Corporations Ain’t People, People!March 24th, 2009

   For almost 150 years, business corporations have enjoyed all the human rights accorded to actual humans under our Bill of Rights. Unlike flesh-and-blood people, corporations are a creation of government and finance, conceived in couplings that are consummated without love or passion. Superhuman in size and power, corporations exercise their freedoms without regard to the welfare of people, who are always at a disadvantage in any contest. Individuals opposing corporate policies, for example, engaging in protected speech under the First Amendment, will invariably be shouted down by corporations acting under the same protections.

   When we consider that corporations exist so that their owners can make money without taking on personal liability, we are forced to concede that they will use their freedoms to turn a profit, even if the rights of humans are infringed in the process. It is a fact of life that one party’s right creates another party’s obligation. Free of moral constraints, corporations will push their rights to their logical limits. In fact, if they fail to push and instead attempt to accommodate the rights of men, they will be taken to task by their owners and devalued in the marketplace. When challenged, they will pull out their huge bankrolls and deploy waves of human agents, broadcasting their positions, buying political influence, and manipulating courts of law to insure that they prevail. As they do, just about every time.

   Take the case of Cordova, Alaska. Twenty years ago this week, a ship carrying crude oil for the Exxon Corporation ran aground and broke up off the beach of this fishing city, destroying its economy and fouling the natural environment for hundreds of miles in every direction. If the vessel had been equipped with a double hull–a requirement that had long been advocated by experts concerned that such a spill was likely–the accident would have been without significant consequence. Because of the influence of corporations over public policy–people are inevitably outgunned when a big company unleashes its public relations arsenal–the USA had no double-hull requirement, and tens of thousands of humans were ruined. The company’s lawyers also beat the aggrieved Alaskans in federal court, screwing them out of billions in damages that a jury of men and women had awarded them. As for Prince William Sound and the area surrounding it, where the spill happened, it is polluted to this day and may never recover.

   More recently, corporations have pressed a corrupt US president and Congress

  • to deprive Americans of a functioning health care system in favor of a for-profit lottery that impoverishes millions every year
  • to relax controls on polluting emissions, pushing the balance of nature to the brink of catastrophe
  • to undo the reforms enacted following the Crash of 1929, resulting in the devastation of the national economy

An exhaustive list of abuses attributable to the “personhood” of corporations under the Constitution would run to thousands of pages.

   It was a line of cases beginning in 1864 in the U. S. Supreme Court–a notorious assembly of reckless, narrow-minded judges whose pro-slavery decisions had paved the way for civil war–that made us all subservient to corporate power. As a consequence, we humans have no recourse but to amend our charter, and we ought to enact a 28th Amendment to our constitution right now. It would remove the protections of the Bill of Rights from business corporations and other for-profit organizations that limit the personal liability of owners and members.

   Constitutional freedoms would be reserved for those who bear legal and moral responsibility for their acts and obligations–the people–and curtailed for those that accumulate vast treasuries to exploit and oppress without personal accountability. The amendment might even provide for capital punishment of felonious conduct, requiring the confiscation or dissolution and liquidation of organizations whose misdeeds cause widespread human suffering.

   Such an amendment would change the commercial landscape considerably, but most of the pain would be suffered by the biggest owners, the richest of the rich. They will tell you that jobs will be lost, but they’re shutting down operations now, to preserve and consolidate their wealth while the value of their holdings reaches some sort of stable equilibrium, and there’s no better time than now to apply some restrictions to them. And don’t be taken in by the pronouncements of Barack Obama and Barney Frank and NPR that we’re all in this together and must keep the current system going at all costs. If these timid apologists have their way, your meager wealth will be degraded further to enrich the tiny minority that owns this system. A class war is now in progress, and the people are losing. Call your representative and senators. Organize your neighborhood and workplace to amend the Constitution and save the republic.