Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Corporate Personhood

Since "corporations are people too, my friend," at what point does a corporation become a person? Is it when it begins doing business? When it is registered? When it is incorporated? Or does it date from the moment of conception--when a group of individuals come together with the idea of forming a company? Why doesn't the pro-life movement weigh in on this crucial question?


Elektra Tig said...


Your post obscures the fact that there are serious issues here, ones even liberals should be concerned about. No one claims, of course, that corporations are human beings. But the question remains whether groups of people aggregated into various legal forms such as corporations and unions have the benefit of certain constitutional protections.

Using the First Amendment as an obvious and the most important example, the text certainly suggests no limitation. The language - "Congress shall make no law respecting . . ." - focuses on the legislature and says nothing about the nature of the targets of the legislation. And this is entirely consistent with the well-known views of the Founders and the founding era, that restricting the power of government was a fundamental source of liberty.

While liberals may chafe at textualism and originalism, another consideration ought to be of concern to them. The New York Times, the Washington Post and NBC are all, of course, corporations, and extremely large ones at that. Are you prepared to say that they have no rights under the First Amendment? Are they subject to search without warrant and without probable cause? May their property be taken without due process and without compensation? I'd be interested to hear whether you're prepared to swallow those propositions

Rob said...

Hey, I'm a big fan of Dartmouth v. Woodward. What I was getting at in this post, as you are aware, is a pair of developments on the right that have no obvious philosophical link but often are linked politically: the fetishization of corporate rights over the rights of the old fashioned kind of person, and the fetishization of prenatal rights over the rights of the post-born. By the time you read this, the Supreme Court may have ruled that corporations have religious rights that trump, presumably, the religious rights of the individuals who work for them.