Quote of the Day, Corporate Edition

“I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it’s birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
— Thomas Jefferson, 1816

Unfortunately, we didn’t.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics, ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder how many Tea Party types will be happy to stand by this quote, especially those who get money from the Koch brothers…

  2. Pish posh. When I teach corporate law, I tell my students about Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who wrote that: “The limited liability corporation is the greatest single discovery of modern times. Even steam and electricity are less important than the limited liability company.”

    I tell them about journalists John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, whose magnificent history, The Company, contends that the corporation is “the basis of the prosperity of the West and the best hope for the future of the rest of the world.”

    And so I also tell them that the corporation has proven to be a powerful engine for focusing the efforts of individuals to maintain economic liberty. Because tyranny is far more likely to come from the public sector than the private, those who for selfish reasons strive to maintain both a democratic capitalist society and, of particular relevance to the present argument, a substantial sphere of economic liberty therein serve the public interest. As Michael Novak argues, private property and freedom of contract were “indispensable if private business corporations were to come into existence.” In turn, by providing centers of power separate from government, corporations give “liberty economic substance over and against the state.”

    We should be eternally grateful that slave owning, miscegenating, Jacobin-leaning Jefferson failed to squelch the corporation.

  3. sam says:

    That bias against commerce that Jefferson displays was foundational to a lot of the Southern antipathy to the North prior to the Civil War. The anti anti-slavery threads were much more prominent in all that, but disdain for northern commercial culture was pretty pronounced.

  4. Alex Knapp says:


    I’m a fan of the limited liability company, but less so the publicly traded corp and the cronyism that comes with it.

  5. tom p says:

    >>>Because tyranny is far more likely to come from the public sector than the private, <<<

    Well, thank god for the families of the 29 dead miners in the Upper Big Branch mine that Massey Energy was spared the heavy hand of tyranny that would come from any REAL enforcement of mine safety laws by MSHA. I am also quite sure they were much comforted by the results of Massey's investigation that -SURPRISE!!!- concluded the explosion was in no way Massey Energy's fault….


  6. sbgfujwvr12yc3r45 says:

    The quote is brief, maybe you have to be an historian to understand it, but to me it sounds like he was predicting the need for anti-trust laws and estate taxes which did come about so I think instead of “unfortuantely we didn’t” I’d have to say “we did”. Is it foturnate? I think anti-trust laws and laws about unfair business tactics are probably good but estate taxes are not.