Tell me again why corporations are persons, and so should have free speech rights?
Insanely, the Bush Court decided yesterday that they wouldn't protect us from corporations buying elections because corporations have First Amendment Rights just like living, breathing human beings do. Federal Election Comm’n v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (PDF):
Moreover, pre-Buckley cases had accorded corporations full First Amendment protec- tion. See, e.g., NAACP v. Button, 371 U. S. 415, 428–429, 431 (1963) (holding that the corporation’s activities were “modes of expression and association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments”); Grosjean v. Ameri- can Press Co., 297 U. S. 233, 244 (1936) (holding that corporations are guaranteed the “freedom of speech and of the press . . . safeguarded by the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment”). See also Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. v. Public Util. Comm’n of Cal., 475 U. S. 1, 8 (1986) (plurality opinion) ("The identity of the speaker is not decisive in determining whether speech is protected"; "[c]orporations and other associations, like individuals, contribute to the 'discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas' that the First Amendment seeks to foster"). Indeed, one would have thought the coup de grace to the argument that corporations can be treated differently for these purposes was dealt by First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U. S. 765 (1978), decided just two years after Buckley. As the Court explained: The principle that such advocacy is "at the heart of the First Amendment’s protection" and is "indispensable to decisionmaking in a democracy" is "no less true because the speech comes from a corporation rather than an individual."
Well, this really is insane. I don't mean that the doctrine that a corporation is a person isn't settled law; it is. But does that make it sane?
I mean, if a Martian anthropologist came down to study us, and saw that we treated imaginary, social constructs that we ourselves created the same way we treated living, breathing, loving human beings... Well, they'd either throw up their tentacles in despair or start doing whatever it is that Martians do when they're hysterical with laughter.
When I can sit down and have a beer or a bong hit for Jeebus with a corporation, then it's a person just like me.
Now, I know that this area of the law is riddled with cranks and tax loons and all the winger crazies and a lot of marginalized people. That's fine; change starts at the margins, at the bounds of discourse outside the Overton Window. So, I was Googling around on this topic, and ran across this metaphor:
Slavery is the legal fiction that a Person is Property.
Corporate Personhood is the legal fiction that Property is a Person.
I rather like that.
Shouldn't we be talking more about this issue? Emerson wrote>:
Things are in the saddle,
And ride mankind.
There are two laws discrete
Law for man, and law for thing;
The last builds town and fleet,
But it runs wild,
And doth the man unking.
Yeah, yeah, some sexist language.
But the Bush Court just tightened the corporate saddle on me, and I'm not sure I like that at all.
NOTE And if corporations are persons, why can't we apply the death penalty to them if they murder people--as they often do.