Who Owns Silicon Valley?

View of Silicon Valley in 2012, showing major employers
Vintage 2012 view of Silicon Valley showing major employers. “Silicon Valley IT Company Topography” by Wayan Vota is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Or more precisely, who owns Santa Clara County? With the cooperation of local officials including the County Assessor, a consortium including the Mercury News has determined who owns the greatest value of real estate in the County.  Tech giants Alphabet and Apple are second and third, but the number one owner turns out to be Stanford University.

Some other important information:

Proposition 13 is mentioned, but the incentive which keeps old people in their homes which become unaffordable to most families is not explored.

Local opposition to development, preventing housing construction which might otherwise occur, is discussed.

Stanford’s existing holdings include commercial property, but their current acquisitions seem mainly to provide housing for some of their elite employees.  These people are able to buy houses at favorable prices (relative to the area), however Stanford retains the land and retains the right to buy the house back eventually. Local non-Stanford people complain, of course, but do not offer to sell their properties at a discount.

Apparently California practice is to assess all real estate, even that which is exempt.  This enables meaningful estimates of ownership even tho $13.3 billion of Stanford’s $19.7 billion in real estate is exempt.

Several local officials were interviewed.  They don’t discuss how it feels to know that your opposition, Apple and/or Google, has control of much of your communications and might be monitoring them.

Well worth a read for those interested.


Let’s treat corporations like people

credit: Berkeley T. Compton via Flickr (cc)

Lots of folks seem upset that corporations are being treated like people. True, America prospered for centuries with tight limits on corporate powers (fine history here), and it might be a good idea to again restrict the privilege of forming and maintaining corporations.  Or maybe to do away with them altogether.

But if, instead, corporations are going to have the same powers as natural persons, let’s go about this systematically.

A corporation can deduct all its expenses before calculating its taxable income.  A natural person should be allowed to do the same, deducting the cost of food, housing, medical treatments, transportation, and everything else.  If the result is a net loss, carry it over to the next year.

A person doesn’t get full legal rights until the age of 18 (or for some rights, 21). Until then, the parents are responsible for most kinds of damage which the person might do. So if a corporation is formed today, the stockholders should for 18 or 21 years be liable for the corporation’s debts and damages. The stockholders would also be responsible for making sure that the corporation is properly cared for and educated.  In serious cases of irresponsible stockholders, the State Department of Children, Family, And Infant Corporation Services would come in and take the corporation away.

How about voting? Should a corporation, having reached the age of majority, be permitted to cast a vote? I’m not sure about this. Under “one corporation one vote” the megacorporations really wouldn’t be very influential. But wealthy people might choose to form many small corporations in order to influence elections. And of course if they can vote, wouldn’t corporations have to be permitted to hold office? Voting is definitely a concern, but since the rich and their corporations control major elections now, I doubt any choice in this matter would make things appreciably worse.