Kevin Carson: Sympathy for the Devil, BP. I reply in detail in the comments.
Sheldon Richman, Self-Regulation in the Corporate State: The BP Spill. My comments to Richman:
This is a good piece–unlike Carson’s (uncharacteristically) weak one on this topic. Of course, Lew’s comments were not a defense of BP of the type Sheldon rightly criticizes; none of us are under any illusions that there is no corporatism going on here. And even if BP was too careless and negligent, that doesn’t mean we ought not feel sympathy for them (presupposing they will in the end take the brunt of the costs of the damages).
Tokyo–of course the state should get out of the incorporation business altogether, just as it should get out of marriage. Of course it should end its limited liability grants (and it should also end its court system that would impose liability for torts etc. in the first place).
The question is: in a free market, with the state out of the way, if a contractual-”corporation” were formed–call it a Hessen–would passive “shareholders” have liability for torts committed by employees/agents of the Hessen they held a share in? You have to argue for it, carefully. Pilon and Hessen have explained why there is no need for a limited liability grant b/c there is no reason to impose vicarious liability on a shareholder in the first place — http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/10/26/pilon-on-corporations-a-discussion-with-kevin-carson/ .
To argue otherwise you would need to articulate a careful, libertarian-based theory of causation and responsibility which none of the left-libertarian opponents have done, to my knowledge. Rather they just assume it’s obvious that a shareholder should be liable and would be, if not for the pernicious limited liability privilege. They just point to a few “moral hazards” and incentive effects they don’t like, as if consequentialism were not controversial. Or they just trot out an unthinking “owners are responsible for their property”–which is doubly flawed: first, owners are responsible for their actions, not their property; second, relying on the state’s own legal classificaiton scheme to call a shareholder an “owner”–ownership is the right to control and obviously the shareholder can’t fly the corporate jet or use the corporate boardroom or set policy or manage employees etc. see http://blog.mises.org/8993/the-over-reliance-on-state-classifications-employee-and-shareholder/
So the shareholder’s role in the company is limited, and if you come up with an ad hoc vicarious responsibility conclusion to get what you want, it’s going to rest on an at least implicit causation idea that is so broad that you would also have to say that many other actors connected to the Hessen are also vicariously liable for its torts: employees, creditors, suppliers and other vendors, consultants, customers, attorneys, accountants, stakeholders, and on and on.