Is the Corporation a Creature of the State?
| Peter Klein |
Piet-Hein van Eeghen argues in the Journal of Libertarian Studies (1, 2) that the corporation’s “entity status” — from which attributes such as limited liability and perpetuity are derived — is an artificial product of state intervention, a feature of the commercial landscape that wouldn’t exist in a truly free market. I think Eeghen is wrong, partly for failing to distinguish between limited contractual liability (which is achievable through contract) and limited tort liability (which isn’t). Limited contractual liability was a standard feature of joint-stock companies long before limited liability became the default rule in English common and statutory law, as Henry Hansmann (among others) has pointed out.
Anyway, for an interesting and lively debate on the corporation’s status in the free market, see this exchange (and the links therein) between Sean Gabb and Stephan Kinsella.