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Monday, July 07, 2014

The Layman's Guide to Corporate Personhood.

DISCLAIMER: I am not, nor have I ever been a lawyer; though I did play one at a dinner theater production in high school. And I do stay at a lot of Holiday Inn Express's.

Ever since the Citizen's United case was decided by the Supreme Court, and more so since the Hobby Lobby decision, folks are screaming about the idea that a Corporate could be a "person". The idea that five conservative justices could spin from straw this new gold standard that made companies into people.

And all of those folks complaining are wrong. We've recognized corporations and companies as persons since the beginning of America. It's actually one of the tenants of  America's foundation!

With Citizen's United the Court decided that a corporation enjoys the same free speech right as an individual. Lefty heads exploded, that can't be. They were very clear in how they told you about it, too. A corporation is nothing more than an associate of people with a common goal, whether it's a non-profit or GM, the corporation exists because of the people, and for a cause. No more or less than a Union, who the same folks screaming about this decision have no problem recognizing as having a right to speech.

Planned Parenthood is a corporation, and I'm guessing that none of it's officers whom I've heard yelling about the Hobby Lobby decision would like it if they were told to shut up, they have no right to speak, as members of a corporation.  

One of the founding principles of the United States is a free press. Does anyone believe Ben Franklin envisioned only individual reporters with leaflets as "the press" when he published a number of papers, and employed a number of workers on them? So to use the logic of the folks decrying Citizen's United, Franklin had no right to speak out against the government through his papers, as they were companies, not people.

So we've already shown that the 1st Amendment has been applied to corporations since our founding. What about other Amendments?

The 4th is a favorite of most folks. If a corporation is not a person, then the 4th shouldn't apply, correct? There should be no requirement for a warrant to search a company. Yet the courts have upheld since the earliest days of the country that a warrant is required to search a place of business.  Even (gasp!) businesses that make a profit.

The Fifth Amendment's "Takings Clause"  has also been applied to corporations. Even when it's a company who's land is taken in an eminent domain case, the government pays them for it.
 And I'm pretty sure no one really wants the IRS to decide the company they work for has too much money, so it will just take it, leaving nothing for payroll. That does happen, but not until after it's gone through the courts.

The 3rd Amendment is really no one's favorite, but it has been followed in wars since our founding when there was a need to quarter troops, or transport them. The government used a lot of merchant vessels in both WWI and WWII to get troops to and from different theaters of the wars. And they reimbursed the owners for their use. As a more personal example, while attending military schools I've often had to stay at hotels, I didn't just show my ID and get a free room, it had to be paid for. But that hotel company is a corporation, so shouldn't have the government just told them to stuff it, they don't have the right to be reimbursed?

So why, people, when you can plainly see the government for over 200 years has given the rights listed "for the people" in the Constitution to companies and corporations, are you having such a fit about Hobby Lobby?

Think about the logical alternative, and you won't like it. Let's say we get to pick and chose which rights corporations are considered "people" for, and which they aren't. Who makes that choice? Do you want the Tea Party folks deciding who gets free speech this week? Probably no more than they want the Saul Alinsky folks deciding who what a Free Press really is.

Do you think anyone would start a company if they had to worry every election cycle if there was going to be a completely new set of rights defined for them by the incoming administration. The regulatory issues are already a pain, but the idea of losing your business for a new freeway with no compensation, that would probably keep you from starting it.

But, you say, if you didn't like it you could take them to court! Well, not really, because they'd probably just say your business wasn't a person, so the idea of redress doesn't apply, sorry.

That's my layman's guide to corporations being people. Think about it for a while.


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