The Divine Right of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2001 - Business & Economics - 231 pages
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Wealth inequality, corporate welfare, and industrial pollution are like the fevers and chills of the economy. The underlying illness is shareholder primacy: the corporate drive to make profits for shareholders, no matter who pays the cost. It's a form of discrimination based on wealth. It's economic aristocracy. In The Divine Right of Capital, Marjorie Kelly shows that corporations are built on six aristocratic principles (only those who own property can vote, for example). That work in the interests of wealth-holders and against those of employees and the community. Most importantly, Kelly shows how to use democratic principles to build a new corporate order that serves the many rather than the few.

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The divine right of capital: dethroning the corporate aristocracy

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The founder and editor of Business Ethics and a frequent contributor to NPR, Kelly here considers how corporations strive to make money for their shareholders regardless of the costs to society. The ... Read full review

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Ms. Kelly has produced a masterpiece, the only work thus far that describes the origins of "capitalism" in the landed aristocracy of the feudal period. She describes the historical change from an agrarian society to an industrial society, and the corresponding change from land to corporate stock as the property-basis of the economy. She writes of the "aristocracy" instead of "corporations" as the possessors of true power in today's economy, but these "aristocrats" live off of stocks and (to a lesser extent) bonds, more than off of crops and plantations, not just to consume and to add to their wealth, but also to transfer their wealth to the family's next generation.
The book's biggest failure is that it says almost nothing about estate taxes versus income taxes, taxation of inheritances and gifts, unearned wealth; versus taxation of wages, labor, earned wealth. The aristocracy, now during the fascist period, just as during the prior feudal period, opposes all taxes on inheritances. Unfortunately, in America today, the propaganda from aristocrats has been so effective that the majority of Americans favor total abolition of estate taxes, but do not favor total abolition of taxes upon labor, wages.


Economic Aristocracy
The Sacred Texts
Lords of the Earth
The Corporation as Feudal Estate
Only the Propertied Class Votes
Liberty for Me Not for Thee
Wealth Reigns
Economic Democracy
Waking Up
Emerging Property Rights
Protecting the Common Welfare
New Citizens in Corporate Governance
Corporations Are Not Persons
A Little Rebellion

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About the author (2001)

Kelly is cofounder and editor of Business Ethics. She has been a driving force in the movement to bring social responsibility to business since 1987. She lives in Minneapolis.

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