According to the fourteenth amendment of the United States constitution, corporations have the equal right to life, liberty, or property that you and I have. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself...
"14: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws..."
If you're still not convinced that the fourteenth amendment protects corporations' right to life, liberty, or property, don’t worry…neither am I. Originally, the fourteenth amendment was made to protect the rights of newly freed slaves after the end of the civil war. After the industrial revolution, however, some very clever lawyers convinced the Supreme Court that the fourteenth amendment protects corporations also.
Why is this a problem? Prior to this Supreme Court ruling, corporations had to prove that they served the public interest to get a charter and to maintain a charter. A corporation with the same rights as a living, breathing person only has to serve its own good. This is a problem because "corporations have no soul to be saved and no body to incarcerate." (Baron Thurlow)
I don't intend to label the leaders or citizens of oligarchical corporations as immoral or unethical anymore than I would label a slaveholder as immoral and unethical. In his personal life, a slaveholder may have been a kind and gentle person to children, the elderly, and even his own slaves. The institution however is most obviously unethical and immoral, and it breeds immoral and unethical practices.
Conversely, I cannot label the leaders or citizens of a church as moral or ethical. The only conclusion that I can deduce is that churches breed moral and ethical practices because of their structure and what they stand for.
So, if we must label a corporation as a person, then what kind of "person" is he? To answer this question, we must find what is common among all corporations; the answer is that all corporations are legally bound to place the financial interests of their owners above competing interests. Therefore, a corporation is a "person" that lives, first and foremost, to make money. And history shows us that the more oligarchical and less democratic a corporation is run, the more a corporation will attempt to pass off his own obligations and costs to an unaware or uncaring public--in order to make more money. Unmet obligations and unpaid costs result in environmental exploitation, human exploitation, slavery, the sale of harmful products, sweatshops, negligence resulting in employee deaths and injuries, and job outsourcing. Here are a few specific examples of costs that corporations unsuccessfully passed on to the public during the 1990's: (1) Exxon pled guilty to criminal charges related to the Valdez oil spill and paid $125 million (2) GE was guilty of defrauding the federal government and paid $9.5 million (3) Chevron was guilty of environmental violations and paid $6.5 million (4) Mitsubishi was guilty of anti-trust violations and paid $1.8 million (5) IBM was guilty of illegal exports and paid $8.5 million (6) Pfizer was guilty of anti-trust violations and paid $20 million (7) Odwalla was found guilty of food and drug violations and paid $1.5 million (8) Sears was guilty of financial fraud and paid $60 million. (If you want to read about 1,000's of more violations visit http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/)
In psychiatry there is a name for this kind of person that lack's moral and ethical intentions. I will give you the qualifiers of this psychiatric condition and you give me the diagnosis:
(1) Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
(2) Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships
(3) Reckless disregard for the safety of others
(4) Deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit
(5) Incapacity to experience guilt
(6) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors
Give up? These are the psychiatric qualifiers of a psychopathic individual. What does this lead us to conclude about our decision to give corporations the same status as "persons"? Probably a conclusion similar to the one that Doctor Frankenstein came to after he created his own imitation of a "person".
(Information taken from the documentary The Corporation)
How Will You Measure Your Life?
I recently read this article by Clayton Christiansen out of Harvard entitled, “How will you measure your life?” It is what he tells his students on the final day of his class.
One of the items that he mentions sticks out to me. It reads as follows:
“One of the theories, . . . . . how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more [people think] that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."
I’m sure you can see why it sticks out.