View RSS Feed

Memories of the 28th Century

Corporate personhood

Rate this Entry
Every so often I see something about corporations being persons in law, and I, like many others, think that is an absurdity that should be eliminated. A little while ago, I reread some of the matters and court decisions that led to that absurdity, and I realized that it is not completely absurd. It is convenient for a large group of natural persons to have instruments whereby they can control property or businesses in common, but the absurdity comes in when certain individual rights come into the matter. An entity that exists to engage in business should not have the right to have religious or political opinions, except where political activity directly touches that entity. The artificial entity does not have the right to vote, so it cannot have a valid opinion on candidates for political office.

Rather than removing all legal protections from corporations, it might be better for everyone, if we restricted the legal rights of corporations to those rights that are relevant to the conduct of the corporation's activities. That might restrict the tools that the people who control a corporation use to express their personal opinions, but those individuals would still be able to express themselves as individuals, and the corporation could still conduct business. It would restrict some corporations so they would cease to operate. For example, the National Rifle Association could still operate in its fundamental operations, but its associated corporation, the NRA Institute for Legislative action would not be able to lobby legislators, except through generalized educational material, Another example would be American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA would operate as an information spreader, as it does, and while it could not directly lobby legislators regarding specific ,legislation, it could provide educational material.

There are other ways to organize groups, including partnerships, associations, and trusts, and those have been used for owning real estate, businesses, and other property for a long time. Associations are barely distinguishable from corporations in how they operate, and the members are protected from the consequences of improper activities, but I believe that the officers are less protected. Then there are LLC's, and other organizations. If anything, there are too many options, see the link to the SBA web-pages.

Rather than simply trying to limit the political operations of corporations, people might want to consider eliminating corporate tax breaks. In many cases, corporations of various kinds get tax advantages that are not available to individuals, unless they form a corporation, and that is inequality before the law. Simplifying the tax cod is an important matter that has been ignored, while additional breaks for certain business have been passed into law. Corporations of various sorts have legitimate reasons to exist, but they should pay income taxes at the same rates as individuals, but they are not voters, so they can't have valid political opinions.

This subject is complicated, but people who want to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision are missing most of the problem. The fundamental problem is that corporations have been given too many preferences. We should demand equality.