Published on Democracy: A Journal of Ideas in Winter 2016
Few Americans would recognize 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware, as a site of American power rivaling the White House or Capitol Hill. But thousands of American businesses—including giants such as Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and General Motors—claim North Orange Street as their registered address for the purpose of securing a Delaware corporate charter. All but a handful of these companies have no real connection to the state. But no matter. Delaware provides corporate foundational papers to all comers, and earns as much as a quarter of its state budget from the ensuing fees. Though Delaware has a population of less than one-third of 1 percent of the nation, more than half of Fortune 500 businesses claim a filing cabinet in Wilmington as home.