The Rise of Corporate Dominance and The Theft of Human Rights
Some among we humans have organized themselves together and formed a
relatively new entity - the corporation - as a vehicle to accumulate
wealth while minimizing risks and responsibilities. And a tiny percentage
of these corporations have become so big and gained so much influence that
they've effectively taken control of the governments the humans set up to
protect themselves from tyranny - from forces that were too big or
individuals to resist on their own.
It almost seems as if the world had been taken over by nonliving entities in a science fiction story - beings that look at everything as a resource to be tapped until it's used up, without consideration for how it affects any other living thing.
The problem comes when this singular purpose of profits is combined with rights, personhood, and massive size, so that an imbalance results - an imbalance that was never intended by those who wrote the laws that authorize the existence of corporations.
Profit as a prime objective.
D.G. REG F.D.: D.G is Dei Gratia (by the grace of God), REG is short for Regina (queen), and F.D. stands for Fidei Defensor (defender of the faith).
As populations grew, particularly in agricultural-based societies, humans recognized that some form of centralized coordination was needed to keep societies organized, defended and provided for. Thus, government was born.
The US Constitution does not mention the word "corporation" leaving the power to authorize the creation of corporations to the states. The Founders were far more worried about governments usurping human rights and privileges than they were worried about corporations taking over.
It was only after he had left the presidency that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816 about the rise of power of the "moneyed corporations."
In colonial times and before, a piece of land that was subject to common use was called a commons. The famous Boston Commons is one example. It was originally the common grazing ground for the townspeople's cattle. The peculiar twisting streets of old Boston reflect the cow paths that were used as people walked their cattle to and from the Common.
The Darwinist theory of economics suggested that if the rich were unconstrained in their activities, the result would be a social benefit because the strong would survive and social benefits would trickle down.
Suppose two persons to have a common purse, to which each may freely resort (in other words from which each may take as much as he wants). With this limited common bag of money, neither man has an incentive to keep adding to it. The result would be predatory behavior - whoever took the most coins out of the bag the fastest would end up the richest. The motive for economy entirely vanishes.
People will always operate in their own self-interest, even when it means they violate the interests of others or the interests of the community as a whole.
The principle of the commons is founded on the idea of equal participation. Thus, one final consideration regarding the use of the commons is that our biggest corporations are very, very far from having a position of equal participation when they delve into the commons.
In a planet of 6 billion humans, with 27 million companies in America, there is an enormous concentration of wealth at the top.
There is abundant evidence that many corporations use lobbying and campaign contributions in order to use government influence to take advantage of the commons for their self-interest, not the public interest.
The core concept here is that the commons are something we all share, and therefore something that should be in the hands of "we, the people" to ensure its viability, rather than the hands of private parties whose first goal is to milk the commons for profits. Once the latter happens, democracies weaken and plutocracies arise - a form of creeping feudalism that threatens peace, prosperity, and perhaps most important, the future.
The class of citizens who provide at once their own food and their own raiment, may be viewed as the most truly independent and happy. They are more: they are the best basis of true liberty, and the strongest bulwark of public safety. It follows that the greater the proportion of this class to the whole society, the more free, the more independent, and the more happy must be the society itself.
Thomas Jefferson's vision of America was quite straightforward. In its simplest form, he saw a society where people were first and institutions were second. In his day, Jefferson saw three agencies that were threats to human natural rights: governments, organized religion and commercial monopolies.
The Federalists fought hard to keep "freedom from monopolies" out of the Constitution. And they won. The result was a boom for very large businesses in America in the 19th and 20th centuries, which arguably brought our nation and much of the world many blessings.
In researching 19th century laws regulating corporations, Jane Anne Morris found that in Wisconsin - as in most states at that time:
It's only when a group of people get together and put capital (cash) at risk and want to seek from the government legal limits on ther liability and to legally limit their losses, that a corporate form form becomes necessary. In exchange for these limitations on liability, governmnt demands certain responsibilities from corporations. The oldest historic one was that corporations "operate in the public interest" or "to the public benefit." After all, if the people through their elected representatives are going to authorize a legal limiation or liability for a group of people engaged in the game of business, it's quite reasonable to ask that the game be played in a way that throws off some benefit to the governments' citizens, or at least doesn't operate counter to the public welfare.
