Ivan W. Parkins

 

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About Ivan W. Parkins:

Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University.  He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama.  He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children.  Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years. 

Front Page

Editors Note:

Dr. Parkins’s Grandson, Breton W. Hinkle, passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 14, 2009.  He leaves his wife Jen, parents Ray and Susan Hinkle, sister, Gretchen Hinkle, Richard and Kathy Bourque, Father and Mother in law, brother in laws Kevin and Brian and sister in law, Kelly.  He was a graduate of Michigan State University.  Bret was a United States Marine and had faithfully served his country with honor and distinction.   He will be terribly missed  by family and friends.  He was loved by all who knew him.  He was  buried with military honors in Holland, MI.   See Bret’s life story at http://www.lifestorynet.com/memories/45526/ 

 AN IMPORTANT FREEDOM

Or Non-Profit vs. Profit Corporations

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     Most Americans today are unaware that the legally created freedom to incorporate a for-profit enterprise is largely a product of Jacksonian Democracy (late 1820s-1840).  Incorporation permits a few people to create an organization having some of the legal identity and rights of a person.  A major advantage is that those who invest in the organization will then be responsible only to the extent of their investment, i.e. not be individually liable for all that the organization does.

      Blackstone lamented that the corporations had neither souls to be damned nor bodies to be kicked.  He, like Adam Smith,  of Wealth of Nations fame, wrote in a period when profitable business was not the usual purpose cited to justify incorporation.  Those corporations that existed-- Professor E. Merrick Dodd wrote that he had found evidence of 310 in the United States in 1800--were largely for public or eleemosynary purposes.  They were created individually by acts of legislative bodies.  Historically, they had been cities, universities, etc.  In the early United States they included increasing numbers of banks, toll bridges and roads, and other often profitable enterprises, but were still created individually to serve an alleged public need.

     Persuading a legislative body to incorporate your particular enterprise usually required special influence, often bribery.  Jacksonian Democrats regarded that as a major injustice, even as a form of theft.  But, once in power, they found that the most practical solution was to make the incorporation privilege a right of everybody.  General incorporation laws were enacted, permitting any small group who met minimal qualifications and paid a small fee to incorporate their own enterprise.  That greatly facilitated raising capital for larger businesses.  The practice spread rapidly, here and in Europe.

     Railroads were our first great industrial corporations.  Often they were corruptly managed.  Substantial portions of our western lands were given to the railroads by the federal government as subsidies for their construction.  In spite of such matters, the railroads probably did as much as any other factor to facilitate rapid settlement, widespread homestead ownership, and general prosperity.

     By the late nineteenth century America was beginning to legislate seriously against monopolistic and other abuses of corporate enterprise.  Various forms of government intervention spread rapidly with WWI, the Great Depression/ New Deal, and WWII.

     Since WWII the older, nonprofit, types of corporate endeavor have become more significant, especially in American politics.  Universities, foundations, public interest organizations, research institutes, etc. have multiplied and grown rapidly.  The larger universities rival some federal departments in their largely taxpayer funded budgets and their technical resources.  Yet, public attitudes and laws usually treat these non-profit corporations very differently than incorporated business ventures, especially where their political activities are concerned.

     Why should the freedoms of non-profit corporations be greatly different than those of  for-profit counterparts?  Are not both legitimate means by which people, of different talents and ambitions, contribute to the welfare of society?  Government now subsidizes heavily and allows almost unlimited freedoms to those corporate organizations that supply our information while, at the same time, it taxes heavily and regulates severely the corporate organizations that provide for our material needs and desires. I.W.Parkins 042009

THE CONSTITUTION:

REGARDING

 POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY

By Ivan W. Parkins

    

We, the People of the United States, are …”the primary control on the government,” according to THE FEDERALIST, No. 51.  How to exercise that control in practice is more complicated!

 

     Article I, Section 1, of the Constitution vests all legislative powers in a Congress.  Section 2 provides for the House of Representatives, “to be chosen every second year.” 

That much is clear.  Even though THE FEDERALIST, No.52, adds of Representatives that . . . “it is particularly essential that…” they …”have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people,”…real world conditions interfere.

 

     Population growth, the volume of national business, and the actual effects of partisan and electoral politics often confuse the public more than they enable it.  We do need some major changes.

 

     There were, originally, about 34,000 people in the United States per Representative.  Over half were no more than sixteen years old, many were women, and a considerable minority were slaves.  Those qualified as voters, to whom the Representative actually needed to answer, averaged around 3000 to 4000.  In the House the Representative would face about 100 colleagues—when travel conditions enabled them all to get there.

 

     Now, we have increased House membership to 435, and congressional districts average about 700,000 residents, most of whom can vote and more than 200,000 of whom often do.  Representatives can barely recognize all of their colleagues, even though the House is in session much of every year.  The number of minutes in a year are literally too few for the Representative to devote one minute to each constituent.

