Monday, February 11, 2013

I've Said It Before...

... and I'm sure I'll say it again. Anti-corporate personhood movements show a supreme lack of understanding of the underpinnings of corporate law. Also, they show a lack of understanding of the reasoning behind Constitutional protections for the individual.

I ran across this today. I know it isn't new. I know it isn't news. It is, however, noteworthy.

Why? Let's see if I can break down the problems with this proposal. Right off the bat, I have problems with the drafting of the proposal. The first section is designed to strip Constitutional protections from corporate entities. Just take a moment to consider what Constitutional protections companies currently enjoy. We have the controversial right to free speech-political or advertising, both have some significant restrictions. We have the famous freedom of the press (almost exclusively corporations, up until the advent of the blogosphere). We have the protections of the 4th Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. We have the protections of the 5th Amendment, though only the takings clause really applies to companies.

Certainly, one could argue that corporate owners could protest things such as governmental seizures without just compensation. But the arguments to get there if the assets are in the corporate name get murky quickly. Absolutely, one could say that Freedom of the Press should apply when the corporation is a publishing company. The words are not its own, but rather those of the authors it publishes. But, it could just as easily be argued the other way. It could easily go the other way in the 4th Amendment context, given that amendment specifically says "person." Therefore, no company could complain if the police rifled through corporate documents without giving even enough reason to get a warrant. Oh, but don't worry, the information in corporate documents wouldn't violate private rights. Go ahead and look through the corporately held documents of that bank, or Facebook.

Furthermore, some problems would arise from this. First, federal judicial power is restricted to citizens. Currently, calling a corporation a fictional person also makes the corporation a citizen of a state. Strip that fictional status, you leave the corporation the ability to claim the federal judiciary has no jurisdiction over the corporation. It is, admittedly, a stretch to argue. However, get the right judge (perhaps one who disagrees with the amendment) and you can get the case tossed.

Lastly, a goodly portion of the Constitution is directed toward disallowing the various States from imposing laws that restrict or impair trade between the States. I'll end by asking: what do you think disparate corporate legal protection-especially given the words of the full faith and credit clause-would do to trade across state borders?

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