On the Supreme Court ruling on corporate contributions

Facebook friends weigh in.

Doug Henwood. I’m getting distressed watching all my FB friends join the Abolish Corporate Personhood group. And what then? Return to proprietorships and partnerships? Or socialize the things? The corp personhood thing is mostly a small is beautiful petit bourgeois fantasy that’s not been thought through.

He does have a point. How would a few mild limits on corporate power change anything?

SA on Henwood’s LBO-Talk listserv agrees:

In response to the Citizens United decision, there seems to be a movement afoot by some folks on the left to amend the Constitution to end corporate personhood. See here: . Maybe I’m missing something important, but this seems insane. Legally speaking, labor unions are corporations (“non-stock corporations”) – so are all cooperatives, and Amnesty International, and the Economic Policy Institute, etc. etc. They’re all corporations, as is pretty much any non-governmental organization. “Corporation” is a legal term, but basically it’s just a synonym for “collectivity.” Is the left in this country so hyper-individualistic that it wants to stymie all economic and social life not based on the rugged individual?

If corporations no longer had personal rights (e.g., against illegal search and seizure, or prior restraint of speech), Exxon would lose those rights but so would the ACLU. Do we want that? Or am I misunderstanding the legal issues? It seems to me that’s wrong with campaign finance in this country is not the fact that corporations have same rights as people, it’s that people with money effectively have more rights than people without money. So it would seem the logical step would just be an amendment to reverse Buckley v. Valeo and give Congress the right to regulate campaign spending.

BTW, the Populist Party of the 1890’s strongly opposed corporate personhood and did everything they could to block it from happening. They knew what was coming. But the real problem isn’t personhood per se, but the power of money and the corporatist control of DC.

Finally, on the humorous side.

Denise Robb is confused about the new Supreme Court ruling and she wonders, if corporations really are “people” then should I send them Christmas cards and invite them to pot lucks? Should I fix some of my friends up with Exxon or Best Buy? This changes everything!

Hey, maybe I could get a platonic relationship going with Patagonia. They make great, eco-friendly clothes and gear and I’d be happy to take free samples.

So, which corporation would you like to hook up with?


  • woody

    Exxon would lose those rights but so would the ACLU. Do we want that? Or am I misunderstanding the legal issues?

    Yes, we do. Apparently he does misunderstand the issue. Just because a corporation doesn’t have personhood doesn’t mean it’s not protected from things like search and seizure. And if, legally, they somehow found themselves exposed to such things I’m sure it wouldn’t be for long as they’d push for legislation to make such things illegal once they lost personhood.

    The problem is that personhood grants corporations all the rights of being a person while giving them none of the responsibilities or penalties. People can be incarcerated or sentenced to death for crimes, corporations can’t. People eventually pass away, and are forced (by death) to pass on their power and/or belongings to others (and pay a tax on the transfer in some cases), while corporations live forever.

    Just to give an example. Two people decided to go around DC shooting motorists with sniper riffles a few years ago. They killed about a dozen people and one was sentenced to jail, the other to death. Ford motor company knew about a major problem with their cars back in the 80s and decided it was cheaper to pay off people as the accidents happened rather than to warn people and/or recall the cars (which killed over a hundred people). When they were finally caught, they were forced to do the recall, and pay a huge fine. If a person had done that, they would be put in jail, and probably sentenced to death. But Ford, as a company, can’t be sent to jail, or killed like a person can.

    Corporations aren’t people, nor are unions, or other entities composed of people. The people as individuals have personhood, but the collective they belong to should not. You gain advantages when you create a corporation and shift assets to it (tax wise and liability wise). The trade off should be that you lose certain rights in doing so, but as it stands that’s not the case.

    At best corporations should have a smaller, lesser sets of rights, tailored to meet the state of being they represent. That set of rights should take into account the fact that they’re effectively immortal, and can’t be punished via incarceration. If vampires were real, I’m sure we’d have a separate set of rights and penalties for the immortal undead than we do for living mortals. And when you think of it, how is an corporation any different than a vampire?

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