Corporate Personhood

The directors of such [joint-stock] companies, however, being the managers rather of other people’s money than of their own, it cannot well be expected, that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private copartnery frequently watch over their own…. Negligence and profusion, therefore, must always prevail, more or less, in the management of the affairs of such a company.

Adam Smith, from the Wealth of Nations, as quoted in the Wikipedia entry, Corporations.

Giant corporations govern, even though they are mentioned nowhere in our Constitution or Bill of Rights. So when corporations govern, democracy is nowhere to be found. There is something else: when people live in a culture defined by corporate values, common sense evaporates. We stop trusting our own eyes, ears, and feelings. Our minds become colonized.

From the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy

Ideas about reform, like anything, go through fads and criticisms of corporations are becoming more common. It may well be that this is an artifact related to the usual Democratic Party populist rhetoric. It is interesting, though, to consider the kinds of reform that might have a lasting impact.

The Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy has a good idea: deny corporations the legal personhood that is at the root of their power. Most people would probably be surprised to learn that over the last century courts in the United States have ruled that corporations have rights under the 1st and the 14th amendments.

The 1st amendment grants (corporations) the right to freedom of speech and assembly; the 14th covers (corporate) citizenship. (You can review the constitution here).

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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