hearts and minds

May 27, 2011

Corporations v. Persons – the struggle that will define the 21st Century

Have you ever wondered what possessed members of the supreme Court to determine that a corporation is a “person”, according to the Constitution? Which passages in the U.S. Constitution (including Amendments) could certain supreme Court Judges have construed to support their determination (in contrast to common understanding and general usage) that a corporation possesses the rights that are explicitly defined for a “person” in the Constitution? Having researched and written about the consequences of this determination several times over the last decade, I became interested and finally compelled to get to this root of the problem. And so I once again studied the Constitution and its Amendments. But this time, I searched in particular for an answer to the question of how in the world anyone can conclude that a corporation possesses the specific Constitutional rights that are described there as belonging to a “person”.

I began by locating and highlighting certain words in the text (such as “corporation”, “company”, “person[s]”, “citizen[s]”, and “people”). Then I studied the context in which those words appear. My search was productive, with results that were startling, informative, and actually simple to comprehend and to share with youhttps://clydewinter.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/666-word-proof-that-a-corporation-is-not-a-person/

The word “Person[s]” appears exactly 49 times in the Constitution with Amendments. The fact that the words “corporation” (or “company”) do not appear even once, is not, by itself, deciding evidence, pro or con, regarding the theory that a corporation possesses Constitutional rights. But the omission of any mention of “Corporation” or “Company” in the Constitution is certainly worthy of note. And also noteworthy is the complete absence of any indication in the U.S. Constitution, implicit or explicit, that the word “Person[s]” might mean anything other than simply a living, breathing human being, as the word was commonly and universally understood and used, both then and now. All 49 times that the word “Person[s]” is used in the Constitution are helpful to understanding how those who framed and ratified it understood and employed that word, and how it has been subsequently understood and applied. However, I will focus this essay on just two places that the word “Person” appears that are of critical and deciding importance to this question. I will quote these sentences and refer you to the location in the Constitution where they appear. Considering the key role of this matter in the clear and present danger to representative democracy and to the principle that government should be of, by, and for the people, which we are presently facing in the United States, I urge you to get your copy of the Constitution in hand, so that you can see for yourself the entire context in which these two sentences appear, and evaluate for yourself the argument I will make.

Large numbers of Americans believe that the Founding Fathers intended to provide Constitutional rights only to real, live human beings – NOT to corporations. I do not quite agree. Evidence exists that the framers DID concur in providing a particular Constitutional right to companies/corporations. Our question thus becomes a two-part question. Precisely, (a) “What right(s), if any, were spelled out in the Constitution for corporations?” and (b) “Is a corporation legitimately a ‘person’ in the meaning of the Constitution?” There are just two key citations in the Constitution that are importantly relevant in answering these two questions. Here they are:

The third (and concluding) sentence of Article IV Section 2 is the first key citation bearing directly on whether a corporation holds any rights and/or is a “Person”, under the U.S. Constitution. Article IV addresses relations between the states, relations between the United States and the individual states, and the privileges and immunities of citizens in the states.

No Person held to Service or Labor in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labor, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labor may be due.

Article IV Section 2, U.S. Constitution.

This historically embarrassing sentence, of course, was the explicit Constitutional justification for the notorious 19th century Fugitive Slave Laws. And this sentence that is now so important and useful to resolving the question of whether a corporation is a person, under the Constitution, was carefully and laboriously crafted to satisfy the demands of those delegates who were zealously seeking to enshrine in the Constitution itself, certain privileges and property rights of slave owners. It is the height of irony that this sentence should now surface to become our unassailable technical, legal argument in the defense of human rights and democracy, and in attacking the ephemeral, insubstantial premises employed by the direct ideological descendants of those who sought to rationalize and perpetuate slavery for the sake of their obscene wealth and privilege. Justice will prevail, and the arc of history does bend towards justice – so long as people of good will do the right thing.

The impact of this particular sentence was affected some four score years later with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. Nevertheless, this sentence is extremely critical to us today in deciding the question before us. This sentence, exactly as we see it today, was put in the Constitution by the original framers and ratifiers of the Constitution – the “Founders”. Bear in mind that the basic rules of Constitutional law and of common sense include (a) a word that is not explicitly defined in the Constitution [i.e. – “Person”] means what it means in common usage; (b) a word used several places in the Constitution [i.e. – “Person”] does not have different meanings in different places; and (c) two different words used in the same sentence [i.e. – “Person” and “Party”] are not interchangeable synonyms.

In Article IV, the “Person” who has fled one state and escaped into another is a living, breathing human being. Historically, only living human beings (indeed, many thousands of them) have been “delivered up” under Article IV Section 2 … while a corporation has never been “delivered up” under section 2. But the word of exceptional importance to us in this sentence is paradoxically not the word “Person”. We must focus our attention on the word “Party”, and on the Constitutional difference between a “Party” and a “Person as made clear in this Article. This single sentence is one of only two places in the entire Constitution, including all the Amendments, where the word “Party” is employed. [The other place is in Article III section 2 where “the United States” is defined as a “Party” in a controversy.] It’s important to us in the 21st century because both the word “Party” and the word “Person” are used in this one Article IV Section 2 sentence. They can’t and don’t mean the same thing!

[The following brief comment does not directly pertain to the subject of my essay, but I cannot forbear from digressing and pointing out at this point that the right of due process is not provided by Article IV to the “Person” alleged by the “Party” to be an “escaping” person. The Constitution summarily provided that such a “Person … shall be delivered up” on nothing more than the “Claim of the Party” which asserts that “… service or labor may be due”. Hmmmm. All the boss-man has to do is point his finger at you and claim you owe him service or labor, and the Constitution says that your days of freedom are over, and you are to be “delivered up”, without even a day in court to determine whether the “Claim” is just or not. And make no mistake. That is exactly what actually happened, to alleged “escaped persons”, countless times, for many decades, in the United States, in exactly that way. And that sentence has never been explicitly repealed by Amendment or adjudicated by the Court from the Constitution. It’s still in there, and it just might be used in the future in regards to the fine print in a contract of some kind that a “Person” or “Persons” (or even their legal guardian!) might sign with a “Party”. But – let’s leave this brief digression and return now to the subject of this essay – whether a corporation is a “person” under the Constitution.]

What is a “Party”? A “Party” in Article IV is a legal entity to whom “such Service or Labor may be due”, and which may make a “Claim” that a “Person…escaping…shall be delivered up …” to it. The Founders did NOT say that the “Person…escaping…shall be delivered up on Claim” of the Person to whom service or labor was due. The Founders said that the “Person…escaping…shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labor may be due.” Why did the Founders not simply use again their repeatedly used word “Person” instead of using the word “Party”? The answer is simply that a “Party” might not be a “Person”. A slave owner, for example, might be (and indeed often was) a business enterprise! Chartered companies traded, bought and sold, imprisoned, worked, and ‘disposed of’ slaves (as well as plantations, livestock, mills, factories, real estate, and other property) at will, for centuries in North America. The Founding Great White Fathers, in agreeing to employ the word “Party” here, sought to prevent an alleged escaped slave from successfully asserting her or his freedom before a court in a free state by using the legal “technicality” that he or she had been owned by a corporation, and not a person. Virtually every slave brought here from Africa was at some time (and sometimes for their entire lives) owned by a company/corporation – not a person. And it was very common for companies in America to buy, sell, hold, and work slaves. Therefore, here in Article IV, the Framers of the Constitution explicitly declared a Constitutional right that they asserted belonged to any legal entity – such as a chartered slave trading company or some other enterprise, or to a slave-owning person. And they designated the legal entity that possessed that particular right a “Party” – a simple concept and term that is very different and distinct from the word “Person”, but which (like the word “Person”) was widely and commonly and well understood by everyday people, including lawyers, at that time, as well as by everyday people here and now. A “Party” is simply a legal entity, which might mean an actual live human being, or which might mean an artificiality recognized by the state, such as a corporation. The key point for us here is that a “Party” is not necessarily a “Person”.

