03/31/2008 08:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Spies R' Us

A corporation is a group of people, who gather together in order to perform a task otherwise too risky or too expensive for an individual to accomplish. Way back in the days of silly mustaches, entrepreneurs had to gain the government's permission to incorporate, and since governments are built and sustained on public finances, corporations were originally created to serve the public. Historically, citizens had a say in every aspect of corporations, including how large they grew, and how long they operated.

In the 19th century, businessmen changed the corporate model by successfully cutting the public out of the process. Andrew Carnegie formed his steel operation as a limited partnership, and John D. Rockefeller avoided consulting the pesky public by making Standard Oil a trust.

In 1966, Ralph Nader coined the term "Corporate Welfare," officially bestowing a name upon the institutional act of the government offering wealthy corporations tax breaks and money grants. Worse than this favoritism, corporations run by morally bankrupt pirates began to betray the public trust, as demonstrated by the Houston-based energy company, Enron.

By the beginning of the new millennium, citizens were wary of corporations. Employees trembled in cubicles, fearful of looming layoffs, and the fact that their employers operated from behind an opaque curtain of secrecy. Would Monday bring the news of jobs shipped overseas, or a middle management-type caught shilling money out for hookers? The Corporation as a stalwart cog in the democratic machine seemed as archaic an idea as dinosaurs roaming the earth.

Then came a new stage in the evolution of the corporation: the spy. Though the exact scope of the program is still unknown, Alberto Gonzales could recall enough information to ensure the public that - at the very least - they are being spied on under something called NSA surveillance. The government couldn't handle such an enormous task like spying on American citizens alone, so they enlisted the help of telecommunications corporations like AT&T.

Now, the CIA has enlisted Google's help for their exponentially expanding spy network. Google will claim they're aiding the CIA with national security, just as AT&T claimed, just as corporations always claim when they're caught spying on people (including their stockholders) for the government.

Corporations aren't inherently evil. When used for good, they can be efficient ways to serve the public, for example when building roads, bridges, and vast networks of infrastructure. Corporations can feed nations, vaccinate populations, and pump commerce into starved communities. We all use corporations, for advertising, for communication -- to live our lives.

However, when corporations are publicly traded, their divided shares belong to the public. They exist to serve the people, just as the government serves the people. A corporation is only as good as the sum of its parts, and if corrupt men and women run a corporation, the entire entity goes bad. If a CEO decides to betray the public's trust, and hands over a list of customer names to the government, then that corporation has become the public's enemy.

Huge spy networks designed to catch terrorists are potentially faulty. Innocent people inevitably fall victim to erroneous accusations, and may suffer dire consequences because corporations are now serving a tyrannical government instead of the American people.