Being a Corporation; Being a Good Citizen
Hashgear began as an idea in a sketchbook that quickly evolved into a viable business opportunity. Confronting the reality of starting a company, I began to think about the role that corporations have in our society, and the aspirations I have for my own company.
Since at least the 1700s in the United States, there has been a concept of corporate personhood -- that a corporation is conferred certain rights related to property and contracts separate from its investors and owners, and this has been a cornerstone of modern capitalism.
Nearly 200 years ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall wrote “Being the mere creature of law,” the corporation “possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it either expressly or as incidental to its very existence.”
I personally believe that the Citizens United decision was a willful violation of the original intention of corporate personhood; improperly confers additional, non-essential rights to corporations looking to gain a foothold in the political sphere; and represents the single-most damaging Supreme Court decision and biggest threat to our democracy.
There is now an unlimited amount of money in politics, and corporations (and the individuals who control them) have unparalleled access to and influence over decisions that ultimately determine their control over markets and their earning potential, accelerating an already inhumane level of wealth inequality.
The media has been understandably relentless in its caricature of the expanded contemporary idea of corporate personhood, and for good reason. A corporation's primary responsibilities are commonly considered to be financial, above all else, followed by their legal and ethical responsibilities, and finally philanthropic responsibilities considered optional.
If such a corporation were a person, they would certainly seem to be pretty unpleasant -- always out for themselves, willing to do anything within the bounds of the law to get ahead, and only willing to help you out if it benefits them personally in some way.
This is not what I want for my company. If my company were a person, I would want them to be someone you would be happy to call a friend. I want Hashgear to:
1) Put people over profits
2) Give back to society
3) Act with conviction on our principles
I currently have the benefit of being a bootstrapped startup with no board of directors, no outside funding, and no shareholders -- which gives me the luxury to be idealistic. I am not going to pretend that I am not interested in benefiting from this business. But I don't need all the money, all the time. We won't do everything right, but shouldn't we try to be a good citizen?