Corporate Personhood Examined

Why I support Move to Amend

Recently the Supreme Court heard Koch-bankrolled challenges in two cases challenging a federal rule that requires commercial fishing vessels to pay for the professional observers who monitor their catches to ensure they comply with National Marine Fisheries Service regulations. The plaintiffs seem ready to prod the Court to overrule the “Chevron deference” doctrine, established in the 1984 case Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, which for the past 40 years has deferred to experts in the federal regulatory agencies, not the courts, to interpret and implement regulations for all manner of protections in the public interest: gun control, environmental safeguards, labor standards, health and safety requirements, etc.

Moreover, this long-standing principle in administrative law, the “Chevron deference”–the doctrine of judicial deference given to administrative actions–is permissible when the agency’s regulatory response is not unreasonable in resolving ambiguity in Congressional legislation. Big Oil, Big Banks, and Big Pharma anticipate this doctrine will be overturned by the Court’s ruling in June—great for their profits, horrible for the rest of us (sounding the alarm: “Corporations Have Been Salivating Over This SCOTUS Decision | Robert Reich” https://youtu.be/83upnDW6TcA , 2:29).

Such a ruling would be the decisive victory for corporate interests, arguably the end goal of 200 years of corporate friendly rulings that have given corporations rights in the Constitution that should only be for natural persons. This latest threat to real democracy requires more than ever the We the People Amendment to finally put the brakes on “corporate personhood,” end ALL “corporate constitutional rights,” and abolish the perverse equation “money = speech.” In fact, once the We the People Amendment is written into the Constitution, we can begin to successfully challenge and overturn Court decisions that have favored the wealthy corporate class for so long.

Though the long-standing corrosive influence of contrived “corporate personhood” is well documented throughout this website, arguments supporting corporate personhood (i.e., the status quo) are out there. In fact, the concept of personhood and constitutional rights is variously defined and defended through explanations, opinions and debates by commentators ranging from corporate apologists and lobbyists to human rights and rights of nature advocates. After you delve into this diversity of viewpoints in the list that follows, I trust you’ll side with natural persons and their constitutional rights—and sense the urgency in enacting the We the People Amendment:

Admati, Anat. “Corporations and Democracy: The Challenge, the Opportunities, and Essential First Steps.” Blog (Stanford GSB - Corporations and Society Initiative, Joint Conference on Corporations and Democracy). March 17, 2021.  Corporations and Democracy: The Challenge, the Opportunities, and Essential First Steps | Stanford GSB Corporations and Society Initiative

Atkinson, Glen, Eric R. Hake, and Stephen P. Paschall. Evolution of the Corporation in the United States: From Social Control to Financialization (New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing Inc., 2021.  Evolution of the Corporation in the United States (e-elgar.com)

Dan-Cohen, Meir. Rights, Persons, and Organizations: A Legal Theory for Bureaucratic Society (Second Edition). New Orleans: Quid Pro Books, 2016.  Rights, Persons, and Organizations: A Legal Theory for Bureaucratic Society ... - Meir Dan-Cohen - Google Books

Goodman, Amy and Juan Gonzalez (Hosts). “Should McDonald’s & Monsanto Have the Same Rights as People? A Debate on Corporate Personhood” Guests Ron Fein, legal director at Free Speech for People, and Kent Greenfield, professor of law and Dean’s Research Scholar at Boston College Law School; TV Broadcast: Democracy Now! (27:40), March 13, 2015.  Should McDonald’s & Monsanto Have the Same Rights as People? A Debate on Corporate Personhood | Democracy Now!

Greene, Jody and Sharif Youssef, Eds. Human Rights after Corporate Personhood: An Uneasy Merger? Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020.  University of Toronto Press - Human Rights after Corporate Personhood (utorontopress.com)

Greenwood, Daniel J.H. “Independence Day and the Imperial CEO.” Common Dreams, July 5, 2021.  Opinion | Independence Day and the Imperial CEO | Daniel JH Greenwood (commondreams.org)

Kurki, Visa AJ, A Theory of Legal Personhood. (Oxford Legal Philosophy). New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.  A Theory of Legal Personhood - Visa AJ Kurki - Oxford University Press (oup.com)

Lamoreaux, Naomi R. and William J. Novak, Eds. Corporations and American Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.  Corporations and American Democracy — Naomi R. Lamoreaux, William J. Novak | Harvard University Press

Magee, Bryan P. “Impersonal Personhood: Crafting a Coherent Theory of the Corporate Entity,” 104 Cornell L. Rev. 497 (2019).  Available at: https://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/clr/vol104/iss2/5

Mentovich, Avital, Aziz Z. Huq, and Moran Cerf. ”The Psychology of Corporate Rights” (December 2014). U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 497. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2467372 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2467372

Nader, Ralph. “The Progenitor of Inequalities—Corporate Personhood vs. Human Beings: The biggest prize of all for the uses of corporate-dominant inequality over real people is the control of the Congress, state legislatures, country boards, city councils, and elections, along with the selection of judges.” Common Dreams, Feb 05, 2023.  Opinion | The Progenitor of Inequalities—Corporate Personhood vs. Human Beings | Common Dreams

Pollman, Elizabeth. “Is Corporate Personhood to Blame for Money in Politics?” ProMarket (Corporations and Democracy series). Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, February 14, 2021.  Is Corporate Personhood to Blame for Money in Politics? (promarket.org)

Raskin, Jamie. “Corporations Aren't People.” (“Dueling Viewpoints: On Wednesday the Supreme Court reheard arguments in a case that could significantly change campaign finance laws and allow corporations to give much more money to political candidates. At the heart of the case is the long running debate over whether or not corporations should have the same freedom of speech protections as people. Here on NPR's Opinion Page we have one commentator who says corporations should, and one says they shouldn't.”) September 10, 2009.  Corporations Aren't People : NPR

Ripken, Susanna Kim. Corporate Personhood. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019.  Corporate personhood | Corporate law | Cambridge University Press

Strine, Leo, Jr., Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. Yale Law School: “Corporate Power Ratchet: The Courts’ Role in Eroding ‘We the People’s’ Ability to Constrain Our Corporate Creations.” 2015–16 Judge Ralph K. Winter Lecture on Corporate Law and Governance (1 hr.), October 13, 2015.  Delaware Chief Justice Leo Strine to Deliver Winter Lecture | Yale Law School

Suzuki, David with contributions from Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington. “Why do corporations exist? In many countries — most notably the U.S. — corporations are considered ‘persons’ under law, enjoying many of the same legal rights and responsibilities as ‘natural’ persons. Judging by the way some corporations operate, you might conclude they’re not very good people.” Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation, February 9, 2023.  Why do corporations exist? - David Suzuki Foundation

Torres-Spelliscy, Ciara. “Does ‘We the People’ Include Corporations?” ABA Human Rights Magazine, Vol. 43, No. 2: “We the People,” January 1, 2018.  Does “We the People” Include Corporations? (americanbar.org)

Winkler, Adam. “How American Corporations Used Courts and the Constitution to Avoid Government Regulation.” ProMarket (Corporations and Democracy series). Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, February 12, 2021.  How American Corporations Used Courts to Avoid Government Regulation (promarket.org)


How I've supported Move to Amend

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Larry Krasner

Larry Krasner

Striving to connect-the-dots, learn from history, understand that details matter, and above all—embrace a bird’s-eye-view....