For Release Thursday, March 7, 2013
But how many of us know or remember that our cities are also corporations, just the way Apple, IBM and General Motors are? Not only are cities corporations, but in many cases they are far older than any contemporary business, dating back not just decades but centuries.
This may seem strange, but it’s fact.
“There is no difference between Google and San Francisco,” says Harvard law Professor Gerald Frug. In the eyes of the law, he says, they are both corporate bodies, “empowered by government, to do stuff.”
It’s useful to remember that cities are corporations, with a long, distinguished history, because it helps us understand their possibilities and essential makeup. It’s also useful to remember that private companies are corporations, because it helps us remember that corporations don’t create themselves, we do, as part of our democratically elected government.
When you open a business as a company, you get a corporate charter from one of the 50 states. This charter grants you the privilege of being a corporate body, and spells out your rights and privileges.
The same is true for any city that opens its municipal doors.
While private corporations have done great things – I’m typing on a Macintosh computer, with an iPhone in my pocket – we the people are the ultimate arbiters of corporations’ power. Through our legislatures and Congress, we have granted corporations the right to exist, and we have awarded them special rights and powers. We should only continue to do so to the degree they continue to serve our interest, the public interest, as well as any private ones.