Friday, January 22, 2010


I don't know if yesterday's Supreme Court ruling is really going to lead to the apocalypse predicted by so many, or if the corporate influence on American politics is already at its absolute maximum and this is merely going to alter the number of tools in the fat cats' political influence toolkit. (The ruling is awful, yet I lean toward the latter view -- it seems to me that corporations have found a way to have as much political influence as possible already.)

But I find myself having the same naive reaction to the notion of "corporate personhood" that I've always had when it's come up: If corporations are persons in the eyes of the law, why has no one pursued the argument that we can do to corporations what we routinely do to persons, namely imprison and execute them?

I know it's never going to happen, but a corporation that engages any act that on the part of a human being would be considered a felony ought to face the possibility of decades without the right to function in society. A corporation that kills ought to face execution.

We may never again see in America a trend toward progressive legislation, but on the off-chance that it can happen someday, shouldn't some legal theorists be thinking about corporate personhood in ways that subvert the idea as it exists now -- i.e., corporations have all the privileges of personhood and run none of the risks?


I see that the Huffington Post's Rob Warmowski is having somewhat similar thoughts:

Shouldn't it follow that when a corporation is bankrupted -- killed -- that its management could be found guilty of the capital crime of murder?

... Wouldn't adding murder charges to the consequences of executive failure in corporate stewardship go a long way toward restoring the long-lost arrangement where the corporation serves the society, as opposed to the other way around?

Put another way, if the the penalty that management faced for causing bankruptcy was an orange jumpsuit instead of a golden parachute, wouldn't we see less wild-west, insanely reckless capitalism from our economic engines?

Didn't think of that -- a corporate person can also be a victim. (And if this ruling states that unions are also, in effect, corporate persons, then isn't union-busting also murder?)

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