The VOC (Dutch East India Company) and EIC (East India Company) were joint stock companies that took control of large parts of the Indian subcontinent in the seventeenth century.

Have any other countries been run in order to profit shareholders?

So the government is not answerable to population (even though it can be arranged that all citizens are shareholders). It's answerable to shareholders like corporations.

The shares can be bought and sold and earn dividend.

People get shares/citizenship based on purchase or contribution to economy and not based on being born at the right place with the right parents.

So a socialist guy having 40 children will not have 40 socialist children voting for socialism. The guy will just be paid to get out or forced to get out.

Basically like publicly traded company.

Any samples?

Doesn't have to be countries, any autonomous regions would do. I would say a cruiser ship would count but people don't stay and raise families there?


According to this the government system is meitochocracy

Update: After seeing comments, some question why would a region want to voluntarily be governed by a corporation.

While, it's not part of the question, hence, VOC, and EIC, and even free republic of Congo would work. However, there are reasonable reasons why the people in a region may benefit and consent to the idea of the corporations having some or all voting power for them.

  1. An area has almost no population or have very few small population. Here, a corporation persuade the small poor population to join.
  2. Investments. A corporation agree to invest if it can vote. Good for failing democracy.
  3. Citizens are shareholders. So it's still democracy in a sense. The investors have 5% of the share while 95% of voting power is still in the hand of the adult population.
  4. Efficiency. Much more difficult to corrupt money if all voters/shareholders want the exact same thing, namely, return on investments.

Here, voluntarily means reasonably voluntarily. Namely more than 50% of citizens agree, or their king agree, etc. I do not think any system can be 100% voluntary.

The basic idea is that the shares/citizenship is not automatically granted to children of citizens but must be bought. That prevents people with large number of children from moving the policy toward their kind. However, if a person have a large number of children, and they are rich enough to buy citizenship for each of his children, then there is no problem.

So it can be democracy with more accountability for citizens to be economically contribute.

  • I guess a charter city would fit the bill, but it doesn't look like any such yet exist. Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 12:19
  • 5
    Your discussion of Company-ruled India is a bit confusing and seems irrelevant. Several colonies since 1858 have been run essentially by people trying to extract as much wealth as possible: Congo Free State is a good example (although it was owned by an individual not a corporation). But you seem to be looking for an autonomous region voluntarily choosing to be run by a corporation, which has never happened as far as I know (certainly not lasting for several years). There are however countries where corporations have held de facto power.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 16:05
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    The list of chartered companies is pretty long, and some of them even date after the Berlin Conference. Of the British colonies in Africa, Niger, Rhodesia, Uganda and Kenya were all ruled by companies at one time.
    – ccprog
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 20:01
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    People get shares/citizenship based on purchase or contribution to economy and not based on being born at the right place with the right parents. This is actually how all cities works in China until last month. An individual is eligible to a city's citizenship (a collection of civil rights including social benefits, privilege to register a car and drive it within city limit, access to public schools for his/her child) only after he/she has an eligible job and bought a home in said city, or born in the city by parent(s) with citizenship. Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 3:35
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    @StuartF "But you seem to be looking for an autonomous region voluntarily choosing to be run by a corporation" – That seems like a pretty unlikely interpretation of the question, since it's hard to imagine why a nation would voluntarily give up its own sovereignty to a group of self-interested shareholders. It seems to me like the question is asking for more examples similar to the East India Company. Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 15:39

4 Answers 4


In the XX century, the Soviet Magadan far-northeast region with then-rich gold deposits was run like a joint stock company for quite some time.

The people there were either prisoners/soviet labor camp system victims, their guards employed by state, and civilians employed by Dalstroy organization. The place did not have Soviet civil administration for a long period of time as far as I know. You could only be there if you had a status in this system.

The owner of this business was Soviet Union, altough presumably other parties could also profit from its existence. No stocks, though.

  • 1
    Speaking of the Soviet Union, it might be argued that its successor state is run solely to profit a subset of powerful citizens, although this arrangement would be implicit. Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 1:36
  • Why all the military conflicts then? They only hurt the bottom line.
    – alamar
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 8:45

The Sperrgebiet in Namibia was established in 1908 and is controlled by company Namdeb, co-owned by the Namibian state and De Beers, for the purpose of mining diamonds. It includes the city of Oranjemund, which has only become a city with a civil administration in 2011. There are other ghost towns, but they were all abandoned before the Great Depression.

The Sperrgebiet was designated as a national park in June 2004, and is now named Tsau ǁKhaeb National Park. De Beers still controls the area, but will relinquish control to the Namibian Ministry for Environment and Tourism once a management plan for the park has been completed.


Coming to mind is the Congo Free State - 1885 to 1908 - run for the personal enrichment of its major (only?) stakeholder, Leopold II of Belgium.

CFS wasn't necessarily a "company" in the traditional sense, and it did not trade shares, but certainly fits the "have countries been run explicitly for profit" title, as it was very much a commercial venture.

This meant a death toll in at least the low single digit millions in what is current DRC to extract rubber and ivory.

And also (not for the faint of heart):

Profit-seeking actions included cutting off children's hands to coerce their parents into harvesting rubber or ivory.

Apocalypse Now, the movie, is inspired from Heart of Darkness, the book, which is largely seen to be about CFS.

King Leopold' Ghost is a very readable, if potentially quite distressing, book covering this subject.


ZEDE (Zonas de empleo y desarrollo económico) like Prospera is being ran for profit.

It seems that it's going to be the most free country in the world. Low taxes and so on.


This is what the CEO said

Brimen also talked about the theory behind Prospera. Basically, he observed that governments don't work well, but the private sector does. Governments have misaligned incentives, while businesses have to provide value to their customers to survive. Therefore, the winning governance model will be a business that's in the business of governance. It has to provide value to its customers or it won't make a profit. Also, it's about creating prosperity, not attacking poverty. Good institutions are what create prosperity. (I don't guarantee my summary accurately reflects his theory, so listen to the podcast if you're interested in that)

  • It's not going to be a "country", as it remains in Honduras (no seat at the UN for example), and I'd like to know what metric you use to measure "freedom" (I could cite some countries with zero tax... and even less "freedom"). This is far from an uncontroversial development: theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/05/… But the OP does say "autonomous regions" so I suppose this is a correct answer.
    – James K
    Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 18:15

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