"The greatness and the genuine trait of your thought and writings lie on the fact that you positively and interestingly make use of philosophical thoughts and thoughtfulness in order to deeply and concretely cogitate about America's social issues. . . . This does not mean that your thought is reducible to your era: your thought, being inspired by issues characterizing your era . . . , overcomes your era and will still likely be up to date even after your era, for future generations." Bruno Valentin

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Aristocracy of the Moneyed Corporations

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.”  Thomas Jefferson

In Citizens United v. FEC on January 21, 2010, the US Supreme Court held by 5 to 4 that because US corporations are legal persons, they can contribute to political campaigns.   The assumption here is that corporations are more than the sum of an aggregate of persons—that is, more than citizens associating.  The corporate entity has rights in itself.  Ginsberg and Sotomeyer questioned in oral arguments whether free speech applies to spending money, and, moreover, whether corporations should be considered legal persons, much less citizens.  After all, they can’t be drafted, or vote.

A corporate is essentially privately owned wealth.  To say that wealth counts as speech seems spurious to me.  In fact, the whole legal person designation seems contrived.  Whereas the Roman republic fell to dictatorship, our republic may well have already fallen to oligarchy or corporatism.   So I agree with Barak Obama that the decision is worrisome.   Already, Dick Durbin of the US Senate said that the banking lobby owns Congress after that lobby sank Durbin’s amendment to allow bankrupcy judges to modify mortgages in foreclosure (the banks want a veto, even if they contributed to the sub-prime mess).  If Goldman Sachs can spend virtually unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, we can expect to see that bank’s influence over the government expand even beyond what influence it has over its own alums who occupy high policy-making positions in the US Government (e.g., Hank Paulson and Neil Kashkari at Treasury under Bush II).  If our republic is already compromised under the weight of huge concentrations of private capital, the US Supreme Court’s decision may well be enough to sink the republic…ironically in the name of liberty.  But liberty for whom?  Or does “whom” even apply here…  It seems to me that corporations are not citizens associating for political purposes.  There are indeed non-profit political organizations whose function it is to influence policy.  This is not a business corporation’s function.  Nor is spending money itself political speech.  Any CEO can stand outside his or her building and give a political speech for free.  But which citizens does the CEO represent in his or her association of citizens?  Stockholders?  They don’t approve corporate public affairs spending.  Employees?  They don’t either.  Customers?   We don’t approve what a CEO says just because we have purchased a bar of soap.  The US Supreme Court’s majority might well say that the CEO represents the legal person that is the corporation, but then it is not an association of citizens because associations are not said to be persons (rather, they consist of persons).  Is this too logical?  Too reasoned?  Maybe so. But maybe it shows the duplicity involved in referring to an account of private wealth as a person.  It seems to me that it is rather blatant case of anthropomorphism.  …humans treating our artifacts as having our characteristics.  We must really think we are something.