Seretech Corporation v. United States (1999), also known as the Seretech Decision, was a landmark Supreme Court of the United States decision that upheld a private corporation's right to maintain an armed force for the protection of its personnel and property, and that such forces were a public benefit. In essence, the decision gave corporations the right to have private armies.
Excerpts from Justice Sessenbrunner’s Dissent, The United States vs. Seretech Corporation
In deciding this case through the lens of the now and focusing only on Seretech’s right to conduct its own business, we gravely risk missing the larger picture and overlooking the powerful, most likely negative e ects this decision could have in years to come.
Democracies are based upon the idea that force should be an option of last resort and should only be applied in an even-handed, impartial manner. Corporations, by their very nature, cannot be impartial. ey are designed to monitor and enforce their own good, not the common good. By granting them the right to use deadly force, we are taking the first step toward the feudal idea of might making right.
Some will complain that this position is alarmist, believing that, as in the case currently before the Court, corporations will only desire to use this power to defend their right to conduct business. This view, however, ignores the rider often attached to this phrase, and that is that corporations will use this power to defend their right to conduct business as they see fit. In the current case, Seretech saw the need to have their trucks move into and out of New York City without being hindered by angry mobs, and in this their cause is fairly sympathetic. But by granting corporations the right to maintain an army without setting well-defined rules for the use of that force, we have opened a Pandora's Box that will give rise to corporate armies being deployed in any way imaginable. For if history has taught us anything, it is that as soon as a particular right or freedom is endowed on a people, there are inevitably and immediately those who push that right or freedom to its furthermost extent.
When we grant corporations the same rights as nations, we can only expect them to behave as nations have. No nation has been perfect in its decisions of when to use force; how much more imperfect will corporations be?
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