Thursday, January 21, 2010

Corporations: Not People

The Supreme Court today struck down long-standing limits on corporate campaign spending. This means that if Goldman Sachs or General Electric wanted to get their CEO elected president, they could spend literally billions of dollars to get that done.

This court decision, by the way, seems at first glance to be technically correct, if you accept the notion that corporations are persons, with the full protection of the 14th amendment. This notion, while widely accepted, is not statutory, nor is is found in the constitution or in any Supreme Court opinion. It was inserted by a court reporter as part of a headnote to an unremarkable railroad case.

The idea that corporations are legal persons is ludicrous. It is predicated on faulty logic. That logic goes something like this: Corporations share some of the same legal protections as people; therefore, they are people.

This is like saying that dogs share some characteristics with people, like eyes and ears, so they are people.

What's next? Should we allow them to vote and marry? If they are to be allowed equal protection under the 14th amendment, then the answer would seem to be yes.

The notion of corporations as people needs to done away with. They are not people. The US Chamber of Commerce will, of course, freak out, and claim that it will lead to abolition of contracts and so forth.

But we can still give corporations protections. We just don't have to call them people and give them the same rights as citizens.

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