In 1803, during the second year of Jefferson's presidency, John Marshall, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court took on a power for himself and future Supreme Courts, which made President Jefferson apoplectic. In the Maybury v. Madison case, as the Beards relate it, "Marshall had been in his high post only two years when he laid down for the first time in the name of the entire Court the doctrine that the judges have the power to declare an act of Congress null and void when in their opinion it violates the Constitution. This power was not expressly conferred on the Court [by the Constitution]. Though many able men had held that the judicial branch of government enjoyed it, the principle was not positively established until 1803 [by Marshall's ruling in this case]...
James Madison wrote "Wherever Commerce prevails, there will be an inequality of wealth, and wherever [an inequality of wealth prevails] a simplicity of manners must decline. There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by .... corporations. The power of corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses. Incorporated Companies with proper limitations and guards, may in particular cases, be useful, but they are at best a necessary evil only. Monopolies and perpetuities are objects of just abhorence."
In 1873, one of the Supreme Court rulings on the Fourteenth Amendment, which had only passed 5 years earlier, involved not slaves, but the railroads. Justice Samuel F. Miller minced no words in chastising the corporation for trying to claim the rights of human beings. "The Fourteenth Amendment's one pervading purpose was the freedom of the slave race, the security and the protection of the newly-made freeman and citizen from the oppression of those who had formerly execrcised unlimited dominion over him."
When one party has dramatically more power, property, and wealth than another, it makes no sense to assert that both require equal protection. Indeed, one aspect of the concentration of wealth that worried Jefferson and most American legislatures in those decades was that with enough wealth, a corporation can keep trying in courts for centuries (literally centuries, because they don't die), no matter how much it costs, until they get what they want.
The equality between persons spoken of in the Fourteenth Amendment obviously means equality between persons of the same nature or class and not equality between persons whose very natures are absolutely dissimilar - equality between human beings, if the rights of natural persons are involved; equality between corporations of the same class, if the rights of artificials persons are involved. The whole history of the Fourteenth Amendment demonstrates beyond dispute that its whole scope and object was to establish equality between men - an attainable result - and not to establish equality between natural and artificial beings - an impossible result.
Section 1. 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.
"That this law was intended to establish equality between men in their individual capacity, and had no reference to equality between men and corporations, is too plain for argument. The law took the rights of a white citizen as the standard of measurement, and simply commanded that the rights of all other citizens, whatever their race or color, should be equal to his..."
"Wherever man is found within the confines of this Union, whatever his race, religion, or color, be he Caucasian, African, or Mongolian, be he Christian, infidel, or idolater, be he white, black or copper-colored, he may shelter under this great law as under a shield against individual oppression in any form, individual injustice in any shape. It is a protection to all men because they are men, members of the same great family, children of the same omnipotent Creator,
The object of the Fourteenth Amendment was to raise the humble, the down-trodden, and the oppressed to the level of the most exalted upon the broad plain of humanity - to make man the equal of man; but not to make the creature of the state - the bodiless, soulless, and mystic creature called a corporation - the equal of the creature of God....
Then on May 10, 1886, the Santa Clara decision was made (Page 104)
A half page later, the notes ended and the actual decision, delivered by Justice Harlan begins - which as noted earlier, explicitly says that the Supreme Court is not in this case, ruling on the constitutional question of corporate personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment or any other amendment.
I paid my 70 cents for copies of the pages from the fragile and cracking book and walked down the street to the office of Attorney Jim Ritvo, a friend and wise counselor. I showed him what I had found and said "What does this mean?"
He looked it over and said "It's just headnotes."
"Headnotes? What are headnotes?"
He smiled and leaned back in his chair. "Lawyers are trained to beware of headnotes because they are not written by judges or justices, but are usually put in by a commentator or by the book's publisher."
"Are they legal? I mean, are they law or anything like that?"
"Headnotes don't have the value of the formal decision," Jim said. "They're not law. They're just a comment by somebody who doesn't have the power to make or determine or decide law."
"In other words, these headnotes by court reporter J. C. Bancroft Davis, which say that Waite said corporations are persons are meaningless."
Jim nodded his head. "Legally, yes. They are meaningless. They're not the decision or part of the decision."
