Re: Corporate Socialism Model

James Rogers (
Sat, 28 Feb 1998 13:03:46 -0800

At 09:19 AM 2/28/98 EST, Greg Burch wrote:
>James, I'd be very interested if you could find some reference for this
>experiment. Some questions occur to me: Can the shares be sold during the
>lifetime of the shareholder (i.e. the purchser would have a "life estate"
>measured by the life of the original shareholder)?; what is the core business
>of this corporation (is it essentially a metropolitan services enterprise)?
>This may be somewhat similar to the use of tribal corporate business with
>which many Native American groups are experimenting. I've often thought that
>those enterprises should be watched closely as models for new forms of
>governance and social organization.

After making the original posting, I was able to dig up a little
information on the 'net based on what I could remember. The information
available is really very scant. I learned about this second-hand from my
father, so I didn't have a terrible lot to go on.

The company in question is the Haida Corporation, which has very large
timber holdings, as well as significant mining and energy holdings in the
Pacific Northwest. They are also invested in numerous smaller businesses
including fishing and tourism. They own a fleet of large cargo ships
(which I have seen in Washington and Alaska) and, from what I hear, have
annual revenues of several hundred million dollars. From what my father
was telling me, they are a very influential and respected company in the
Pacific Northwest and are well-known for their business prowess.

The community is Hydaburg, composed almost exclusively of Haida Indians
(pop. ~2,000). As is typical for these communities, only ~60% of the
population is employed, with ~20% unemployment. It appears that this is in
fact some sort of tribal corporation.

What *is* interesting is the business wisdom and general success of this
particular group. I have lived on more than one Indian reservation and in
my experience, native Americans are usually not the sharpest business
people around. However, in this case, the history of the Haida tribe is a
bit unusual.

Although currently a coastal tribe, they have only lived there for a couple
hundred years. Apparently the Haida indians historically enjoyed
prosperity as an aggressive merchant tribe from what is now inland British
Columbia. In the 18th century, they embarked on a series of conquests
along the Pacific coast in order to control important coastal resources.
Through deft political, military, and economic maneuvering they quickly
became one of the wealthiest tribes in the region (until the arrival, in
force, of Europeans).

What interested me was that I find the corporate government model to be
superior to traditional models in many ways. While I am not sure whether
it would scale well to really large populations, the feedback mechanisms in
the corporate model are much quicker, more responsive, and generally better
lubricated than traditional models. The improved feedback mechanisms
create a much more efficient organism, IMO. Also, a government that
functions primarily as an economic entity is very unlikely to embark on any
actions for strictly political reasons if it would hurt its bottom line and
would almost never embark on any actions against its own shareholders. A
corporation that got out of hand could be sold off or dissolved by the
shareholders with minimum difficulty. Additionally, the prospect of
economic competition keeps the bureaucracy in check.

Ironically, it would appear that this would work best in an environment
were the corporation is not sovereign in and of its self i.e. there exists
a more powerful entity that exists to enforce the corporate structure. Or
alternatively, a sovereign constitution could be written that essentially
embodies the corporate law structures.

I find the corporate government model interesting because it appears to be
a relatively effective model and it is one that hasn't been discussed in
great detail. One aspect that should appeal to some on this list is that
allows you to, in many ways, set up your own virtual government/society
within an existing sovereign entity. A corporation is to its shareholders
what a government is to its citizens. When implemented like this, the
corporation replaces virtually all the roles of a traditional government,
but without many of the negative side effects.

-James Rogers