The Myth of Private Property in a Corporate World

It is a myth based on a misunderstanding of the financial structure of the modern world to imagine that the legal rights and privileges of corporations have anything to do with private property: the term “private” has no relevance to a corporation. However shocking this statement may be to those on either side of the debate over the presumed “personhood” of corporations, it is an insight into modern realities that was explained a century ago…by Walter Lippmann.

The trust movement [READ: corporations] is doing what no conspirator or revolutionist could ever do: it is sucking the life out of private property….

Not long ago the Interstate Commerce Commission…issued a report on the bankruptcy of the Frisco railway which contained a condemnation of certain private bankers for offering bonds to the investing public when the bankers should have known that the road was insolvent. The Commission was saying that the investor couldn’t know, that he was in the hands of experts, and that the experts have a trust to perform. You couldn’t very well go to greater lengths in announcng the impotence of private property….

…the question of nationalizing industries is not a choice between the maintenance of private property and its abolition….

If the Steel Trust is efficient, it is not due to the existence of its 200,000 stockholders. It is due to the fact that the management is autocratic….When governments are willing to pursue that course, they can be just as efficient as private management….

…the conflict between democracy and centralized authority…is the line upon which the problems of collectivism will be fought out…[Walter Lippmann, Drift and Mastery; An Attempt to Diagnose the Current Unrest (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1917), Ch. III “The Magic of Property,” 50-65.

Mr. Lippmann would roll over in his grave were he to see the “current unrest:” a recession caused by still unabated Wall St. corruption, a Supreme Court pretending that corporations–the most impersonal, anti-individualist institution ever invented–were in some way “persons,” and a federal government handing free “stay out of jail cards” to all billionaire financial criminals who actually are “persons.”


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