Mitt Romney has been taking some hits for telling a heckler, “Corporations are people, my friend.”
Okay, corporations aren’t people in the whole carbon-based humanoid life-form sense. If they were, then Stephen Colbert would be right that Romney was a serial killer when he worked at Bain Capital.
All corporate personhood means is that corporations are legal entities that have certain rights or “standing” under the law. The law does this for several reasons, but first among them is the simple fact that people don’t lose their rights when they associate in groups, whether it’s a corporation, a labor union, a nonprofit organization, or even a newspaper.
As legal scholar Ilya Shapiro writes, “It cannot be any other way; in a world where corporations are not entitled to constitutional protections, the police would be free to storm office buildings and seize computers or documents. The mayor of New York City could exercise eminent domain over Rockefeller Center by fiat and without compensation if he decides he’d like to move his office there. . . . [R]ights-bearing individuals do not forfeit those rights when they associate in groups.”
It’s really that simple. When liberals insist that corporations aren’t really people-people, they do so on the false assumption that conservatives were running around like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green, shouting, “Corporations are people! They’re people!” Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent in the Citizen United ruling, writes “[C]orporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.”
Agreed. But so what? The law doesn’t, in fact, treat corporations just like people. Corporations can’t vote or be drafted. And people can’t sell fractional shares of themselves. The war on corporate personhood is really nothing more than a novel ploy to regulate corporations more.
Or raise corporate taxes, as Roy Cordato discusses below.