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Corporate Personhood – the Ethical Dilemmas
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  1. Corporate Personhood – the Ethical Dilemmas Is it ethical to treat corporations as human?

  2. What Is a Corporation? • an association of individuals, created by law or under authority of law, having a continuous existence independent of the existences of its members, and powers and liabilities distinct from those of its members. • A legal vehicle for accumulating wealth while minimizing risks and responsibilities

  3. What is Corporate Personhood? • The granting under law of the rights of a human being to a corporation • “Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate Personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person”. -- Jan Edwards and Molly Morgan, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

  4. Corporations Now Have These Rights • Free speech, including freedom to influence legislation and donate to candidates • Buy and sell property and other companies • Sue individuals or other corporations in court • Protection from searches, as if their belongings were private • Fifth Amendment protections against double jeopardy and self-incrimination • The benefit of due process and anti-discrimination laws

  5. Something New in Human History • Traditional English, Dutch, French, and Spanish law didn’t say that corporations were people • Founders never intended corporations to be treated as human • For America’s first hundred years, courts (including Supreme Court) repeatedly said corporations did not have same rights as humans • Only since 1886 have the Bill of Rights and equal protection amendment been applied to corporations • Never voted by the public, never enacted by law, never stated by a decision after an argument before the Supreme Court

  6. Corporations in Early American History • Boston Tea Party: the first anti-corporate protest? • Founding Fathers wanted to limit corporate power • Early corporations were tightly controlled

  7. The Genesis of Corporate Personhood • Railroads rise to power • Post-Civil War attempts to expand corporate power • 1886 - Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad

  8. Case Law Builds on Santa Clara • 1889 - Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad v. Beckwith: Supreme Court rules a corporation is a “person” for both due process and equal protection • 1905 – Lochner v. New York: Invalidation of government regulation of the corporation. Over 200 cases follow that invalidate regulations • 1906 – Hale v. Henkel: Corporations get 4th Amendment “search and seizure” protection • 1919 – Dodge v. Ford Motor Co.: “stockholder primacy” is established

  9. Modern Enhancements to Corporate Rights • 1967 – See v. City of Seattle: Supreme Court grants corporations 4th amendment protection from random inspection by fire department • 1970 – Ross v. Bernhard: Corporations get right to jury trial • 1976 - Buckley v. Valeo: Supreme Court rules that political money is equivalent to speech • 1976 – Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council: Supreme Court rules that advertising is free speech • 1994 – ratification of GATT: global trade agreement

  10. So What’s the Problem? No Concern for Human Welfare • Designed by law to care only for their stockholders • Lack of social ties and anonymity • Example: Unsafe automobiles

  11. So What’s the Problem? Superhuman, Not Human • Can live indefinitely • Can cut off parts of themselves, split, sprout new parts, be in multiple locations at the same time • Have enormous financial resources • Can litigate repeatedly until they win

  12. So What’s the Problem?Concentration of Economic Power • The Fortune 1,000 companies control 70% of the American economy • Two hundred corporations conduct almost 1/3 of the entire planet’s economic activity (but employ less than 0.25% of the world’s workforce) • Over half of the largest economies in the world are corporations, not countries

  13. So What’s the Problem? Harming Democracy • GATT created a global trade dictatorship • Corporations stifle free speech • Corporations influence governments inappropriately • Corporate ownership of media stifles the public’s knowledge about issues choices • Corporations enable despotic regimes • Corporations influence regulations

  14. So What’s the Problem?Harming the Environment • Extinctions and destruction of rainforest • Factory farming and agribusiness takeover of family farms • GMO’s • Pollution and health impacts

  15. Solutions? • Municipal ordinances that restrict corporations • State laws that restrict corporations • Constitutional amendment

  16. Resources • • (Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy) • Unequal Protection, by Thom Hartmann • The Corporation (DVD) • A Retrospect of the Boston Tea Party, Hewes, George R. T.