The 18th-century Enlightenment liberated mind, soul and property, empowering people to think their own thoughts, worship their own gods, and benefit from the fruits of their own labor and thrift. As labor and capital came to serve their owners, not the crown, guild, church or village, economies began to awaken from a thousand years of stagnation. The British Parliament stripped away the leaching influence of royal charters and initiated reforms that ultimately allowed businesses to incorporate simply by meeting preset capital requirements. Parliament further established that its laws would govern business—laws created…

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