"But they contradict what the decision itself says," I said, probably sounding a bit hysterical.
"In that case," Jim said, "you've found one of those mistakes that so often creep into law books."
"But other cases have been based on the headnotes' commentary in this case."
"A mistake compounding a mistake," Jim said. "But ask a lawyer who knows this kind of law. It's not my area of specialty."
So I called Deborah L. Markowitz, Vermont's Secretary of State and one very bright attorney, and described what I had found. She pointed out that even if the decision had been wrongly cited through the years, it's now "part of our law, even if there was a mistake."
Two Republicans in the conspiracy were Roscoe Conkling and John A. Bingham. Both were railroad lawyers and both worked on the Fourteenth Amendment back in 1868. Conkling was a senator and may have inserted the word person instead of natural person while Bingham was in the house and helped to pass the language.
After the decision, Waite was explicit that no constitutional issue had been decided.
When Waite was fatally ill, the railroad lawyers safely announced they had seized control of the vital rights in the United States Constitution.
"Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea," Eisenhower said. "Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now, we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We spend annually on military security more than the net income of all the United States corporation.
"Nonetheless," Eisenhower added, "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society."
"In the councils of governments, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted unfluence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
"We must never let the weight of the combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
War has become big business in America, and we're now not only a big user of military equipment, we sell it to the world. We're the world's largest exporter of weapons of virtually all sizes and types. While some consider the U.S. defense budget excessive, others argue that we live in a dangerous world and a strong military is necessary. After all, there are sociopaths and phychopaths out there, and sometimes they rise to the highest levels of power with nations and threaten life and liberty around the world.
As Eisenhower said in an April 1953 speech, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children."
The ultimate commercial accomplishment is to achieve regulation under law that is purported to be comprehensive and preempting and is administered by an agency that is in fact captive to the industry. In this way, corporations find an actual government shield for their actions.
In December 2001, the FBI issued a press release on their Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which determines the "Nation's Crime Index." It reports crime by persons - but excludes corporate persons, even when the corporations have been convicted of felonies.
Humans are responsible for the effects of their actions. If they violate laws they can be fined or imprisoned; if they violate the rights of another person, they can be sued. They can even be sued or prosecuted for failing to anticipate the effects of their actions. Shareholders, on the other hand, have no liability for the actions they enable through their investments. Where does the immunity of the parent company come from? In a 1998 Supreme Court decision in 1998, Justice David Souter said on behalf of the unanimous court, It is a general principle of corporate law deeply ingrained in our economic and legal systems that a parent corporation is not liable for the acts of its subsidiaries.
The Precautionary Princicple moves risks from the consumer to the producer. A substance is considered potentially dangerous until proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is safe.
A company is welcome to do business as long as the welfare of the community is respected.
The main purpose of a business corporation is as an instrument for the accumulation of wealth.
In May 2001, Paul O'Neill, Secretrary of the US Treasury suggested that corporations should be totally exempt from all income tax.
Corporations have unequal access to the Commons and have unequal citizenship.
Humans require passports and visas to travel from nation to nation, but corporations can now move with virtually no restrictions.
Wages drop when people are out of work and are the lowest when the worker literally has no choice.
The correctional population of the United States was 5.9 million adults (2.9% of the US adult population) in jail, on parole or on probation
The privatization of the Commons is the idea of taking the Commons functions or resources out of the hand of elected governments responsible to their voters and handing the management of ownership of them over to private enterprise answerable to shareholders.
One of the fundamental principles of democracy is that people are treated equally in regard to issues of the law, citizenship, and their access to the commons. The function of corporations in light of their constitutional personhood is effectively to foreclose access to the commons for most citizens. The entire proposition that a corporation is a person is ridiculous.
We have forgotten that the economy is a tool to serve the needs of society, and not the reverse. The ultimate purpose of the economy is to create prosperity with stability.
"We stand for the rights of property, but we stand even more for the rights of man. We will protect the rights of the wealthy man, but we maintain that he holds his wealth subject to the general right of the community to regulate its business use as the public welfare requires.
