Corporate Personhood

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The first time the Supreme Court apparently held that the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause granted constitutional protections to corporations, as well as to natural citizens, was through the 1886 Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co. A headnote issued by the Court Reporter is alleged to have been secured by the railroad through bribery. 

The United States Supreme Court’s current view of corporate personhood is clearly not limited to any corporate need to enter into or enforce contracts. It has morphed to deceitfully rot the foundation of democracy. It now regards a corporation as something other, or somehow more than, the voice associated with the rights of those individual true citizens that are the lifeblood and the component parts of every enterprise.

Whenever these judges have held that corporations are, in effect supercharged persons with the right to exert unbridled influence, they have created a set of conditions that clearly favor oligarchy over the cardinal precepts of our constitutionally grounded democratic republic. The judicial monastery’s strange creature is an out of balance fictional character seen as somehow representing the corporation’s employees, retirees, clients, suppliers, and investors. In fact, the wildly disproportionate influence of those investors, that can pull up stakes as if they are shallow-set tent pegs, is typically based upon metrics that are little more than performance snapshots. It is sometimes referred to, by the more deeply vested, as “the tyranny of the balance sheet.” This is often the impetus for a speculator’s self imposed myopia and the most disruptive forms of influence.

In stark contrast to the comings and goings of what our nation’s founders undoubtedly would have described as “foreign potentates,” other stakeholders are not quite so portable. Employees must usually become “vested” over a substantial waiting period before they can exercise any stock options. They are typically required to live in close proximity to the place of business where they invest time and talent, as well as treasure in their communities. Their stakes are deeply set.

The Court has failed to understand just how its rusty scales of equity have been recklessly twisted in ways that adversely impact the health of the nation as well as its enterprises. When certain investors claim that managers and other employees have no stake in a company, consider just how fast an investment banker can dump their stock while the employee is left with few options when a company, or a company town, fails.

The Supreme Court, in its series of cases steadily advancing corporate personhood, failed to differentiate between employee owned corporations and those controlled by outside investors. This latter set often includes non-citizens that have surreptitiously become a big part of the donor base for politicians that are supposed to be representing actual citizens. A corporation that presumes to speak for its employees, without faithfully representing the needs or heartfelt desires of those same employees, gets a pass from our Supreme Court for a political influence that corrodes the democracy underpinnings of our constitutional republic.

A corporation is not a person. It may be a vehicle, an instrumentality, a device, a medium, a mechanism, a fiction, an auspice, an implement, or a contrivance. It is not however, by any stretch of the most overactive imagination, a person. At this critical juncture, we need our courts to behave rationally, and for the legislature to write laws unambiguously. As citizens of a participatory democracy, we need to understand why some in the corridors of power want a constituency that has never taken a civics class. Corrupt officials want an electorate that is entirely ok with effectively nullifying a constitutional imperative, such as the one popularly interpreted as “One man, one vote” by means of increasing the percentage of uninformed or misinformed voters.

Certain politicians have a long history of prostituting their offices to advance a form of corporate speech that has effectively drowned out the voice of the individual citizen. Today, those corrupt legislators and judges are discovering that this same corporate speech can be a two edged sword. Exposing the senatorial and judicial sophistries that have led to the legislature and the court of today being seen by many as illegitimate is the reap what you sow consequence of a stinky fertilization process. It was entirely foreseeable ever since they facilitated an all pervasive and reckless indifference to the truth.

It was inevitable that conferring corporate personhood upon a non-corporeal entity would lead to a distortion of “representative government” that is supposed to derive its just powers from the consent of the governed. Certain politicians can hardly be seen as representing the interests, or the will of, the electorate. In fact, in the context of our republic, they scheme to exacerbate the attention deficit of an intentionally overworked, under-compensated electorate that is distracted by the numerous difficulties often encountered as they try to make ends meet in conditions of peonage and on poverty wages.

The addled supremes, that strain at gnats while swallowing camels, have discarded the spirit of the law as it was so clearly stated within the Preamble to the United States Constitution. And, as long as they can continue to masquerade as originalists and textualists, the majority of us won’t have enough money to pay attention.

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