From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
Upgrading Capitalism

September 14, 2005 2:02 PM

We have an anonymous tip gadget on the Wal-Mart movie website. We get a lot of random stuff through it. Much of it is helpful and interesting, but some is just random hate mail. My favorite line of attack goes something like this: "quit messing with the free enterprise system... if Wal-Mart is so bad, no one would shop there", etc.

Government was supposed to have some pretty dramatic oversight over corporations to ensure that they served the will of the people -- at least that's how the folks who wrote the Bill of Rights saw it. But over time, those corporations sought to undermine this concept claiming their own right to "corporate personhood." Even the term itself is oxymoronic, and, as another movie pointed out, corporations make quite horrible people.

So I look at the movies we make as adding an additional factor to the free enterprise system. Government doesn't keep an eye on corporations like it should any more, so that responsibility falls on us as citizens.

We're not tainting the free enterprise system, we're upgrading it.

More from the archive in Business, Movies, Wal-Mart.

Upgrading Capitalism (09.14.2005)

Next Entry: Homeland Security Red Alert! (09.15.2005)
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Read the 12 comments.


I am sure it will be explained how walmart was the highest corporate donor to hurricane victims right? Im also sure you'll tell the story how they opened up the doors and let people take whatever they needed, right?

Wed Sep 14 2005 3:45 PM

Jim Gilliam:

You're exaggerating a little, but it's true they have responded quite nicely. And I will piss you off to no end by proudly taking a tiny bit of credit for that. Wal-Mart never would have been so aggressive if Lee Scott hadn't seen it as an opportunity to get out front in the PR battles to come.

See what I mean? Upgrading capitalism. Nice.

Wed Sep 14 2005 4:28 PM


"Government was supposed to have some pretty dramatic oversight over corporations to ensure that they served the will of the people -- at least that's how the folks who wrote the Bill of Rights saw it."


I'm sure you would have no problem then pointing out exactly which amendment speaks of cooperations, government oversight of busniess, business serving the public good, or anything remotly close to that...

Wed Sep 14 2005 5:39 PM

Jim Gilliam:

i'm referring to quotes like this from the early founders... thomas jefferson: "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

in recent years, corporations have started claiming the bill of rights as theirs, when there is no mention at all of them. of course, when the bill of rights was written, only white property owners were considered people. but somehow there seems a difference between flesh and blood and a soulless entity.

Wed Sep 14 2005 7:55 PM



Your random hate mailers seem to have missed the point entirely. One of the key parts about a free market is the free exchange of ideas.

Just how, in a market, are people meant to know about wal-mart's behaviour, and adjust their purchasing accordingly, if talking about wal-mart's behaviour is meddling with the markets.

Wed Sep 14 2005 8:56 PM

Dave E.:

Great blog entry Jim...I always enjoy reading a good roundhouse thrown at the oligarchy monster.

And, if I may add some of Madison's thoughts on corporations:

"But besides the danger of a direct mixture of Religion & civil Government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded agst in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations, ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses. A warning on this subject is emphatically given in the example of the various Charitable establishments in G. B. the management of which has been lately scrutinized. The excessive wealth of ecclesiastical Corporations and the misuse of it in many Countries of Europe has long been a topic of complaint."

-James Madison, 1819

Indeed, both Madison and Jefferson proposed what would have been an 11th amendment to the Constitution, "making it illegal for corporations to own other corporations, banning them from giving money to politicians or trying to influence elections in any way, restricting corporations to a single business purpose, limiting the lifetime of a corporation to something roughly similar to that of productive humans (20 to 40 years back then), and requiring that the first purpose for which all corporations were created be 'to serve the public good.'

The amendment didn't pass because many argued it was unnecessary: Virtually all states already had such laws on the books from the founding of this nation until the Age of the Robber Barons."

But what the hell did they know...they didn't know of the gluttonous American privilege of buying Chinese goods under a patriotic moniker, while the entire local chamber of commerce is wiped out. Ain't nothin more 'merican than that!

Yup. Madison and Jefferson...paranoid of the evil corporations, like all the other liberal chuckleheads.

Unleash the Rove hounds on them! Why do they hate America!

Wed Sep 14 2005 9:14 PM

Dave E.:

Don't forget Lincoln's thoughts on corporate avarice:

"We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. The best blood of the flower of American youth has been freely offered upon our country's altar that the nation might live. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.

As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."

-- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(linked in above post's commondreams commentary)

And we all know (I assume) of Teddy's legacy as starting the trust-busting of the robber barons.

And the Constitutions Commerce Clause hasn't even been mentioned yet.
Article I, Section 8: Congress shall have the power..."To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes"

Seems "remotely close" to me...not much equivocation as to who's the boss.

Wed Sep 14 2005 9:30 PM


I must admit that I first misread your post; I was confused because I thought you had said that it was IN the Bill of Rights, not in the opinion of said writers...

But moving on, your point:

"Government was supposed to have some pretty dramatic oversight over corporations to ensure that they served the will of the people"

is still not shown in my mind. You have pointed to a lot of interesting data, mostly from Common Dreams, and that is hard to swallow wholesale. What I'm mostly interested in is this supposed 11th amendment that was being debated. I'd be very interested in reading up on that debate as it took place in the Constitutional Convention in Philidelphia. I couldn't find it however, so if you would be so kind.......

Thu Sep 15 2005 9:51 AM

Tom from Madison:

Many on the right seem to be under the impression that the bill of rights should also attach to corporations or mega-churches! Certainly individuals are free to form corporations or churches. But the rights belong to individuals.

...I DEFINITELY agree that it would be a mistake to swallow everything on the Common Dreams website whole.

That said, remember the valuable services Common Dreams and other alternative media are providing:
1) they will raise and discuss issues that Fox News will never touch.
2) they provide an alternative to state-sponsored propaganda coming from the Bush Administration. Even neo-cons have to admit that Admistration crediblility is gone--Harder to find than WMDs or competent Bush-appointed FEMA officials.


Thu Sep 15 2005 11:30 AM

Dave E.:


It was obvious to me, as it was to you, that the commondreams piece was commentary. I cited it as commentary because, obviously again, it comes from a website which visibly discloses its very partisan agenda (which is a great deal more than can be said of other media sources). Certainly doesn't mean it's shill media by any stretch, but regardless...take from it what you will.

Which brings us to this mysterious 11th amendment. I also was very interested in digging deeper into that, but haven't found the time yet. No question, that would be an interesting piece of history to brush up on. Time will tell if it was a careless addition to the post on my part.

Stay tuned and I'll see what I can find.

Thu Sep 15 2005 3:30 PM


I look forward to it, but I'm going away this weekend and I fear I just may forget to look back here next week. Dave, if you would be so kind, email me if you find anything [email protected]

I am seriously very ineterested in what you find if you spend time looking cause it's something I've never really heard before. Thanks.

Thu Sep 15 2005 9:16 PM


Who decides if corporations are serving the will of the people? Don't people decide if they are coporations follow the will of the people?

The bill of rights and the founding fathers wanting increased regulation of companies? I don't by it the enlightenment was all about laisez faire the Adam Smith Wealth of Nations was published in 1776.

The founding fathers were individualistic not collective. Napoleon during this same time period passed hundreds of laws protecting the rights of workers. If they wanted a collective action of society they sure didn't show it.

Sun Jul 15 2007 2:46 AM

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