Corporations have become so large and powerful that "we the people", citizens and their governments around the world, no longer have the ability to control or restrain corporate misbehaviour when it endangers the common good. And so we have epidemics of cancer, acid rain, ozone holes, and massive species dieoff as multinational corporations roam the world, strip-mining it for human labor, minerals, fossil fuels, and the fragile remaining bounty of its forests and oceans.
The ultimate in unequal trade has ensued from increasing corporate influence. Very large corporations have now become able to sue an entire nation in a court that they, the companies, lobbied to create, and can overturn the laws of independent nations with virtually no appeal. And unlike any court in the civilized world, this court is as secret, private, and difficult to appeal as any military tribunal.
Sir James Goldsmith suggests that we have forgotten that the purpose of economies, the whole reason why humans began trading with each other from the earliest days, was to provide for social stability. Your country makes good cheese, we make good clothing, another country makes good wine. Let's all trade these products with each other so all three of us can enjoy good cheese, clothing and wine.
But in a free trade dominated by corporate values instead of human values, social stability is not a consideration unless or until it affects profits. This is the lesson of unequal values. And when a country becomes socially unstable, rather than working to restore the stability of a nation, multinationals simply leave town and go somewhere else, as Asian nations learned in the 1990s and Argentina learned in 2002.
The playing field is anything but level when an immortal, nonbreathing, wealth accumulating corporation is given the same protections as humans under our Constitution.
The resources in the treasury of a business corporation are not an indication of popular support for the corporation's political ideas. They reflect instead the economically motivated decisions of investors and customers. The availability of these resources may make a corporation a formidable presence, even though the power of the corporation may be no reflection of the power of its ideas.
The belief in free markets has reached a near-religious frenzy, partucularly in the press, while corporations greenwash and bluewash themselves with advertisements extolling their commitments to nature and community. But corporations were not created as institutions of enviromental preservation or social justice, nor are they true agents of either free markets or democracy. They are legal devices to accumulate wealth, pure and simple. The entire proposition that a corporation is a person is ridiculous. If they are not people, then we should take them out of the political process.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution says that a constitutional amendment may be offered to the states for approval when it's been approved by two-thirds of both the House and Senate, or submitted to the Congress by two-thirds of the states. In order to become law and actually amend the Constitution, three quarters of the states must approve, or ratify the amendment.
Those two-thirds and three-quarters thresholds have proven a substantial (and intentional) obstacle to changing the U.S. Constitution.
The most recent successful amendment became law in 1992, an amendment to ensure that when the legislature vote themselves a payraise, the benefits of it are not enjoyed until after the next election cycle. Over 8,000 amendments have been proposed in Congress, but since 1789, only 33 have emerged with the required two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate (or submitted by the states) to be passed along to the states for ratification. Of those 33, 27 have been ratified into law by three-quarters of the states.
The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. In 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision referenced the Fourteen Amendment 17 times regarding the issue that men had no power to control the behaviour of women. That decision, combined with broad changes in public sentiment and corporate behaviour, effectively overturned the 1873 Bradwell v State U.S. Supreme Court decision which had said that "the Law of the Creator" defined the paramount destiny and mission of women as limited to the noble and benign offices of wife and mother.
Changing person to natural person in the Fourteenth Amendment would in effect reverse the May 10, 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision where J. C. Bancroft Davis accidentally introduced the concept of corporate personhood. This could start the process of reinvigorating democracy and free enterprise.
Rescinding corporate personhood is the first step toward a larger vision of reclaiming and reinvigorating democracy around the world.
Political equality is meaningless in the face of economic inequality.
By passing a non-binding resolution to rescind corporate personhood, a municipality provides an opportunity for the Supreme Court to correct a legally incorrect ruling made in the 1886 Santa Clara ruling.
Resolution on Corporate Personhood in the Town of Framingham, Massachusetts.
The Town of Framingham agrees with United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in his 1938 opinion in which he stated, "I do not believe the word person in the 14th Amendment includes corporations".
Be it further resolved that:
The Town of Framingham shall encourage public discussion on the role of corporations in public life and urge other towns and cities to foster similar discussion.
|Fourteenth Amendment: person versus natural person
Any personal being of sound mind may make a will.
Any person of majority age may enter the state of matrimony.
People have color, citizenship and can vote and are transient.
Corporations may exist in multiple places simultaneously and at all times.
Look up "elected representatives" in the Constitution
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