With the single remarkable exception of that one horrendous slavery-protecting sentence in Article IV section 2 which we have been discussing, the Constitution did not define any rights or responsibilities possessed by a legal entity (a “Party”) that was other than a “Person[s]”, “Citizen[s]”, “State[s]”, or branch[es] of the federal government. The Framers and ratifiers of the U.S. Constitution simply left it to the Congress and to the states and to the people, to define, charter, enable, circumscribe, and otherwise regulate and define the privileges and responsibilities and limitations of legal entities such as corporations.

This single sentence in Article IV Section 2 clearly (a) Delineates the only Constitutional right that the Founders described for a “Party“, and certainly intended to be enjoyed by a legal entity such as a corporation, and (b) Explicitly, incontrovertibly establishes (and confirms the massive evidence, noted elsewhere and by other sources) that the Founders, and the people themselves, never intended to, or did, invest a corporation with the Constitutional rights ascribed to a “Person”. A corporation, under the Constitution, is nothing more nor less than a “Party”, and a “Party” is not the same thing as a “Person”.

So far as I know, neither the supreme Court in its published opinions, nor any legal arguments presented to the Court pertaining to this strange and ill-founded legal theory that a corporation is a person under the Constitution, nor any pertinent legal texts or scholarly studies, have ever cited or considered the unambiguous evidence contained in the Constitution itself, implicit in the concluding sentence of Article IV section 2. But we, the people, can no longer allow it to be ignored.

The other key citation in the Constitution bearing on whether a corporation is a “person” under the Constitution is the 14th Amendment, which contains four (and only four) sentences employing the word “person[s]” (all located in sections 1, 2, and 3, which are very brief and to the point). Note that the 14th Amendment is invariably cited by the Supreme Court when it has asserted that a corporation is a person. So pay close attention to the 14th Amendment.

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.
Section 2: Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed…
Section 3: No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath… as an officer of the United States … or of any state … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same…

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

When you read the first sentence in section 1, it is clear that a corporation can not be, and never has been properly considered a “citizen” (in order to vote, run for elected office, pull jury duty, serve in the military, or otherwise enjoy the “privileges and immunities” of citizens, for example). Only a “person” can become a citizen, and a “person” is a living breathing human being.

When you read the first sentence in section 2, consider carefully the undeniable fact that corporations are not and never have been counted as “persons” residing within a state, or a congressional district, for purposes of apportioning representation in Congress. Article I section 2 of the Constitution mandates this “Enumeration” every ten years, and corporations have never been counted as “persons”, since day one. Is it possible that the U.S. Constitution has been blatantly violated (from 1790 and every ten years, and every national election since) by the Census and by the entire governmental apparatus which was established by the Constitution, in failing to enumerate corporations and other legal entities (other than actual human beings living in the United States) for purposes of apportioning representation in Congress and presidential electors? That would be a simply ludicrous argument to make, and just stating it illuminates with stark clarity that neither the Founders themselves, nor the framers and ratifiers of the 14th Amendment, nor the people themselves, of any generation over the two-plus centuries since the nation’s founding, harbored any intention whatsoever that a corporation be considered a “person” under the Constitution.

When you read the first sentence of section 3, consider whether a corporation qualifies to be a Senator or Governor or other public official. Of course not. A Senator or other public official must first be a “person” – which is a living, breathing human being. Ask, do the corrupted members of the Supreme Court think that a corporation can legitimately hold office as a U.S. Senator or Congressman or President or Justice? (On second thought – don’t ask them that question. In the first place, they won’t answer it – I suppose, on the specious grounds that this question just might come before the Court some day, so they dasn’t talk about it. And when they do answer that question, with a Court decision, if we have anything at all left of our brains and our spirit, we will not like their answer – unless we the people first gain control of what should be our government before they can drop the gavel on their twisted answer to it.)

Could these three sentences opening sections 1, 2, and 3 in the 14th Amendment that explicitly use the word “person” lead any rational, sane person to believe that those who wrote and ratified the 14th Amendment, or the people in general, had any intention whatsoever that a corporation was to be construed as a “person”, or possessed the Constitutional rights of a “person”? Of course not. Our 14th Amendment argument boils down, first, to the fact that corporations have never been counted as “persons” by the Census, which has been explicitly mandated by the Constitution since ratification, and which has been used every ten years since 1790 to apportion Congressional representation, initially according to the Constitution itself and, since 1868, according to the 14th Amendment. And our argument slams shut with the simple assertion that the “person” to be enumerated (or not) by the Census (as described in the first sentence of section 2 of the 14th Amendment), is precisely the same “person” whose rights to due process and equal protection of the law are explicitly stated in the sentence immediately preceding it – (the concluding sentence of section 1 of the same Amendment). There cannot be two deeply different and contradictory meanings of the word “person” in those four contiguous sentences.

Historically, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were motivated and ratified, at the end of the Civil War, to end slavery and to ensure that basic rights of the freed slaves be established and protected. The 14th Amendment ensured that slaves and their descendants, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, could become citizens, and would have their basic human and civil rights (as “persons”) protected against wholesale violation by potentially hostile, reactionary, and racist individuals, groups, and local and state governments. Only a complete knucklehead or a fully corrupted Court Judge could conclude that the 14th Amendment was written and ratified based on the assumption that a corporation is a “person”. Yet that is exactly what the supreme Court outrageously did without a legitimate deciding, concurring, or dissenting opinion on the point 2 decades after the 14th Amendment was ratified! And that is exactly what the corrupt 5-4 majority of the supreme Court explicitly did in 2010!

In 1787 and 1791, the Founders had established (in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights) the mandate that the federal government not violate certain basic human rights. Bracketed between the two defining sentences that begin sections 1 and 2 of the 14th Amendment, each of which clearly define a “person” as a living, breathing human being, and which have universally been interpreted and applied to do so, is the most important sentence of that Amendment. The second (and concluding) sentence in section 1 of the 14th Amendment (ratified some 80 years after the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were ratified), explicitly required, for the first time, that each of the states was also forbidden to deprive any “person” of these most basic human rights of due process and equal protection of the laws. Even the fanciest of corporate lawyers (and despite wearing the cloak of a supreme Court Judge) cannot get away with saying that the “person” that is guaranteed the rights of due process and equal protection of the laws by the 14th Amendment is not precisely the same “person” that is meant by the three surrounding sentences of that very same Amendment. Even the slickest, crookedest, forked tongue calling himself a “Justice” or a Constitutional law “expert” cannot get away with saying that (only) the “person” referred to in the second sentence of section 1 – the due process and equal protection clause – (in stark contrast to all of the “persons” referred to in the entire rest of the 14th Amendment) just might be a son-of-a-gun corporation. Even simple, everyday people can figure that out – without a lawyer, thank you. And anyone who can’t figure that out shouldn’t be allowed to be a lawyer or a judge – and certainly shouldn’t continue to be allowed to hold office as a supreme Court Judge!

The 14th Amendment did NOT just “give” citizenship and basic human rights to people of color or ex-slaves. Actually, sections 1, 2, and 3 of the 14th Amendment did not say a single word about color or national origin or slavery. Read it again. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment defined citizenship in the United States for the very first time. That was a very good and very important thing for all of us. And Section 1 mandated, for the very first time, extremely important human rights for ALL of us “persons”, (regardless of our color, age, nationality, creed, or sex, and no matter which of the states we happened to find ourselves in). The 14th Amendment directly benefited and strengthened the civil rights of each and every one of us – not just people of color or ex-slaves. Don’t forget that. When corporate stooges and corrupt judges attempt to bestow on corporations the inherent human rights that the Constitution says belong to the people, they are trying to steal, dilute, and make meaningless, the basic civil rights of ALL of us – not just the rights of those people who had been recently freed from slavery.

