Legal-Political and Economic Views
New Perspectives on the Modern Corporation series
Chapter 1: Corporate law and the legal environment of the firm
‘Society is produced by our wants, and government is produced by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The first is a patron, the last a punisher’, Thomas Paine (1995: 5, emphasis in original) writes in his influential pamphlet Common Sense, published in 1775–76. In his Two Treatises of Government (first published in 1690), another foundational work for the liberal, modern society, John Locke emphasized that law making is ultimately based on ‘the public good’: Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defence of the commonwealth from foreign inquiry; and all this only for the public good. (Locke,  2003: 10; Book II, §3) In these liberal treatises, man is a creature capable of both creation and destruction, and therefore society needs to be built on constitutional rights and legislation that effectively combine liberating and controlling features, yet obey the principle of common good. Following Mannheim’s (1986) argument, Paine’s position is exemplary of a liberal view, locating law at the centre of the constitutional rights that are capable of protecting the individual from the sovereign or other actors granted legislative powers.