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Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy
by Tom Nace
published by Berrett-Koehler
© 2003 by Tom Nace


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From Book Description
Surpassing even the state and the church, the corporation has become the core institution of the modern world. Although its impact is felt in virtually every aspect of our lives, we know little about its history and the origins of its power. Gangs of America fills the gap, tracing the evolution of this revolutionary institution through the behind-the-scenes figures who shaped it: Thomas Scott, an obscure genius who invented the holding company; Stephen Field, the Supreme Court Judge who developed corporate personhood rights; and others. Based on the latest research by academic historians, sociologists, political scientists, and legal scholars, this book is a unique synthesis including both compelling narrative and invaluable reference.

From Publishers Weekly
Nace nurtured Peachpit Press from a home-based operation, writing and publishing computer guides, to a business worthy of acquisition by the Pearson conglomerate. The experience inspired him to study the nature of corporate power. He offers a breezy summary of the legal history surrounding the formation of corporations and the parameters of their power, putting an anti-corporate spin on the American Revolution and discussing how the early republic limited corporate power by enabling state governments to issue restrictive charters. But the tight controls didn't remain in place: after the Supreme Court's decision in an 1886 case involving the Santa Clara Railroad, corporations were assumed to be the legal equivalent of people entitled to equal protection under the law and, in subsequent cases, were guaranteed a growing range of constitutional rights. One of Nace's central arguments is that Santa Clara doesn't mean what everybody thinks it means: the original decision doesn't take any stand on whether corporations have constitutional rights; the question comes up in a subsequent version of the decision, but the Chief Justice acts as if it had been resolved in earlier decisions. Although Nace blames the Court's reporter for the shift in emphasis, he illustrates how another justice, Stephen Field, was already buttressing politicians' and financial titans' efforts to eliminate all restraints on corporate power, making their legal supremacy inevitable. Later chapters examine how corporations continue to wield their influence to prevent the government from regulating them too closely, but while the book offers plenty of details about the problem's existence and deftly introduces it, it offers little more than generalities about where to go from there.

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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