Corporations Are *Not* Persons: Why We Need A Constitutional Amendment
This is another “open government” post. I believe that our government needs to be open for greater participation and influence by you and I, and that it needs little or no influence from corporate organizations. I say “corporate organizations” because I’m not just talking about for-profit corporations (such as General Motors). I’m also talking about non-profit corporations (such as GreenPeace), advocacy groups (such as MoveOn.org), industry associations (such as the RIAA), unions (such as the Teamsters), banks & insurance companies (such as Wells Fargo), religion-based groups (such as the Catholic hospitals), and even local groups with names like “citizens for good government”.
What Is A Corporation
First of all, corporations are simply groups of people who are organized for some specific purpose. The attraction of the corporate form is that they have no natural limit on their life spans, which tends to help them to accumulate money and therefore power. If we assume that everyone that is involved in a corporation shares its goals, this enables them to speak more loudly than a comparably-sized group of people who are not so organized. —my Xanga blog.
There was a court decision in 1886 whereby corporations were declared to be legally-equivalent to persons. This was, most certainly, a mistake. But it is a mistake which has persisted, and which the Supreme Court’s most recent decision only compounds. [Most news sites only leave articles up for about two weeks. The original article date is 2010-01-21.]
As I explain over on Xanga, the effect of this ruling is to give corporate managers, a small subset of those who are involved in the corporation, a potentially louder political voice than that of a similarly sized non-incorporated group of individuals. It creates two classes of citizens: those whose words are listened to by politicians (primarily the managers of the largest corporations), and those whose words and whose welfare are ignored by politicians (everyone else).
We should also remember that corporate management typically only serves the interests of themselves, the corporation itself, and sometimes the stockholders. Employees, contractors, service providers, neighbors, suppliers, and others whose activities help the corporation to do what it does—people who will be affected when the corporation gets its way—none of them have any say in what a corporation decides to lobby for.
Do we really want corporate management (remembering that a corporation may not be a for-profit organization) to run the country even more than they already do? Or will we put aside our differences (conservacrat and repuberal) and work to make it easier for you and I (regardless of our individual points of view) to be heard and listened to by our politicians?
Call To Prayer
Christian believers: This could get pretty ugly. Some individuals may become frustrated at the length of the process necessary to repair the damage that this decision and its predecessor caused to our nation. We must pray that our people remain calm, but determined to undo this injustice. This is a time for peaceful campaigning, not for anger or confrontation. Let us not descend into the depths that some other nations have experienced. Pray, then, for peaceful change.
Call To Political Involvement
Open and responsive government is something that all of us have an interest in. Now, more than ever, you and I need to press our senators and congressmembers to vote for a Constitutional amendment that makes it clear that corporate (and similar!) organizations are not people, and have no right to be involved in the political process. Look at the news. See all the mess that is the economy? It was caused by corporate organizations who had too much influence with their regulators and the politicians. The way forward is to make it more difficult for them to get that much power and influence ever again.
This isn’t a “left” or “right” wing issue. It isn’t a “black” or “white” issue. It is a me and you and your cousin Fred vying with a small number of corporate would-be kingmakers and power-brokers to decide whose country this is. I would love to see people of every political persuasion joining together to restore balance to the nation.
Mandatory disclaimer: This is personal opinion, not an official statement by any company, government agency, or other organization. No organization was consulted before this was written. You are free to disagree, either in the comments here, or on your own blog.
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