Thursday, September 17, 2009

Corporate bashing

One of the things that frustrates me with a large group of people associated with libertarianism is the corporate personhood concept.

Corporate personhood is the concept that a corporation is a distinct legal person. Corporate personhood came into being a long time ago by fiat, and now corporations demand that the rights afforded human beings by the constitution be guaranteed to them as well.

Obviously, there is a problem with this notion--corporations are not people, and only people have true rights. So why am I on the side of the corporations on this argument? And why is it such a frustrating debate?

When I say I'm on the side of the corporations, I may be exaggerating. I do not believe that a corporation is a person, nor that the law should treat it as such. And I would like to see common law rediscovered and fiat law like this thrown out. However, a corporation is a collection of people, all with full and equal rights. Generally when people argue against personhood, they are not only advocating for the corporation to be treated as an asset of a group of free people, they are instead suggesting that a corporation is subservient to the "common good".

Recently, The Colbert Report had a feature on corporate personhood where Stephen Colbert predictably railed against the notion that a corporation should be able to spend money on political campaigns or that a corporation has the right to free speech at all. This is the common type of thought associated with the anti-personhood movement.

But when you make the case that those who own and operate a corporation cannot speak freely insofar as they are part of the corporation, it is an abridgment of individual liberty against those people. While a corporation has no true rights, all the rights of speech, privacy and everything else of the ownership is legitimately extended to the corprorate asset, just as my righs are properly extended to my property.

Instead of focusing on ways the state can deny people rights, we ought to be looking at how to eliminate any privileges extended to them by the state. Corporations follow different tax and investment regulations and ownership enjoys the security of limited liability. Limited liability is one of the greatest moral hazards imaginable, providing no accountability to ownership for the misdeeds of its business' operations. This is analogous to holding a dog responsible for attacking a child, instead of its owner.

We should scrap silly notions like corporate personhood along with all the silly regulations and benefits doled out by the state, and embolden our position on individual rights and their extension to property.

No comments:

Post a Comment