The historical widespread subsequent ignorance, abuse, disdain, and neglect of the 14th Amendment in America, and the grotesque misuse and distortion of the 14th Amendment by the U.S. supreme Court, resulted in a cruel and hugely ironic injustice. The refusal to apply 14th Amendment rights to real, live people resulted in the tragic, brutal, oppressive century of American apartheid known as the era of lynching and Jim Crow laws. The essential human rights protections described in the 14th Amendment were blatantly and entirely disregarded and ignored until the landmark Civil Rights and Voting Rights Laws were finally enacted a full century later.

Instead, those basic rights of “persons” that were enunciated in the second sentence of section 1, were almost immediately seized upon by corporate strategists and employed, without justification, to assert that corporations have all the constitutional rights that in fact should belong fully and only to real, live human beings. Besides a century of lynchings and other Jim Crow era human rights violations, this led directly to the gross inequities of the Gilded Age and the protracted tragedy of the Great Depression. In recent decades, even greater reliance on, and extension of the legal hoax that a corporation has the Constitutional rights of a person has culminated in a continuing series of the largest and escalating financial frauds that have ever occurred in the world, with no imprisonment of the primary looters, no recovery of the massive loot, and no regulations or enforcement to effectively prevent it from happening to us again and again. The aberration and travesty continues to this day, and will continue, and worsen, until we, the people, put a stop to it.

Until the people demand and obtain a return to the intent of the Constitution regarding the rights of a “person”, the people will remain, as we currently are, without protection from unbridled corporate power.

In addition to this analysis, or if you harbor any doubts about whether the supreme Court has been dead wrong in granting to corporations the constitutional rights of a “Person”, I encourage you to inspect the 21 other places where the word “Person” was employed in the text of the Constitution as it was adopted on September 17, 1787, and the 22 other places where it was employed in the Amendments. See if you can find even one use of the word “Person” in which it is conceivable that the word applied or referred to a corporation, or to anything other than a living, breathing human being.

Summarizing – under the Constitution with Amendments , and in particular, Article IV section 2, and the 14th Amendment, sections 1, 2, and 3, clearly:

• A “person” is a living breathing human being, and as such, exclusively possesses all Constitutional rights explicitly described for a “person” or “persons”.
• A “person” working for a corporation has rights, a “person” who owns stock in corporations has rights, and a “person” who is a corporate director has rights. These Constitutional rights are exactly the same rights that any “person” possesses, regardless of corporate affiliation.
• Corporations are legal entities that possess rights that were spelled out in the Constitution for a “Party”. But a corporation (as well as a planet, a foreign government, a forest, etc.) is not a “person”, and certainly does not legitimately possess Constitutional rights guaranteed to a “person”.

W.E.B. Du Bois presciently defined the over-riding problem of the 20th century, at its outset, as the problem of the color line. We Americans can and must, each and all of us, finally erase the adverse effects of that color line. Our task, to help America live up to its promise, has been to obliterate a line – the color line -that so tragically and unjustly divided and still divides people against ourselves. Our task now is to clearly define a very different line – the legal line that distinguishes we, the living people, from them, the un-dead corporate entities.

The defining struggle of the 21st century at the outset of the 3rd Millennium, and underlying all other political issues, will be to establish and defend the line between a person and a corporation. Prevailing in that struggle will be necessary in order to win government that is of, by, and for the people (instead of government that is by and for the corporations and the super-rich), and to value life and our planet before and above property and profits.

This study is inspired by, and dedicated to the brilliance and the spirit of Tecumseh, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Crazy Horse, Ida B. Wells, Joe Hill, W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez, Rosemary Nigro, Dolores Huerta, Dorothy Height, Diane Nash, Rachel Carson, Harriette Parker, Walt Bresette, Roberta Blackgoat, Skip Porter, John Gilman – and so many, many other American exemplars of courage, compassion, and integrity, past and present, famous and not-so famous, who let their own little light shine, let it shine – for us and for the future.


Essays spotlighting the consequences of Constitutional “corporate personhood”:

“Citizens United Inc. v. Federal Elections Commission – the Supreme Court Strikes Out”
https://clydewinter.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/citizens-united-v-federal-elections-commission/

“Governing People For Profits”
https://clydewinter.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/governing-people-for-profits/

“How Wisconsin Legislators Voted on Ending Legalized Bribery”
https://clydewinter.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/how-wisconsin-legislators-voted-on-ending-legalized-bribery/

“Paying for Elections – Low Cost and Up-Front or High Cost and Under-the-Table”
https://clydewinter.wordpress.com/2008/01/02/pay-for-elections-low-cost-and-up-front-or-high-cost-and-under-the-table/

Join the struggle to win government that is of, by, and for the people – not the corporations:

Legally negating the supreme Court rulings in the cases noted below which have established the legal fiction of that a corporation is a Constitutional “person”, and the resulting destruction of government that is of, by, and for the people, will require either (a) a supreme Court that will fully reverse the terrible precedent it has established, or (b) the Congress to insist and remedy, through explicit legislation, that its Constitutional responsibilities and powers have been usurped by certain supreme Court rulings, or (c) a Constitutional Amendment. Lesser statutory reforms may, or they may not, contribute some temporary relief or helpful tactical delay or opportunities to organize. But the only real solution will be to fully rescind the injustice that is now enshrined in Constitutional law.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
http://www.wisdc.org/index.php?module=wisdc.websiteforms&cmd=petition

Move to Amend
http://movetoamend.org/

Public Citizen
http://democracyisforpeople.org/

Bernie Sander’s proposed Amendment
http://democracyforamerica.com/activities/726?akid=1599.355771.z_lawl&rd=1&t=2

References: [Note, this is NOT a complete list, by any means.  Important references are not included here, and I need to do further research to provide a complete list.]

The Constitution of the United States of America, and Amendments

[The following noted legal cases that were heard by the supreme Court include only some cases that most importantly advanced and then consolidated the legal theory that under the Constitution, a corporation is a person and money is speech. Other cases, as well as cases that tended in the opposite direction (which have been effectively reversed by rulings in the above cases) are not listed here.]

Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific RR Corporation 1886
(A corporation is a “person” under the meaning of the 14th Amendment! This case can be seen as starting the ball rolling, and is considered by many legal, academic, and business specialists as establishing the cornerstone of corporate law. The exquisite irony of this case is that the crucial assertion that a corporation is a “person” in the meaning of the 14th Amendment, was (a) never examined or challenged in arguments presented to the Court, and (b) the legal reasoning behind the assertion was neither revealed nor examined in the deciding unanimous Opinion of the Court, and (c) the assertion itself was made only in the headnotes to the case, and (d) the Opinion of the Court explicitly examined and rejected the necessity of ruling on, or establishing any precedent in, a matter of Constitutional law. This castle of corporate Constitutional law has been erected on a foundation of deception, evasion, and absolutely no substance.)

Buckley v. Valeo 1976
(Distribution of money is equivalent to speech, and thus protected under the First Amendment!)

First Nat’l Bank of Boston v. Bellotti
1978
(Corporate personhood means corporations have First Amendment rights!)

Citizens United Incorporated v. Federal Elections Commission
2010
(Corporations can employ unlimited resources to influence elections, political parties, and legislation!)

Arizona Free Enterprise Inc. v Bennett 2011
(Public financing of elections [to counter corruption and improper influence] is ruled unconstitutional!)

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54 Comments »

  1. Two things that I wonder about on this:
    First, that corporations may be considered legal ‘parties’ by the states that they are incorporated in, and as such, enjoy the protections of the constitution for all legal ‘parties’: persons or otherwise, with the words ‘person’ and ‘party’ being interchangeable as far as the constitution is interpreted once these terms are applied similarly in any legal matters.
    In other words, the state that issues incorporation papers is saying that the corporation is a legal person, and as such, a ‘citizen’ of the United States in America.

