The “corporations aren’t people” campaign

by Walter Olson on November 8, 2011

Neither Stephen Bainbridge nor Larry Ribstein is particularly impressed by it.

{ 11 comments }

1 Mike 11.08.11 at 12:39 pm

The purpose of the political gesture made by these two cities is to get some favorable “ink” from their friends in the press, not to advocate for something they either believe will happen, or particularly want to happen.
This is a sign of a disfunctional legislative body. See, e.g., legislature of Suffolk County, Long Island, generally.

2 John Rohan 11.08.11 at 6:55 pm

Someone could help me here, but if corporate personhood were abolished, wouldn’t that eliminate an awful lot of lawsuits?

After all, how could you sue McDonald’s after you burn yourself with coffee? McDonald’s isn’t a person, so how could you sue it? You would have to sue the actual individuals who contributed to whatever caused the problem in the first place, which would be far less lucrative than suing a billion dollar corporation. It might actually be a good idea in the long run.

3 Prof. Underwood 11.08.11 at 8:21 pm

People own stock. It’s in their retirement funds, which they were encouraged to invest in, although they are now said to be saving to much by the same ones who told them they were not saving enough. People work for corporations. People work for insurance companies. Let’s put them all on the street and see what happens. Unfortunately, the anarchists, who claim the government is not doing enough for them (?) are on the rise. It’s too much. My head hurts. I voted for the Ganga (I am probably spelling that wrong, because I think it is grass but I am not sure) candidate in Kentucky. Things may get worse, but I won’t care. But it has to be legal first, because I am a conservative with a small c.

By the way, I am glad that Ventura is leaving the country. Of course, he is not leaving the country. Too bad.

4 myron 11.09.11 at 2:14 am

Is it not possible to have a more nuanced view, that corporations are persons for some things but not others? I don’t know why it is all or nothing. So yes, a person for suing or being sued, but not a person when it comes to constituional rights, suchas freedom of speech or, like, voting. They are not citizens and should not have the trappings of citizenry. That is the troubling part.

I think the trouble we have now is that the scale of almost everything has outstripped any ability to manage it. Corporations are not little clubs of a hundred investors pooling their funds in a common effort to engage in business for profit and the common good. So many corporations outstrip the economic weight of the citizenry, they are machines gone mad, being rationally self interested (as they are programmed to be) to the extent they exert uncommon leverage to rig the system to their benefit.

Democracy was meant to be a check on power. Corporate power is the danger to us now as much as sovereign power was 250 years ago.

To think that we can only live this way and no other is to be a slave.

5 Mannie 11.09.11 at 9:36 am

@myron

Corporations don’t vote.

But I think corporate speech is an important right. Without it, advocacy groups can be silenced. Why should not the members of an organization be allowed to band together to get their word out?

6 William Nuesslein 11.09.11 at 12:05 pm

I do not understand myron’s reference to Corporate power in his comment above. Didn’t GM (“What’s good for GM is good for the country.” suffer bankruptcy.”) Didn’t AIG stock drop from 60 bucks or so to 33 cents? Citibank went down to around a buck a share, and you could buy Kodak for 77 cents a share a few weeks ago.

Crazies including the present governor of New York State imposed a $5.5loss on New York State with the forced dismantlement the Shoreham nuclear power plant. And the crazies in our government murdered miners, in my opinion, with their interference with air management in the Upper Big Branch coal mine. And look at the treatment of Toyota by our stupid congress, etc.

7 Frank 11.10.11 at 9:32 am

“have to sue the actual individuals who contributed to whatever caused the problem in the first place, which would be far less lucrative than suing a billion dollar corporation. It might actually be a good idea in the long run.”

Maybe we can get Bob who lifts the gate at the landfill to pony up the million needed to clean up the hazardous waste that corporate policy allowed to be dumped or Joe at the valve to the outfall pouring pollutants into the river to build the water treatment plant that the corporate owners decided to put off ’til never.

8 Paul McKaskle 11.10.11 at 1:49 pm

Frank says: “Maybe we can get Bob who lifts the gate at the landfill to pony up the million needed to clean up the hazardous waste that corporate policy allowed to be dumped or Joe at the valve to the outfall pouring pollutants into the river to build the water treatment plant that the corporate owners decided to put off ’til never.”

Well, we can also sue Bob’s supervisor and the employess up the line (including those who make improper corporate policy including the CEO) who authorized the dumping as well as all of those in the corporation who improperly decide to put off building a water treatment plant.

While I think it is appropriate to sue a corporation for actual damages caused by its tortious activities, I think punitive damages should be levied only against the persons in the organization responsible for such activities if their behavior was wanton enough. Such employees should not be indemnified by the corporation. It would mean a lot less money for plaintiff’s lawyers, a horrible outcome in the views of some, but it would make all corporation decision makers much more cognizant of the need to avoid tortious activities.

9 doug 11.10.11 at 10:48 pm

and maybe not do anything at all.

10 rxc 11.11.11 at 5:55 pm

“Crazies including the present governor of New York State imposed a $5.5loss on New York State with the forced dismantlement the Shoreham nuclear power plant.”

I think you are referring to his father, the first Cuomo governer.

11 William Nuesslein 11.13.11 at 9:03 am

rxc above is correct that the $5.5 billion lose from Shorhamm was imposed by Adrew Cuomo’s father Mario. But the son Andrew palled around with the obnoxious Robert Kennedy Jr. and the pampered morons on Long Island who demonstated against the plant. I wish the Republican Party would be responsible. Now the crazy environmental nuts who influence President Obama are matched by crazy religious nuts. Jews have the perfect expression”Oy vey”.

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