, I do find it relevant. A consistent aspect I find fascinating and important from those who associate with the Mises Institute is their use of historical perspective. Historical perspective is essential in understanding the evolution and now current state of what one regards as “corporate personhood”. Whether or not a corporation should or needs to exist is a different question altogether, but currently it does and its definition is relevant to this discussion. A corporation and an LLC may appear quite similar and function quite similarly in many circumstances, yet they are quite different by legal definition at their cores. A consumer might not notice any difference between a federal reserve note and a silver certificate, yet they are quite different. When I eat a slice of bread I don’t think of the difference between Cargill and ADM. When I ride a train I may not ponder how different was the formation of the Union Pacific to the formation of the Great Northern. So perhaps the differences are not relevant, yet I find the entire discussion here to actually be extrapolation regarding this exact relevance of difference. However large or small one considers that difference to be, it is set forth by law.

            The rhetoric alluding to negroes and concentration camps fails, because it is incorrect to say that the law said negroes were slaves or that we should imprison Japanese Americans. These predicaments existed from lack or disregard of law. I appreciate the quotation marks: “the law”. State law always evolves toward idiocy, a sentiment akin to Gresham’s Law. We could call it Rothbard’s Law. We originally tried to flip-flop the system in America. Laws were enacted to restrict big things and protect the individual. We simply started at a farther end of the scale than anyone had started before, but lo and behold Rothbard’s Law is undeniable and we have what all legal systems end up with: laws restricting individulas and protecting big things.

            Try that same sentiment using quotes with “corporate personhood”: “Corporate Personhood” is what prevents me from buying raw milk from the organic farm two miles away from me in the neighboring state. Is there some general truth to that? If so, then I’ll agree to your rhetoric about negroes and concentration camps.

  • Vague bromides learned in 7th grade aren’t necessarily worthless or incorrect. Certainly they may be boring to one well advanced into arguments of higher detail, but when they clash with the higher arguments, it isn’t necessarily the vague bromides that need be cast out. The bromides are useful as a check for the integrity of less boring, higher arguments.

    You[Stephan] refuse to engage Richard’s simple argument. He did not claim or ask if what he is saying is coherent. He asked if a corporation’s purpose is to serve a public interest. Then he asked a question to aid in figuring out whether he needed to elaborate further in declaring its relevance, to make the claim of its relevance more coherent.

    I find it extremely relevant. It is not incoherent to me. As a matter of fact I think it to be a foundational precept for all further debate.

    “All human action arises from self-interest.” That may be a vague bromide to some, but is it not an elementary precept upon which all of Praxeology is constructed?*

    *Please don’t digress with this. It was meant rhetorically.

    Here, let me translate Richard’s initial claim into a more specific state of higher relevancy:

    The purpose of a corporate charter is to contractually bind a private interest with that of public interest?

    I found the points of debate in this entire post endlessly fascinating until the lack thereof on Richard’s point. Your lack of debate on Richard’s point seemed to make the rest of it rather pointless.

    Reply
    • Really, it’s not worth it. He was not serious. It assumes too much. I don’t konw, what’s your purpose for existing? And who cares, and why does it matter?

      Reply
  • Hello,

    I may have missed this while reading, but what of limited partners? They have limited liability specifically because they lack control. Personally, I believe that incorporation have little impact, except during bankruptcy, mainly because you can hold managers, who also own significant shares, financial responsible. Also, your agency-principle debate is irrelevant to corporation, it applies equally to partnerships too. In the end, I believe that incorporation is mostly bad policy by companies, because of double taxation, and that companies plan to have an indefinite life, so any savings from limited liability will be taken away by taxation.

    Reply
    • If I am understanding your correctly–that is basically Hessen’s point. You had limited liability partnerships before state intervention, because of the recognition that the passive partners were passive. Likewise, Hessen says, the shareholder is passive too. So he ought not be liable for others’ torts either. So the state is not needed to insulate them from liability: they shouldn’t have it in the first place.

      Reply
  • I disagree with this concept of yours that guilt in a case hinges upon the intentions of the perpetrators.

    Lets look at this example:
    Person A is asked by person B to take him to a bank, being a good friend, person A obliges. After being dropped off at the bank, person B procedes to rob the bank, and then leaves.
    Unaware of anythng amiss, person A drives off with person B.
    Police soon catch up and person A immediately pulls over and submits to arrest.

    Now this:
    Person A knows person B plans to rob a bank and agrees to help him by driving. He drives to the bank and person B procedes, as before, with the robbery. Person A drives off with person B but soon the police catch up. Person A pulls over, realizing there was no use in trying to escape and submits to arrest.

    Certainly, you could be tempted to say that the first person is not guilty but the second certainly is, but quickly it becomes apparent that this is in practice absurd. No one can know the workings of another persons mind, and therefore cannot, by the very laws of physics, be allows as evidence in a court room.
    In neither instance did person A do anything objectively wrong, and therefore cannot, and should not, be prosecuted for thievery.

    Crimes are in actions, not thoughts.

    You are further wrong when you say that a person holding a knife threatingly to another person is simply an act of speech and is aggression because of the intentions of the individual in question. This is wrong, holding a knife threateningly puts the victim at *objective* risk, that he would not otherwise be in, regaurdless of the intentions of the knife wielder.

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding your position. I hope I am, because you seem to intelligent for this, Kinsella.

    Reply
    • This is incorrect. Accessory before the fact, or aiding and abetting, (at least under Australian law) charges would lay against the driver in scenario two. More interesting is a third scenario, where the driver doesn’t know, and doesn’t care, what the person will at the bank – apart from “reasonable person” tests, the driver wouldn’t be legally responsible but might carry a moral responsibility. Perhaps this third scenario is more akin to investment in corporations via shares?