    Second, when you say, “The people are currently without protection from unbridled corporate power.”, what you are really saying is “people who behave according to the corporate-controlled laws and media” are without protection. The founders of the country felt that there came a time to step forward and provide their own version of protection from corporate influence when the East India Tea company pushed the British government beyond reasonable exploitation of their life and liberty.
    There is ALWAYS protection; you just have to be desperate enough to take it upon yourself to implement it. Do we actually live in a democracy still? When the behavior of the government is such that it no longer acts in the best interests of the people, then we can legitimately say that it is no longer a “representative republic”, and is instead, an oligarchy or corporation itself. The constitution is written for self-ruling people and their representatives. When those representatives do not act according to the needs of the people (or the people are kept disinformed and ignorant), and instead act in favor of only the expansion of government or laws or moneyed interests, it is no longer a government according to the constitution, and anyone who abides by its demands is acting against the constitution.
    In a country based on free will and choice, even the title of something like “The Patriot Act” becomes treasonous if we know what our country stands for in the first place (no coerced loyalties).
    I’m not advocating that we should take violent action against corporations that infringe our idea of right and wrong, but that the corporations should be afraid we will. Everyone should be either a better neighbor or a better shot. The strategic fear of the latter ensures the former, and actually behaving like the former negates the need for the latter.

    If you truly want to understand the power of corporations over the power of persons, you need to look into how the laws and actions of our country put the protection of property above the protection of natural persons. Corporations may have lost the right to own slaves directly, but they did not lose the right to own enough of the property to establish that owning people vs. owning their lives is an insignificant difference.

    Comment by Dan C — May 29, 2011 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for reading and for your comment, Dan. I appreciate the criticism, but I must respond to, and correct, a couple of things you stated.

      The two sentences that constitute your first point are so replete with inaccuracies and errors in logic that it’s hard to know where to begin.

      My essay announced my intention to focus on what the U.S. Constitution (with Amendments) explicitly stated that could have led certain Supreme Court Justices to decide and/or announce that corporations are “Persons”, and possess the specific Constitutional rights designated and defined for “Persons”. An essay is not a book, and an essay should stick closely to the subject. Accordingly, my essay did not discuss tangential – and subordinate – issues such as state laws and articles of incorporation that license corporations.

      Since you introduced such issues, be advised that state laws and state constitutions and corporate licensing must all comply (in the final analysis) with the U.S. Constitution. They are not expected to be identical, or redundant. But they are expected to comply with, and not violate, the U.S. Constitution. In other words, state constitutions, and all laws (whether federal or state or local) are not only tangential to the announced subject of my essay, they are also strictly subordinate to the U.S. Constitution. So basically, state laws are irrelevant to whether corporations are “Persons” under the U.S. Constitution, and to how and why the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to act and decide, and therefore, irrelevant to the subject of my essay.

      In addition, and directly contrary to your unsubstantiated assertion, the Constitution itself explicitly and clearly acknowledges a significant difference between a “Party” and a “Person”, as I indicated in the text of my essay. That can perhaps be rebutted, but not by merely asserting the contrary, as you did. The evidence I provided is the precise words of the U.S. Constitution, in context. What is your evidence that the words “person” and “party” are “interchangeable”, in a way that trumps the U.S. Constitution?

      Finally, you are doubly mistaken in saying that “… the corporation is a legal person, and as such, a ‘citizen’ of the United States of America.” In the first place, Dan, I think that my essay demonstrates conclusively that the text of the U.S. Constitution itself establishes that, as far as the Constitution is concerned, a corporation is NOT a person – legal or whatever. In the second place, a “Person” is not the same thing as a “Citizen” as far as the U.S. Constitution has ever been concerned. Even the sleaziest corporation attorneys and the most corrupt of the Supreme Court Justices have not had the gall (or perhaps the stupidity) to claim U.S. citizenship for corporations – yet. It is important to read carefully in order to comprehend what is actually stated in a carefully written, controlling document, such as the U.S. Constitution.

      I concluded my essay with a sentence with which you also quarreled. And you have a good point about self-defense. But government needs to do more than merely allow you and me and everyone else to defend ourselves. Government is expected to enact and enforce laws against murder, child labor, robbery, slavery, rape, mob lynchings, fraud, larceny, treason, pollution of air and water, and destruction of the commons, for example. Government is expected to protect people (not just you and me and a few other quirky one-of-a-kind individuals – but all people, including children and elders) from the adverse consequences of greed and “unbridled corporate power”, for example. The U.S. Constitution was “ordained and established” explicitly “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”.

      If those are legitimate purposes of government, then “We the People” need to determine and decide whether or not corporations are indeed “persons” under the Constitution, and whether or not corporations do have (or should have) the rights that the U.S. Constitution, with Amendments, has explicitly announced belong to “Persons”. And then we need to take appropriate and effective action to see that our government is brought into full compliance with the Constitution, and with the inalienable rights of the people.

      Comment by clydewinter — May 31, 2011 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

      • On state laws complying with the Constitution, that is exactly a key element of the 14th Amendment – it makes all of the protections of individual rights in the Constitution, originally only against the power of the Federal government, also apply to state governments. E.g. the First Amendment no religious establishment clause — in the late 18th and early 19th c. a number of states had established or (e.g. Massachusetts) allowed towns to pick one “main” church that got subsidies, usually Unitarian or Congregationalist, i.e. descendants of the Puritan churches. And states can still give citizens *more* protection than the Federal Constitution — except when federal standards are impose to make “commerce” uniform which has been used to attack environmental regulations for instance.

        I agree that the trend has gone against many local regulatory efforts. What I am talking about is the actual definitions of the corporations, the terms on which they may be chartered. Such efforts might face the same fate. I am not a legal scholar either & don’t know how much the Federal government by law or court decision may have usurped that original chartering role. But I still think it might make a worthwhile tactic for mobilizing and educating. I think we need many. The “Move to Amend” idea of amending the Constitution itself may be what it ultimately takes but since that takes 2/3 of Congress + 3/4 of states ratifying you need a really big popular movement & the question would be how we build that. I do understand that’s beyond the scope of this essay. Perhaps in time you will turn to how we the people can pursue the needed reforms.

        A college classmate of mine, Karen C, who went on to be an environmental activist, has been involved in thinking about corporate legal personhood and related issues for a long time through something called The Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy. These links:

        http://www.poclad.org/?pg=About_Us
        http://www.poclad.org/?pg=Articles&show=b101119.txt

        describe POCLAD, and describe what corporate rights they would like to abolish and why, respectively. The other person I recognize is David Cobb, who was the national Green Party candidate for president in 2004. There’s lot more on the site & it may be worth the time to poke around on it. A lot of it seems to be in the form of essays published under the general name “By What Authority.”

        Comment by Chris L — May 31, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

  2. Thank you, Clyde Winter, for this monumental, and pivotal, analysis which I have read very carefully, as I always do when I see your name on an e-mail. According to the third edition of “LIMITS TO GROWTH,The 30-Year Update” (chapter 8 alone is worth the price of the book) they say that humanity needs 5 tools to survive the 21st Century! They are VISIONING, NETWORKING, TRUTH-TELLING, LEARNING, and LOVING! You are one of the precious few I know who lives by those 5 tools. Thank you! If we and all the other “cultural creatives” can find a critical mass of “aware” people, just maybe we will break thru this dysfunctional governmental glass ceiling! Warmest regards, James

    Comment by James Z — May 31, 2011 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for the kind compliment, and for reading and considering this essay, James.
      Those five tasks are more than I can handle well, however.
      I guess I’m focusing on truth-telling, and hopefully learning about truth and about loving.
      The visioning and networking things have not been my forte, and I don’t want to hold up the truth while trying to learn the rudiments of those others.
      This is definitely a team effort, and each “Person” should do what she or he can.

