“Back in the good ol’ days—I mean as far back as the late middle ages—people just did business with each other. As traveling got easier and people got access to new resources and markets, a middle class of merchants and small businesspeople started to get wealthy. So wealthy that they threatened the power of the aristocracy. Monarchs needed to come up with a way to stabilize their own wealth before the free market unseated them.
They invented the corporate charter. By granting an exclusive charter, a king could give one of his friends in the merchant class monopoly control over a region or sector. In exchange, he’d get shares in the company. So the businessperson no longer had to worry about competition—his position at the top of the business hierarchy was locked in place, by law. And the monarch never had to worry about losing his authority; businesses with crown-guaranteed charters tend to support the crown.
But this changed the shape of business fundamentally. Instead of thriving on innovation and progress, corporate monopolies simply sought to extract wealth from the regions they controlled. They didn’t need to compete, anymore, so they just sucked resources from places and people. Meanwhile, people living and working in the real world lost the ability to generate value by or for themselves.”