      Reply
  • As a proponent of free markets, I agree with the tort and liability arguments although I believe there is an argument to change the limited liability law.

    Forget corporations and existing law for a moment. Free markets and property rights demand responsibility and assurance and honesty for trade and investment. So does the concept of risk and return on investment. We no longer demand death or slavery in payment for risk failure. But for most of the population (is there any difference between ‘worker’ and entrepreneur?) the payment is a loss of their personal treasure. I fail to see why asset size should in any way be a mitigating factor. We are all people, especially when we organize together, and we should all labor under the same demands of a free society.

    Let us take the example of the entrepreneurial plumber with 3 crews. Creditors do not care whether his bookkeeper absconded with the money to feed her coke habit without his knowledge. They will sell his house anyway. I believe it should remain the same for voting shareholders and their executive proxies.

    The fundamental issue is not retribution. It is reputation and trust. For without it, markets do not work well. Certainly banks were run much more conservatively when they were partnerships. And no personal fortunes will restore most large bankruptcies. But none of those points represent the motive for changing the law.

    Further, the change might generate positive rippling effects. We strongly suspect the very nature of audits and their process and goals would almost immediately change for the better. Likewise, FASB rules on financial statement clarity might find new advocates. Certainly the days of Boards filled with cronies and non-experts would be gone.

    If corporations are people, and I argue they are, then markets demand their primary stance is one of mature responsibility, honor and dependability. We ensure that psychological and emotive stance, especially of its leaders and whoever has substantial skin in the game, with their personal treasure.

    One might argue that corporations will quickly adapt so that there is no apparent leader, or otherwise incorporate in such a way that ALL employees are proxies for the voting shareholders, so they are all liable. In a sense, they already are. But that aside, who cares? I would be excited to see how such an organization functioned. Our hierarchies too often obscure the fact that that is exactly the kind of responsibility we expect of humans in a free society.

    One might respond that personal insurance of executives would rise. So what? In some industries, it would rise higher than others. That is arguably a good outcome to the extent it naturally priced the potential for negative externality into each industry. Essentially the same argument could be made for the cost of borrowing.

    One might respond that it will reduce risk and therefore innovation. This argument is hardly worth making; large companies are anything but innovative. They live on annuities. It is small collections of entrepreneurs that innovate, and they are already risking everything.

    In summary, we let the owners of capital off the hook regarding a fundamental requirement of free societies. In the same way I am wary of a consultant who tells me what to do with my money, I am wary of making a deal with anyone who does not have considerable investment on the line. It has a way of steadying their words and deeds. This should be the entry price of everyone in a free society. Bar none.

    Reply
  • It sometimes astounds me how ignorant most libertarians are on the actual workings of business and contract.

    Reply
  • This discussion focuses on the distinction between corporations and states. While it is a debate between right-libertarians and left-libertarians it follows the same pattern of mainstream left and right, OWS and Tea Party. I’ll try to offer, not the difference, but the similarity of state and corporation.

    The state and the corporation have the same aim and essence. They only differ in tactic. They both seek to centralize wealth/power into the hands of a few to use as their own. The State gathers tax money and sanctioning for their monopoly on violent power into the hands of a few to use as they see fit. The corporation seeks to gather capital from stock owners to be used by the controlling body as they see fit. And to be clear, this gathered capitol is not a loan because it never has to be paid back. It becomes the property of the controlling group of the corporation just as taxes become the property of the state. This is all done under the façade that stock ownership is actual ownership of the corporation. This is a great ruse. The owner of a business has liability for it. The owner of a business also owns the profits. At the periodic (end of year) balancing of the books any profit belongs exclusively to the stock holders. The decision to not pay complete dividends is as much a theft as is taxes. If the corporation has respect for personal property rights in must return the profits to the share-holders. If the corporation wants to reinvest these profits then it must ask he share-holder for the money back under the arrangement of a loan, a contract that will return both principle and interest back to the share-holder.

    Private property rights need to be applied correctly to finance as well. The usury paid for the use of capital belongs exclusively to the individual owner of that capital. The banker is only due a service fee (which should be made clear within the transactions). A banker who invests depositor’s capital and keeps the usury is a thief. Allow me to reiterate that, and really think about the personal property rights couched in this situation: A banker who invests depositor’s capital and keeps the usury is a thief. And shouldn’t we all ask who is the owner of fiat money? And to whom is the usury due?

    The above are two ways that wealth is centralized, i.e. gathered in from the many under a controlling group which goes about using it as if it were their own. This is done by violating the private property rights of individuals. This ethical fact is not ameliorated by the fact that these are voluntary exchanges. Choices always come down to the best of the options presented. Those who present the options control the choice. The defense of the personhood of corporations is not the defense of individual liberties nor of “the free market.” Corporations are not based on individual liberties and do not deserve the championing that the right gives them.

    Reply
  • If corporations don’t need special protection by the state to act as “persons,” then why have they sought such protection with such determination for so long? Do you hold that they were merely acting to ensure rights that were theirs anyway, even though common law had for some reason failed to clarify that?

    Reply
  • Limited liability advantages corporations over small business. It insulates capital. How? Well, if a small businessman, running his own delivery truck, aciddentally kills someone on the road, he will pay, and so will his familiy secondarily as they could lose their home. If a corporate truck over runs a pedestrian, the investors will not have to pay, even though they have more capital.

    Liability should not be artifically limited but rather addressed on a case by case basis. For instance, investors can be very aware of illegal actions by companies they invest in, yet claim ignorance and easily protect their capital.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Current day month ye@r *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.