      Comment by clydewinter — May 31, 2011 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

  3. Mr. Winter, I don’t know if you’ve read Lawrence Goldstone’s recent Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903 but if you pursue this topic further it might be of interest, as he locates certain roots of post-Civil War “corporate personhood” court decisions in a few antebellum cases that began developing the associated concept of “substantive due process.” He also is good on court inconsistency and opportunism in denying plain meanings of the 14th Amendment and potential applications of “substantive due process” when they would benefit actual persons, particularly African-Americans and workers, vs. giving “rights” to corporations.

    However, there is an aspect of all this that I don’t think your reasoning touches, which is that corporations are chartered by states. At least potentially the power to confer or define “legal personhood” is among the unenumerated powers left by the Bill of Rights to the states, or the people, as indeed citizenship was prior to the 14th Amendment. On the one hand it may be that some combination of states granting legal personhood to corporations, the comity clause that requires states to recognize one anothers’ laws, and the interstate commerce clause could be cobbled together to create a federal corporate personhood, particularly if there is positive federal legislation creating such a status and enjoining it on the states under the interstate commerce clause. I am not sure if any of this pertains to the actual current situation, but since the constitution recognizes legislative power outside itself and the federal government, in the states, I don’t think the text of the constitution and the amendments is sufficient to your purposes, unfortunately.

    On the other hand, the question of state chartering powers may be of interest as a “terrain of struggle” for we the people. For instance, typically state laws define the aims, powers and fiduciary responsibilities of limited liability joint stock corporations and their officers as being exclusively for the benefit of shareholders. But suppose states were to revise the terms of chartering to include responsibilities for the benefit of communities and workers? Or to restrict the legal personhood to forbid expenditures to influence elections or confer benefits on elected officials?

    Such efforts probably would fall afoul of the same nexus of legal comity and interstate commerce, absent Congressional legislation. Still they might help to bring out the issues, which are not restricted to legalized corruption but include the dictatorial internal characteristics of most corporations (e.g. suppressing freedoms of speech and association), the question of communities and workers as stakeholders posed by “runaway shops” etc.

    For worse at present but possibly for better in the future, corporations are our “actually existing” collectives, the means through which we organize collaboration and cooperation, a potential to some extent embodied in legal cooperatives as a form of corporation and to a lesser extent by not-for-profit corporations. The struggle should be not just to deny them falsely asserted status as persons and related spurious claims to rights of personhood, but to reconstruct the institution of the corporation in a more democratic and socially responsible form.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

    Comment by Chris L — May 31, 2011 @ 4:18 pm | Reply

    • Thank you Chris for your substantive reply. I have not read “Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court”, but it surely must be included as one of those other (unnamed) “sources” to which I referred in my essay, Thank you for telling us about it.

      I am aware that the theory of “corporate personhood” has been around and influencing the Supreme Court since at least the immediate post Civil War era. I have written elsewhere about the adverse consequences of “corporate personhood” for real persons, and have discussed there the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Corporation Supreme Court case announced in 1886.

      With regards to your suggestions, it should be noted that when the U.S. Supreme Court has announced or decided in favor of “corporate personhood” on a matter relating to the Constitutional rights of corporations, they have consistently and increasingly decided against laws passed by municipalities, by the states, or by Congress, in which the elected governing body in question has sought to curb the excesses of corporate power and influence over real people’s lives and over what should be government that is of, by and for the people. You are correct that my brief but concise essay was (intentionally) limited to the simple, but of surpassing importance, purpose that I announced, which is an examination of the actual words of the Constitution (with Amendments) and a hard look at the U.S. Supreme Court. But your implication that my argument is invalid or insufficient because it allegedly ignores the possibility that a state might confer “legal personhood” on a corporation, is clearly incorrect. A state’s power does not extend to trumping or over-ruling the U.S. Constitution. That is, the Constitutional rights of a “person” and whether a corporation is a person under the U.S. Constitution, is determined, in the final analysis, by the terms and provisions of the U.S. Constitution, and not by an individual state or its enactments.

      With regards to the U.S. Constitution, a “Person” is a “person” is a person. A corporation is a “Party”. A corporation is not a “person”.

      A state can certainly grant broader rights to a “person” than the U.S. Constitution does. It can also grant fewer rights to a “person”. For example, a state constitution may nowhere explicitly declare that a person has a right to keep and bear arms. Or another state constitution may explicitly declare that a person has the right to keep and bear arms, without any qualifying mention of the need for a well regulated militia. Neither of those state constitutions (or any relevant state laws) either increases or decreases the right of a person to keep and bear arms that is explicitly defined in the U.S. Constitution. What rights the state does or does not grant to a “person” neither diminishes nor expands the rights that are directly and explicitly granted to a “person” by the U.S. Constitution. If a state constitution, or a state law, or an enactment of Congress, were to assert that a stone is a tree, that assertion might stand as long as it did not violate or contradict the U.S. Constitution. But it would be a serious and manifestly foolish mistake for anyone to claim that the U.S. Constitution now held and supported the contention that a stone is a tree. If a state constitution were to explicitly define a corporation as being a person – and I don’t think that has ever occurred, by the way – that definition would apply only to that state’s constitution and laws. It would not change the meaning of “Person” in the U.S. Constitution. If a state constitution were to explicitly define a corporation and describe the rights of a corporation under its constitution (and assuming those provisions granting rights by a state to a corporation did not violate the U.S Constitution) that would not in any way alter the fact that corporations are not granted any explicit rights of persons under the United States Constitution. Your argument is both invalid and a red herring.

      The reality, and the nexus of the problem, is not that states or municipalities have tried to grant greater and broader rights to corporations. In contrast, states and municipalities have tried to regulate and control increasingly powerful trans-national corporations that know no ethics or morals or values or goals beyond maximizing their own short term pecuniary profit, and that can live forever and can grow to unlimited size – even “too big to fail”, as we have painfully learned. For a huge corporation, or alliance of corporations, that massive power means controlling governments and the public discourse, trampling on justice and human rights, destroying any values that compete with their own. The reality, and the nexus of the problem, is that the U.S. Supreme Court (beginning in 1886, and continuing in recent decades, including as recently as 2011) has overruled and negated municipal and county ordinances, state legislatures and courts, and the Congress, who have tried to reduce or control legalized bribery, to defend democracy, to promote the general welfare, and to protect the rights and the lives of the people and the planet from corporate tyranny.

      I disagree with you that corporations are our modern day collectives as strongly (but on purely subjective terms) as I disagree (but here, on solid, substantive grounds) that a corporation is a person. The implications of your speculation are too ominous and too horrible to contemplate. However, collectives are not mentioned in the Constitution any more than corporations are. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t or don’t or can’t exist. They just were not mentioned, and (with the sole, important but unfortunately neglected exception of Article IV section 2, which defined the one and only explicit constitutional right of a “Party”) they were not granted any specific Constitutional rights. Persons are mentioned – many times – and the Constitutional rights of a “person” were spelled out. That’s what I’m talking about. The Constitution focuses on the people, and the U.S. Constitution leaves it to the Congress and to the states to define, confine, regulate, and license corporations – but always in compliance with the Constitution. The U.S. Constitution put people first. The U.S. Constitution recognized that the people are sovereign, and that the people, alone, have inalienable rights. The Supreme Court has been changing that, in the most outrageous, most egregious, most insidious historical example of “subverting the Constitution from the Bench” that we have ever suffered in the USA. And the consequences are continuing to mount and have become catastrophic.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Hopefully, other readers may wish to comment further on the substance of them.

