Sunday, April 25, 2010

How are Corporations Like Psychopaths?

In the U.S., corporations are legally regarded as persons. That part isn't new. It goes all the way back to erroneous comments added to a court decision by U.S. Supreme Court Reporter Bancroft Davis in 1886, but that technical fact has obviously been disregarded by both congress and the courts. Both continue to expand on that extraneous commentary like it was an actual court decision, which it was not.
During the past several years, the SC has ruled that the concept of eminent domain, which has been exercised by government, ostensibly to acquire property seen as essential to the public good, can now be exercised solely for the benefit of private industry. In other words, if you have a piece of nice acreage with the layout and resources a corporation says it must have to relocate to a particular municipality, that municipality can eminent domain you off that land, because the great corporate benefit will allegedly "trickle down" to the community via tax revenue. Aside from all the other things wrong with that concept, such tax revenue is somewhat dubious; many municipalities offer massive tax breaks to corporations to operate within their borders. But the point is, your land isn't always your land, if someone in Gov-Corp wants it.
Oddly, we heard not a peep from tea bagger-type people when that decision came down from their beloved Bush-appointed, wingnut activist justices. Strange, considering these are the folks loudly railing now about the evils of government intrusion and trampling of individual rights. (Well, maybe not so strange - these very same folks seem okay with gubmint deciding whether or not women must bear children, what birth control will be available and/or covered, if citizens can get tattoos, play poker, or decide how to spend their own paychecks. Nope, as long as they can have their AK-47s and all the ammo they can stockpile, the baggernuts don't much care about all the other ways they are treated like simple-minded children by their state and federal government).
The January Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC, was described by Alan Grayson as a blatant statement "that only huge corporations have any constitutional rights. They have the right to bribe, the right to buy elections, the right to reward their elected toadies, and the right to punish the elected representatives who take a stab at doing what's right." I wrote that, "in a decision that's being called radical and destructive, five activist judges from the extreme right have decided that corporations should be able to use unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections."
Liliana Segura said, "Indeed, in a momentous 5 to 4 decision the New York Times called a "doctrinal earthquake," the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an unprecedented ruling today that gives new significance to the phrase "corporate personhood." In it, the Roberts court overturned the federal ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns, ruling that forbidding corporations from spending money to support or undermine political candidates amounts to censorship. Corporations, the court ruled, should enjoy the same First Amendment rights as individuals.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Supreme Court rejects "the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not 'natural persons.'"
So it would seem that the rights of the corporate person now generally supersede those of us mere worker drones as a matter of course. But the other side of the rights coin is responsibility. And special rights or privilege comes with special responsibility - right?
Which got me thinking: We all know about and have undoubtedly encountered flesh-based people with varying levels of psychopathology. If corporations are also people, can they be diagnosed as psychopaths using the same criteria? If corporate persons are found to be dangerous psychopaths, can they be committed for treatment? Should there be corporate group homes and halfway houses? If the psychopathic corporate person knowingly causes the deaths of others through reckless disregard for life, can the corporate person be executed? Should corporate people be made to take medication? What would be the corporate equivalent of a straitjacket?
Perhaps we should start giving this issue some serious thought. Cuz from where I'm standing, it looks like the typical American citizen is getting seriously assaulted by psychopathic corporate "people" that are way, way out of control.

For more elaboration on Dr. Hare's diagnostic assessment above, please check out the piece below. Some of the most powerful observations come from Noam Chomsky during the last several minutes. The zinger at the end (from Peter Drucker) is about how the current "wisdom" in corporate thinking is to avoid leaders with a social conscience like the plague - bad for business, doncha know....

"Slavery is the Legal Fiction that a Person is Property; Corporate Personhood is the Legal Fiction that Property is a Person." -Poclad.Org

"Fascism should more properly be called 'corporatism' because it is the total merging of corporate and state power."
-Benito Mussolini


Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Anna, you wrote a great piece. Its truth runs deep. The utter nonsense ruled by the Roberts' Court is preposterous, absurd and bizarre. I indirectly replied to an antagonist on Tom's blog back in January regarding the latest corporate-personhood ruling, exploring the same kinds of concepts and "what-ifs?" that you're suggesting. My adversary wasn't able to understand the concepts expressed, nor did she wish to contemplate them. Unfortunately, for millions of Americans, the ideas behind corporate-personhood are too abstract and inconceivable. This is what makes the fight to denounce and turnover the latest pro-artificial person case, along with all those rulings going back to the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company decision, an uphill battle.

I've said it countless times before, on your blog and many others, and I'll keep repeating it until it rings true with as many (natural) persons as possible: The vast majority, if not all, of our economic, social, and cultural struggles and challenges today are only symptoms of a disease; corporate-personhood is the disease.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

"Despite...assertions of corporate personhood in the fourteenth amendment context,
corporations did not come to rely on Bill of Rights protections until quite recently. As late as 1960 the corporation arguably enjoyed only the protection of the fifth amendment's due process clause. Today, the corporation boasts a panoply of Bill of Rights protections: first amendment guarantees of political speech, commercial speech, and negative free speech rights; fourth amendment safeguards against unreasonable regulatory searches; fifth amendment double jeopardy and liberty rights; and sixth and seventh amendment entitlements to trial by jury.

As the Hasting Law Journal's 1990 publication of Carl Mayer's rather lengthy and thorough legal analysis reveals, corporate personhood has a long history of development and has left seemingly intended consequences of the most critical order. We, as "natural persons", have been marginalized and relegated as nothing more than another component of economics's highly venerated factors of production. With the strengthening and widening of corporate power, enabled by over a century of court decisions favoring artificial persons over those of natural persons, we're at the precipice of either complete serfdom or compete
reform, with the former more likely. I believe the tipping-point has been reached. Unfortunately, our current two-party system does not -- will not -- even utter the term "corporate personhood", for to do so would jeopardize the cozy relationship now so apparent among our government executives, lawmakers, and law interpreters with corporate entities and banking syndicates. Only the Green Party addresses corporate personhood, actually calling for its elimination in its party platform through the legislative process or constitutional amendment.

The Harvard Law Review frames the argument; we're now in a state of socialism for artificial persons, whereas natural persons are left purely to their own devices. Critics, predominately from the right, shout socialism and communism, but isn't that really opposite of what's really happening? "The 'socialist' moniker thrown at supporters of government intervention applies where the state excessively owns and operates the means of production., when the check between private and public becomes lost. But what do you call the evisceration of that check in a system where the means of production own and operate the state? Is industrial or special interest socialism not even more antithetical to American notions of check and balance?"

Thomas Jefferson certainly understood the dangers inherent in moneyed interests -- corporations -- playing such a strong role in subverting democracy for its own purposes. I can't help but think that if Mr. Jefferson were present
when our constitution was being written during the summer of 1787, instead of away in Paris, our country today would be truly democratic and accessible to all.

"I hope we shall...crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of
our country.
" --Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1816.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Anna, you're going to give psychopaths a bad name!


Tom Degan

7:25 PM  

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