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On punishing crimes of corporations by dissolving them
To abolish corporations that callously break laws is an attractive
idea, and after
persuasive argument for that policy, I agree it is a good idea to
dissolve corporations that callously harm human beings.
However, I see issues in the article's terminology, and the policy
itself raises many issues about the specifics.
We should not call this the "death penalty". A corporation cannot die,
because it is not alive. For human beings, who are alive and can die,
capital punishment is an injustice; I oppose it in all circumstances
and I hope you do, too.
Dissolving a corporation is very different, morally, from killing a
human being. That's why there is no moral tension in advocating the
former while opposing the latter. Precisely because of that
difference, we should not speak so as to equate them. It would be
highly unwise to advocate something (anything whatsoever) and call it
by the term, "death penalty."
Death, for a living animal, is a pretty clear thing. Its important
effects on a person's body are inevitable, and mostly independent of
the cause and manner of death.
Not so for a corporation, which has no body. It consists of its legal
relationships, no more and no less. What will happen to the
corporation's assets? What will happen to its debts? What will
happen to its shareholders? What will happen to pending and future
lawsuits against it?
When the corporation is large, when it has billions of dollars in
assets, shares and debts, the answers to these questions make the
difference between a just and beneficial policy and a harmful one.
When an enterprise is a bundle of many corporations that are yoked
together but not monolithic, how should we determine which of them to
dissolve and which to leave in being?
A policy of dissolving evildoing large corporations would be almost a
no-op if implemented by a few states as long as large US corporations
are usually incorporated in Delaware. Such a policy, to be effective,
must be implemented nationwide, and must not leave it up to Delaware
officials or Delaware courts to decide whether to dissolve a Delaware
corporation that operates in other states.
We need to determine what to do when the large corporation that acts
evilly in the US is incorporated in some other country. The US would
not have the power to dissolve it there.
When the large corporation that acts evilly in the US has subsidiaries
in other countries, what should we do with them?
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