      Comment by clydewinter — May 31, 2011 @ 6:23 pm | Reply

      • Another insightful article, Clyde. I hear in Chris L’s comment an historical and legal burden of the current status quo concerning corporations as “persons”. The legal precedent, dating back over 100 years, almost makes the rationally progressive think there may be something to the “personhood” of a corporation. What interests me is that no corporations vote or run for office or are counted in the census, so these legal cases seem to uphold your view of the 14th amendment’s definition of a real person.

        I realize the privileges that corporations are reaching for (freedom of speech first among them) constitute a slippery slope leading to the rights of natural persons. Yet, corporations clearly do not have ALL of the rights of a natural person. Corporate charters grant organizations the title of Legal Entity and all states allow certain privileges and immunities to corporations, such as the right to borrow money and immunity from liability for owners.

        In fact, there are so many legal advantages to being a corporation, my thought is that we should ALL get a legal fiction facade and everyone should be incorporated. It’s not that hard to do, nor is it that costly. There are some additional forms and filings every year, but that is a small price to pay for what you gain.

        Comment by Lex T — June 2, 2011 @ 2:02 am

      • Thank you, Lex, for your service in the continuing health care crisis in the US, and for helping defend democracy and the Constitution in Move to Amend.

        The fact that corporations do not vote or run for office is somewhat less direct evidence against corporations being historically recognized officially as “persons”, because (since the early 20th century) only citizens can vote and only citizens can run for elected office. Corporate lawyers and their allies on the Supreme Court have not yet gone so far as to declare “corporate citizenship” rights. (Maybe corporations don’t want to have to pull jury duty or be subject to the draft.) The simple unambiguous evidence is that corporations are not, and never have been counted as “persons” for purposes of apportionment in Congress, representation in the electoral college, or in the Constitutionally mandated national census. All “Persons” (and only persons) are counted in compliance with those Constitutional provisions.

        For what it is worth, I will quibble with your contention that the slippery slope to Constitutional corporate personhood began with free speech rights. The assignment of the rights of the people to corporations began when the headnotes introducing an 1886 Supreme Court case asserted that a corporation had the rights of due process and equal protection of the laws that were provided in the 14th Amendment.

        I cannot second your solution for the growing problem and consequences of “corporate personhood”, which seems to be for everyone to become a corporation. If ya can’t beat em, join em, eh? That sounds a bit like the solution for the escalating disparity of wealth and income between the super-rich and all the rest of us is for everyone to obtain and hoard as much gold and silver as each can get his or her hands on. Or the solution for undeterred and unpunished fraud, larceny and deception on Wall Street is for everyone to buy more stock and to diversify. In the first place, it leaves some unfortunate families and individuals completely out of the picture. And in the second place it does not begin to correct the systemic cancer or its consequences.

        Comment by clydewinter — June 2, 2011 @ 5:23 am

      • You are right, Clyde. I have never seen the argument you posted regarding Article IV. I have poured over the constitution many times myself and never noticed the connection you made. And it is a direct statement about the important distinction between a “Person” and a “Party”. It should be discussed more widely. (P.S. – My suggestion for everyone to incorporate is, of course, tongue in cheek.)

        Comment by Lex T — June 6, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

  4. This is a brilliant essay. Thank you.

    I have an idea and would like your help doing it, if you think it makes sense.

    I will form a corporation and, citing the “Citizens United” decision, will file it to run for elective office — let’s say the state legislature. We will get someone, maybe the ACLU, to file suit against it.

    Then we’ll expose for the total sham it really is and, who knows, maybe embarrass the supreme court into finding against itself.

    Comment by Jim W — May 31, 2011 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for the compliment, Jim.

      The thing about running a corporation for the state legislature is that a person has to be a citizen to hold such office. And (so far) the Supreme Court has only ruled that a corporation is a person – they have not yet gone further and ruled that a corporation is a citizen. And good luck with getting the ACLU to file suit against it. The ACLU (which accepts and receives very substantial corporate “donations”, by the way) has actually supported the notion of corporations having Constitutional rights, such as free speech (with money being equated with speech). Or didn’t you know all that? So perhaps your idea is not a useful or helpful one. So I must decline your invitation.

      Good luck, also, with your idea of embarrassing the Supreme Court into turning against itself.
      And I must note here all your past work on behalf of “liberal” causes.

      Comment by clyde winter — January 11, 2012 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  5. Clyde,

    Neither what I posted last night nor your response that I got by email seems to be here. Your point on using exact language especially when it’s simple makes sense.

    However, you left out the clause I had in mind: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States …” That would include the Bill of Rights among other things. Citizens are individuals, but not all individuals who have some rights under the 14th Amendment have all citizenship rights so that would be a reason to agree with you about “individual rights.” States also have right, privileges and immunities under the Constitution so not all constitutional rights are individual, even if none belong to corporations. That’s all I was getting at.

    In one of the papers on the Program on Law and Democracy site linked in another comment that hasn’t posted, David Cobb argues against the idea of judicial review, apparently. I haven’t read it yet but it may be that such a position is necessary to uphold the view that corporations have “no rights.”

    Comment by Chris Lowe — June 1, 2011 @ 2:04 pm | Reply

  6. It sounds like you’d be interested in Milwaukee Move To Amend, so here’s some information on us.
    Our aim is to get a resolution on the Milwaukee ballot stating that corporations are not people and money is not speech, all working toward a national Constitutional Convention and a federal constitutional amendment along the same order. We are approaching the problem from a grassroots perspective because we think we have more of a chance that the legislators will respond to this. We will be going door to door to educate and collect signatures.
    This is all in response to the Jan. 21, 2010 Citizens United decision that unequivocally made corporations people and money speech.We probably wouldn’t have this governor or so much influence by the Koch brothers if it weren’t for this decision.

    MOVE TO AMEND!
    The US Constitution
    CORPORATIONS AREN’T PEOPLE.
    FIGHT THE CITIZENS UNITED DECISION!
    Citizens United Jan. 2010 was a Supreme Court decision that stated corporations can spend unlimited money on political campaigns, and that corporations are people, and money is speech! Even our President is affected. FIGHT BACK! This is the ROOT of our problems.

    A couple of excellent websites are Move to Amend and Public Citizen. If you want to read a very good book on this subject, try Thom Hartmann’s Unequal Protection. Available at Amazon.

    SPONSORED BY WILPF
    (WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE & FREEDOM!)

    Bring your ideas and opinions

    Comment by Mary L — June 6, 2011 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

    • Thank you, Mary. And thanks to all the rank and file members of the newly growing and spreading Move to Amend organizations around the country. (Note that I have provided links to Move to Amend in this and my other articles on corporate personhood.) Move to Amend has the best analysis and the best strategy, at this time, of any national organization that is actively working to repeal the legal theories that a corporation is a person and that money equals speech. My best regards to you, and my hope is that the leadership of these organizations will respect the people that comprise the grassroots, and will actually employ democracy in the movement, while seeking to establish it in the nation.

      Comment by clyde winter — September 14, 2011 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

  7. Thank you! After browsing my way through your blog, I have to tell you it makes me very happy to see a voice of reason in the middle of the country speaking up.

    Being on the East Coast, it often seems as though the middle of the country has lost it’s collective mind. Maintaining the stance that “middle America” is not some amorphous blob of one mind, and collectively losing it… while being pounded via the media only with the voices of those who do appear to have “lost it” and are making much noise can be difficult at times, to say the least. To be thinking “it simply cannot be that middle-America has collectively lost all sense of sanity and reason. There MUST be some sanity there” and then repeatedly only hear the voices of those who do seem to have actually lost all sense and reason can be disheartening to say the least.

    But here you are, a voice of intelligence and sanity. Your blog has made my day. If it’s alright with you, I would love to add you to my blogroll.