 

     Meanwhile the volume of national business has increased far beyond the ability of Congress to keep up with all of it.  The Constitution vests all legislative powers in Congress, but it has long since become necessary for Congress to delegate to administrations and to independent agencies of government portions of the legislative authority.  Thus the thousands of pages of statutes that issue from Congress annually are accompanied by an even larger volume of legally enforceable administrative rules.

 

     Also, the peoples’ Representatives, to whom the Constitution assigns two-year terms, so that they will change frequently with public opinions and political conditions, have found or made ways of getting reelected to such an extent that many of them are now among the longest serving elected officials in our country.

 

     If we are to actually have popular sovereignty, the present House of Representatives is a very poor vehicle for that.  See Disassemble the House  I.W.Parkins 041909

     THE SUPREME COURT

AND POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

     Should the Supreme Court of the United States adhere strictly to an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, or may the Court adapt constitutional language to historical trends?

 

     If one compares closely what was probably the greatest Supreme Court decision of the twentieth century, Brown v. Board of Education, cited in some arguments for a more “liberal” approach, I believe that he will see that the Warren Court’s holding differed little from Justice Brown’s holding in 1896 regarding the Constitution.  Brown said that the Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment, requires “absolutely equal treatment” of the races in public facilities.  The difference between the two was not on the constitutional language but on what, in fact, is equal treatment.  The old decision was that separate facilities could be equal; the newer decision is that they are not equal. Even if the words of law are seen to be unchanging, the facts to which they apply may change.

 

     The growth and mobility of our population and industry have certainly changed.  John Marshall’s original holding in Gibbons v. Ogden that “commerce among the states” meant that commerce that affects more states than one seems logical enough.  But, facts are certainly changing when mortgages that are issued by private banks under state laws become “toxic” and disruptive to national and world-wide finance.  Actually, many of those mortgages were granted by banks under federal pressure to extend credit to previously unqualified applicants.

 

     The Supreme Court’s great decisions on racial equality (1950s) and on equal legislative districting (a few years later) did represent some extensions of its authority.  However, these decisions were also major advances in popular sovereignty, advances that Congresses had, for decades, failed to make.  And they soon received the approval of most of the public.  In those cases, I believe that the Court honored the most basic of our constitutional principals, popular sovereignty.

 

     There is good historical ground for believing that major Supreme Court decisions of the period prior to World War II, when they conflicted sharply with actions of the elective branches, were soon overcome by popular politics.  Apparently, that is now less true.  One of the baldest evidences of more recent thinking is the statement of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall that he was only doing what the people would do if they knew what he knew. I remarked to my class in Constitutional Law at the time that the reasoning was remarkably similar to some by Fuhrer Adolph Hitler.

 

      Increasingly, we are faced with “entitlements” that alter the capacity of newly elected Congresses to make new policies and also with judicial references to foreign political entities as authoritative.  Such things are good reasons to fear that an articulate minority of Americans, strongly entrenched in the information media and some times successful in elections, will work with the Judiciary to limit the effectiveness of our Constitution’s most fundamental principal.  That principal is popular sovereignty. I.W. Parkins 041909

 

A reprint of a column 

Mt. Pleasant

Buyer’s Guide

6/1/81

 

. . . . .

   

    We regulate economic competition (partly) because inequalities of wealth seem to make that competition unfair.  Is access to the mass media of verbal expression distributed more equitably than access to the commercial and banking resources of the nation?  Most of us have less to do with interest rates than David Rockefeller; we also have less influence upon the news than Walter Cronkite.

 

     My main point is that there are many and significant similarities between both the theories and the practical problems involved in economic and in verbal laissez faire.  One can make a strong case that both theories are essentially sound and have, on the whole, served well. One can criticize both for the monopolies, dishonest behavior, and inequalities among competitors which corrupt them in practice. It may seem less evident, but it is not unreasonable to contend that both forms of laissez faire suffer from flaws which make it desirable that alternatives be adopted.

 

     Regarding economic and verbal laissez faire: the one position which is most difficult to support, least consistent and least reasonable, is that one form is grossly inadequate and the other incomparably superior to any alternative.  That is precisely the view taken by America’s intellectual and legal establishments.  It is reason enough for the rest of us to doubt the capacity of those establishments to lead us.

 

. . . . .

 

Not long after doing the above, I attempted a much longer and more scholarly effort.  Several submissions to legal journals produced no encouragement.  I sent it to a very small publication, COGITATIONS ON LAW AND GOVERNMENT. From the editor of that I received acknowledgement of my “very fine work” and my “essay submission” along with an expectation that they would publish the “superbly written piece.”

 

It was published, but as correspondence, and it was both rearranged and cut.  The editor also took equal space to denounce it.  Sometimes it does not pay to think outside the established boxes!

The Fundamental Principle

of Popular Sovereignty

 

The following articles address that constitutional principle through our legislature  and it’s interpretation by the Supreme Court.