Thursday, January 28, 2010

Corporations are not sentient beings, and they must not be granted the same freedoms as human beings!

The entire peculiar history of dealing with corporations as persons in the United States goes against the Jeffersonian notion of decentralized governance.

I lied. The ghost of Joe the plumber is still in control of this Art journal. And, he expands on a philosophical and legal argument about people versus corporations.

Before Chief Justice John Roberts' Supreme Court decision last Thursday, January 21st, 2010 corporations weren’t considered quite like real persons as far as free speech is concerned – actually for almost one hundred years - our nations courts had tried to restrict corporate spending in politics. However, on January 21st the Supreme Court decided that the first amendment protections of corporations were being violated, and that henceforth they will be allowed to spend as much money as they want to influence elections and our nation's politicians. The consequences of such a decision are, of course, to remove the first amendment protections, at least as far as our national politics are concerned, for all the merely human residents of this nation. In effect, we the people, became second-class citizens of our democracy.

The Court's 5 to 4 decision in favor of unlimited corporate spending on our nations elections is derived from the legal definition of corporate entities as persons for 14th Amendment purposes beginning in 1886 with the Supreme Court Case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. I would agree that corporations exist as a result of human endeavor, and at the same time they are the backbone of our capitalist economy. They are also a cultural force within the larger culture, and like all sub-cultures made up of sentient humans they conform to the processes that control the larger culture, some of which are beyond human control. However, no sub-culture including a corporation is a human being because neither is sentient in the sense that an individual person is sentient. Nor is a corporation capable of affect or conscience in the way a sentient being is. And, corporations are not like a group of human beings gathered together. Instead, a corporation is a process, more like a beehive, or even a mechanical device than it is like a person or group of persons. The primary purpose of the hive is to sustain the queen, and all activity of the hive is based on the imperative, to sustain the queen. Again, the primary purpose of the corporation is to make money, and all activity is based on the imperative to turn a profit for the various individuals that control(?) and / or own pieces of the corporation. The corporation will achieve its purpose (to make a profit) no matter the harm it might do to its environment as has so often been witnessed within the experience of this nation. A process does not have a conscience, nor does it experience emotion. A process does not have a motive, it simply is what it does.

Additionally, any rational that says corporations create wealth for everyone is based in the self-indulgent ideology of those in control (or those who would be in control) of corporations. In truth the idea of “trickle-down” wealth is absurd because those in control of corporations are riding a process that automatically corners more and more of the wealth because wealth equals more power, which equals more wealth, a circular and redundant process.

Yes, the corporation depends on the wealth of the larger culture in which it exists in order to create its own wealth. However, a corporation if unchecked will act, as our own recent and past history demonstrates, like a cancer destroying other components of the larger culture in which it exists.

Additionally, on a more practical level, the argument has been made that corporations are already represented by the individual voters who have corporate interests at heart; corporate officers, workers, shareholders and customers. Thus, granting corporations (these non-persons) additional first amendment rights doubles their free speech protection.

To reiterate, the mistake Chief Justice John Roberts' Court made is in defining corporations as being like persons. Instead, they are sub-cultures within the larger culture, made up of persons, just as is the larger culture. Cultures are processes generated by persons. They are not sentient. They depend on the sentience of the individuals of which they are composed to achieve direction, and that direction follows rules that are to some extent independent of the persons in control. To accord a process the same privileges, as human beings is not only foolish, it is idiocy of the worst kind.

The demon citizen who took control over this Art Journal will be exorcised, for he will be like a ghost, a spectral being whose performance upon the American stage, like that of all his fellows will be naught. Like a night mist suspended over dark waters, a cold wind blows and he will be dissolved.

And, we actually shall return to the concerns of Art next entry.


Fleck, Ludwig. The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Storey, John, Ed. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader. New York: Longman, 2009

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