    Comment by placidair — June 6, 2011 @ 5:51 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for the compliment, and of course you may list my blog on your blogroll.

      At least part of your perception of the “middle of the country” is, sadly, shared by many who actually live here. Typically, an aspiring and more than competent artist or writer sooner or later realizes that she/he must leave middle-America to achieve status and recognition (and an income) precisely because (1) the unassuming inhabitants of “fly-over states” maintain a very low glass ceiling over the creative gifts and aspirations of talented artists emerging from their own ranks, and (2) the coastal sophisticates expect homage paid in full and in person before they will anoint an artist from the provinces. In the Midwest, you have to be famous somewhere else before your value will be recognized here. In the distant cultural palaces, you have to come, hang out, and suck up for a while, in order to survive and maybe prosper.

      You are certainly right that this one-two repression of the spirit of creativity (which is also the spirit of significant reform and revolution), as well as the shared perception and buttressing of the collectively muddled mind, is massively reinforced by the corporate media.

      But perhaps those of you inhabiting the tempered, attenuated climes of the swanky salt sea coasts are also reflexively afflicted with a complementary malady. For one example, consider the coverage, in both the news and the op-ed columns, by the famed, most powerful, most highly regarded journalists and newspapers on both coasts, during the many months preceding the invasion of Iraq more than eight years ago. In contrast to that execrable unquestioning mass media cheerleading, in September of 2002, I wrote an article “The Madness Must End“, months before the Members of Congress (of both major parties) voted overwhelmingly for the authorization sought by President G.W. Bush for that invasion. That article was published in a small local newspaper circulated in this (strongly majority) right-wing fundamentalist Republican middle-American county. It was only the third article of mine that had ever been published. It appeared at the very instant that the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and other coastal media giants and their highly compensated “journalists” and editors were posting articles in pathetic lockstep with the inexorable drumbeat of propaganda and in tune with the deadly cacophony of lies being disseminated daily by the Administration. In defiance of the (still) prevailing wisdom, the written and emailed comments to our local newspaper from readers when my article appeared were eighty percent (80%!) favorable, approving comments.

      https://clydewinter.wordpress.com/2006/08/05/the-madness-must-end/

      In the United States of America, and in these ominous opening years of the Third Millennium C.E., who among us can, with any degree of justification, claim that some other entire region of the country appears to have “lost its collective mind”, while maintaining a certainty that our very own region has not itself “lost all sense of sanity and reason”?

      I think that it is more valuable, as well as essential, that we all think carefully (and comment on) the substantive issue and argument presented by another (especially if it is carefully researched and considered) rather than merely scan to determine if the other agrees, superficially, with our own point-of-view, and then comment, superficially and emotionally, on no more than the simple conclusion that we agreed or disagreed. It is both more difficult, and far more valuable, to discern failures of our own, and of our own familiar immediate culture, than it is to discern apparent failures of “the other”, and those in the distance.

      Comment by clydewinter — June 6, 2011 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  8. I’m not sure what the founding fathers would have “intended” with regards to the rights of corporations, but I seem to remember from History 101 that the founding fathers were acting largely according to economic self interest. Had the Constitution been written today, I’m not so sure if it would have been that different from what it is today. Interesting blog post and discussion!

    Comment by S Slotfeldt — June 10, 2011 @ 8:27 pm | Reply

    • I do not know what the “founding fathers” had in their hearts and minds, but it is possible to comprehend the meaning and the intent of their actual words as ratified in the Constitution and Amendments. And it is possible, in at least most instances, to comprehend the clear meaning of those words without ambiguity. Certainly that is a better and more sound place to start than by trying to employ hindsight psychology and trying to read their long-gone minds. Most living and breathing human beings (i.e. “persons”) act in their own economic self interest. But they also act with many other motivations. In fact, it is not at all uncommon for people to be motivated more strongly and more consistently by forces other than those of economic self-interest. I learned that from life and from others, not from Any Classroom Curriculum 101.

      Corporations should not have the rights of persons, in the first place, because a corporation is not a person.
      And corporations cannot be allowed the Constitutional rights guaranteed to persons precisely because corporations are, by design, motivated entirely and solely by economic self-interest (and not by caring for children or elders, or by quality or purpose of life, or by sustainability and suitability of our planet for life, or by achieving enlightenment or salvation, or by sharing and spreading happiness and well-being, or by following the ancient Teachings to love one another and do unto others as you would have them do unto you); because corporations are not mortal, and can “live” forever, and can grow without limit to and beyond a size and power that is “too big to fail”. There are no actual persons who are too big and too powerful to fail. Dust to dust. All life is mortal and the purpose of government is to serve life – not institutions and corporations.

      The rights of a person are established by the Constitution precisely to guarantee real, mortal, vulnerable, natural human beings the ability to defend themselves and each other from the unrestrained power of an artificial entity (such as government or a corporation or an association of corporations). If a corporation is allowed the same rights as a person, then corporations completely dominate, and we have government that is by and for the corporations and the super-rich, instead of government that is of, by, and for the people.

      Do you get it yet? It’s nothing remotely like a level playing field if a corporation is endowed with the same rights as a human being. It’s a science fiction horror flick, pitting immortal invulnerable monsters against flesh and blood living beings who must care for their children, elders and disabled; mourn and bury their dead; drink clean, fresh water; breath oxygen rich, un-poisoned air; and nurse and recover from their wounds. Humans created corporations. But when the Supreme legality “experts” said that a corporation has the same Constitutional rights that a person has, they transformed that human creation into a Frankenstein monster and removed the restraints on it we so badly need.

      Comment by clydewinter — June 11, 2011 @ 12:30 am | Reply

  9. I am afraid of a constitutional convention in the present atmosphere because any issue can be raised at such a convention and when most Americans hold national security (defined by corporate shills in government) to trump constitutional rights, I fear the outcome.

    Comment by Richard J. Ochs — September 14, 2011 @ 1:33 pm | Reply

    • That’s a good cautionary point, Richard.
      On the other hand, I’m sure you know that letting fear guide our strategy and shape our future is a bad way to live and a sure way to lose a struggle, the responsibility for which we cannot shirk.

      Timing is one consideration brought forth by your comment. It is extremely unlikely that a Constitutional Convention will be convened (or that an Amendment approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress will be proposed) to reverse the unjustified assertions of the Supreme Court that [1] a corporation is a person, and that [2] money equals speech, in “the present atmosphere”. So don’t, Richard, be afraid of “a constitutional convention in the present atmosphere”. It cannot happen before we change that “atmosphere”. One thing that is certain about life and about history is that “the present atmosphere” will change substantially – in a year, in five years, in decades. If we wait for the atmosphere to be “right” before we begin to take action towards such a significant and necessary end, the atmosphere will only change for the worse, the longer we wait to get started. History clearly shows that such an important and fundamental mid-course non-violent Constitutional correction that will provide government that is of, by, and for the people, instead of government that is by and for the corporations, might take decades, even possibly generations to achieve. And it will not be easy and it will be strenuously opposed by a relatively few “Persons” and also by “Parties” with great, almost unimaginable power. The struggle we face is daunting, for sure. But it is far better to fight daunting opposition with a confident, sound strategy than it is to hopelessly accept defeat and the unthinkable increasing degradation and servility and colonization of our very minds, bodies, and spirit that will result from continued and escalating unchallenged corporate control of government and our planet.

      This essay did not focus on outlining the strategy of the long struggle that we face in this still new century. The purpose of this essay is much less grandiose, and was outlined clearly in the first paragraph. I’d like it if knowledgeable, thoughtful, honest people such as yourself would comment with specificity on the two point argument I made in this essay, rather than say nothing but a discouraging word about the potential outcome of fighting for democracy and our human rights and our Constitutional rights which are under relentless corporate attack.

