Nick Szabo Blogging

Nick is a premier thinker about history, law and economics, and the lessons they have for security. Take this brief sample from “Origins of the joint-stock corporation:”

The modern joint-stock corporation has many sources in medieval Europe. First among these was corporate law itself. Although the era is commonly referred to as “feudalism,” for the hierarchy of individually owned “fiefs” of land and control of serfs as fixtures of that land, large amounts of wealth in Europe were actually controlled by corporate entities. Chief among these were church lands, the corporate entities being dioceses, religious orders and the Roman Church itself. These entities controlled a substantial fraction of the land in Western Europe. Furthermore cities (with varying degrees of political independence), merchant guilds, craft guilds, and many charitable entities (such as hospitals) were legal “corporations,” i.e. artificial and perpetual legal persons under law. Some basic issues in corporate law (for example, when are officers individually liable for acts of the corporation, and when the corporation is liable for acts of its agents) had already been solved in canon law and urban law long before the joint-stock corporation.