|Unsolicited Political Commentary: Citizens United v. FEC (08-205)
||[Jan. 21st, 2010|07:54 pm]
It's all over the news today so I won't bother linking.
The thing that most gets me about this decision is that it makes the mistaken assumption that corporations are unitary, as if they make decisions like an individual. In fact, the decisions that corporations make are made by boards of directors and executives, and to a lesser extent their shareholders. Indeed, even if corporations made decisions as an entity, their decisions would not be based in the everyday human concerns of a real person - family, sustenance, safety, health, etc. - but in the interests of maximizing profit and reducing competition or interference.
People who are executives or on these boards already have their First Amendment rights of speech as individuals, but now they get special First Amendment privileges amplified by the corporations they work for. You can bet that these people do not act against their own opinions and biases when deciding on behalf of a corporation. Worse, board members often sit on many corporate boards simultaneously, giving them multiple opportunities to take advantage of these special privileges.
Two centuries ago, corporations threw off the yoke of the people's charter, allowing them to pursue unchecked profits and growth. For the past 150 years they have spent their financial influence in the pursuit of unchecked political power. With this ruling, they now have carte blanche to directly challenge our lawmakers and leaders at the polls, and to extort them while in the houses of power. Checkmate.
The right thing for Congress to do in the face of this ruling is to unambiguously define corporations as non-human, and therefore not eligible for the rights of the people - to reverse the flawed interpretation of the 14th Amendment late in the 19th century that started this precipitous slide. Their rights are defined in a commercial context, not in the context of individual rights and responsibilities. Alternatively, hold them accountable to the law like the rest of us. For instance, when is the last time you heard of a corporation being given the death penalty? Or life in prison? These questions sound silly, but they clearly show the inanity of corporate personhood.
Unfortunately, I expect no such thing from a political entity so thoroughly rife with the corruptive influence of money - and that is not just the current Congress, but pretty much every one for as far back as I can remember. For those brave souls left in the Capitol that actually try, best of luck to you.