Why Corporations Should Not Be Regarded as “Persons”

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    (Good diary, thanks for posting it! – promoted by lowkell)

    Andy Schmookler is running for Congress in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia, challenging the incumbent Congressman, Bob Goodlatte.  An award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, Andy moved with his family to Shenandoah County in 1992.  He is a graduate of Harvard University and holds a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.

    “Corporations are people, my friend,” said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney not long ago. So also said the Supreme Court in the 2010 Citizens United decision.

    There are many reasons this is a terrible idea, but here’s one that isn’t widely recognized.  Corporations — or at least publicly traded corporations — have been set up in America to have a moral character that in real people would be regarded as sociopathic.

    The great majority of real people are a mixture of selfishness and concern for others and for the greater good. Someone who cares only about his own advantage is called a sociopath.

    For the kind of “person” called a corporation, self-interest is measured in terms of profit, and unselfishness would involve sacrificing some profit for the good of others.

    The problem with the corporation is that even good people are constrained by the system to make their “person” act like a sociopath.

    The cultural system of American capitalism declares that the responsibility of the management of a publicly traded corporation is to serve the interests of the stockholders. That becomes a problem only because the interests of the stockholders are assumed to be the maximization of the financial return on their investment.

    That’s a formula for making greed the only governing principle of this gigantic, powerful “person” — even if the actual human beings have many other values they’d also like to serve.

    Even if the executives who manage the corporation want to be good citizens, they would be failing to fulfill their duty, as it has been defined, if such good citizenship impeded the maximization of profit. Making as much money as possible for their stockholders is their fiduciary responsibility.  They are not free to act like real people, with their many purposes and various values.

    As for the stockholders, even though as human beings they will have other values besides their own financial gain, the system doesn’t provide any meaningful way for those other values to express themselves through the corporations they ostensibly own. Having been a stockholder in various American corporations for almost forty years, I know: There is no real dialogue between corporations and their stockholders.

    The system renders the ostensible “owners” of this “private property” effectively mute. They exist only as one-dimension fictions, reduced by the corporate ideology to their pecuniary interests.

    The system has been set up so as to disable anyone from acting the way decent people act in the world. Even if none of the real human beings are sociopaths, these corporations are set up to act that way: “My gain is all I care about,” the corporation is set up to say, “and it’s not my job to give up any gain for the betterment of the world around me.  So I’ll fight against any attempt to restrain my freedom of action; I’ll do what I can get away with; if a cost/benefit analysis shows that obeying the law is a likely net money loser, I’ll go with ‘crime pays.'”

    Why would anyone believe that giving such entities full political rights would improve the decision-making of a democratic society?

    What would a society look like if it were run by sociopaths?

    It would be one where those who run it use their power to get still more power, and their wealth to get still more wealth. It would be plagued by dishonest communications. The rules would be stacked against the average person, and would privilege the privileged.

    Wait! Doesn’t this sound like the road America has been heading down in recent years, while judges whose career advancement has been backed by big money have contorted our Constitution to give these sociopathic entities ever more right to appropriate the democratic institutions given us by our founders?

    To learn more about Andy, please go to www.AndySchmooklerforCongress.com

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