Originally posted by AThousandYoung
When a corporation owns something, who is it that owns the thing?
Corporations invent imaginary people so they can collectively own things. Strange.
The subject of one of my favorite papers at the uni, back in those days.
Legal personality is a tough, unresolved matter. Basically it was a medieval
resource artificially created to solve the legal challenges created by the
ownership of land by the boroughs and churches. It went down well as the
Christian conception of the members of a Church as the "corporate body"
was established in the collective mind. Of course, for a long time a corporation
and the privileges it purported was unequivocally seen a subsidy from the
state. Suffice to see the history of the East India Company, both the Dutch
and the English one.
After that, the issue gets really messy, both practically and theoretically, and
Coase's paper didn't exactly help. Is the corporation a Gestalt entity? Is it a
fiction? Is it a nexus of contracts? I'd recommend reading Nick Foster's paper
on the difference between the enterprise and the corporation, and how the
legal outcomes determine the "existence" of a legal entity, nothing else.
Me? I consider that it is a semantic construction existing only in the realm of
the legal world. Its impact on the real world is determined by the efficacy
of a politically sanctioned legal system. Henceforth, it is a malleable tool
(as it is the case with all things legal).
Also, you can depart from the legal realm of inquiry, and go more political.
In that case, you'll love Janet Dine.
If you check Dine, she departs from the legal scholarship mainstream
and simply puts it as a moral deflection device, by which Western people
can mentally release themselves from the guilt, vilify corporations for
the mayhem caused and still enjoy the benefits procured to them.