      For example, does anyone know of any testimony ever presented before the Supreme Court, with regards to the theory that a corporation is a person under the Constitution, that made the argument that I outlined in point one, referencing that single sentence I quoted from Article IV section 2? I think not. But tell me, please, if you are able, in words that the everyday American can understand – which is not an unreasonable or crippling qualification – either what is defective in my argument – or what is both ground-breaking and technically sound and unassailable about it.

      Similarly, please address those two questions – (has the argument been used and recorded before the Supreme Court, and if not, why not?) – with regards to my argument referencing the all-important 14th Amendment (and Article I section 2), especially regarding the once every decade Constitutionally mandated enumeration of “persons” for purposes of apportionment, and how that devastates the legal theory that a corporation is a person in the meaning of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment.

      Think, and even worry about the final minutes of the game, if you will or if you must, just now as the game itself begins. But do not sit on your hands and sow fear for the outcome. Just please do your part to help make sure that we the people engage and do not lose this struggle. We cannot wish it away.

      And thank you, Richard, for your past service to freedom and democracy.

      Comment by clydewinter — September 14, 2011 @ 4:54 pm | Reply

  10. […] We must face and deal with the reality that corporations now control all three branches of government at the state and the federal levels, as well as the leadership of both of the two permitted political parties in the USA, with the result that corporations are now “Governing People for Profits“;. We must address, confront and change the reality that this is happening in the United States of America under authority of the false, unjustified, and entirely discredited legal theory that a corporation possesses the rights that were explicitly defined by the Constitution for a Person. We must recognize that life and our very existence on earth is facing at this moment in history a paramount challenge. That challenge is “Corporations v. Persons – the Struggle that will define the 21st Century”. […]

    Pingback by Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Washington D.C., Occupy Milwaukee and Wisconsin « hearts and minds — October 27, 2011 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

  11. […] three Supreme Court strikes unjustifiably conferred the Constitutional rights that you and I legitimately have, on corporations […]

    Pingback by Citizens United Incorporated v. Federal Elections Commission – the Supreme Court Strikes Out « hearts and minds — December 3, 2011 @ 11:32 am | Reply

  12. You have done a great job of searching the Constitution. The State of Wisconsin was the only state in the Union that defied the Supreme Courts’s enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law when they refused to recognize it in the case of Joshua Glover, an escaped slave that was living in Racine, Wisconsin and was in jail where the Milwaukee Court and jail was in Cathedral Square. Five thousand Milwaukeeans were there and freed Joshua Glover from the jail and for that the editor of the Freedman was in the courts for five years and lost $50,000 in cost.

    Comment by Reuben H — December 11, 2011 @ 10:46 am | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment and for remembering history, Reuben.

      Readers who also understand the importance and relevance of history to our present and our future may be interested in this aspect of history summarized in my brief February 2011 article, “Slavery and Early Ozaukee and Washington counties (Wisconsin) History“. That article reviews the history to which you referred, a bit more completely. Sherman Booth was, as you say, afflicted and inconvenienced as a result of his integrity, courage, opinions, and leadership, but more importantly, he was strongly, broadly, and publicly supported and honored for those qualities and for his heroic actions.

      The Wisconsin newspaper you mentioned, Reuben, was founded and published as a proudly Abolitionist newspaper. It is interesting and ironic that the corporate owned, reactionary “Waukesha Freeman” published today in Wisconsin, is the direct descendant (under very different ownership and following a very contrary philosophy, of course) of the “American Freeman” newspaper, which was founded and edited by Sherman Booth, a leader in the movement that successfully freed ex-slave Joshua Glover – despite the notorious Fugitive Slave Law and despite the rulings of the Supreme Court.

      Comment by clydewinter — December 11, 2011 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  13. Ten or fifteen years ago, I saw the hand-written paragraph, rendered by a clerk of the court (and a friend/employee of some wealthy corporation… indeed, WITH a conflict of interest) on the court’s decision in a certain case. I don’t recall the federal case, nor the defendants/plantiffs. However, it was not the printed text opinion, but rather the hand writer’s opinion/interpretation of the court’s decision. The date of the decision was 1886 or 1887.

    I’ve always wondered why THAT hasn’t been contested!

    Marilyn R, LWVAK

    Comment by Marilyn R — January 9, 2012 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

    • The Supreme Court case you refer to, Marilyn, is Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Corporation, decided (as you said) in 1886. I referred to that case in this current article, in the fifth paragraph that follows my quotation of the pertinent portion of the 14th Amendment. There is a hyperlink in the text of that paragraph that links to an essay I wrote several years ago focusing on the very aspect of that particular case to which you referred in your comment. And titles and links to two previous essays of mine which spotlighted the implications and particulars of that case are included in the sources and references noted at the end of the current article. Also included in those references is a list of several key Supreme Court cases that served to first create, out of thin air (in 1886), the unjustified notion that a corporation possesses the Constitutional rights that were explicitly defined for a person, and then shored it up and expanded it in recent decades by building upon the original, completely unsupported assertion placed in the headnotes to the 1886 case, as though it were a valid Constitutional precedent.

      As I have reported elsewhere, that headnote assertion was not examined, supported or challenged by competent legal analysis or argument. In fact, the headnote itself directly states that the Court would not permit any arguments questioning whether a corporation was a person, in the meaning of the 14th Amendment, before merely and simply stating, for the headnote record, that a corporation is (as far as the incumbent members of the Supreme Court were concerned) a person. So no arguments were taken or considered on that point. And that crucial issue was entirely unexamined in the deciding, concurring, and dissenting opinions that were published for the record and for posterity. Therefore, the legal reasoning (if any) supporting the bogus “precedent” established in 1886 is entirely a mystery, with no footprints or fingerprints, no chain of logic or analysis left behind in the published record of the case, for succeeding generations of students, legal scholars, constitutional experts, or simply the people, to examine and comprehend. That’s why I say it is a phony, corrupt, unjustified “precedent”, fashioned entirely out of thin air, without a trace. And yet that assertion has since become what is considered to be the foundation cornerstone of corporate law in the USA.

      The Clerk of the Supreme Court who penned the headnotes to that case, did indeed have a conflict of interest. Prior to accepting the post of Clerk of the Supreme Court, he had been the chief executive of a large railroad corporation. I have spotlighted and examined both the import and the fallacies embodied in this particular bogus “precedent” in previous articles in my “constitutional-law” series of essays, and elsewhere, and so I merely briefly noted the case and made reference to it in this essay. This essay focuses entirely and sharply on a different aspect, as explicitly described in the first paragraph of the essay.

      As for your question, WHY that corrupt 1886 “precedent” hasn’t been contested – the reasons are straightforward and stark. Yet the reason is unsupported by hard, direct evidence, as far as I know. Corporations have attained exactly what they sought in that (and subsequent) Supreme Court rulings. They, and the super-rich whose extravagant fortunes and inordinate power are now predicated upon those rulings, are quite seriously and absolutely unwilling to countenance any challenge to those rulings to gain traction. Corporations and the super-rich now control all three branches of government, and both political parties (which are the only parties permitted to jockey for prominence and material reward by the rules they themselves wrote and enforce). The corporate mass media has confused and distracted and misinformed the people, sufficiently to keep us in ignorance of the problem and its growing devastating impact, for generations. And finally, we, the people, have thus far failed to get up, stand up for our rights. That’s why it hasn’t been contested. We the people must contest it, now and not later, without fail, and by all means.

      I’m sorry that you did not comment on the point of this essay. The point of this essay is that two specific Constitutional citations (first: a single sentence in Article IV section 2, and second: the 14th Amendment) demonstrate unequivocally and clearly (and with substantial supporting evidence, and zero contradicting evidence, everywhere else in the Constitution) that a corporation does not possess the Constitutional rights that were explicitly defined for a person. Also, this essay reveals an argument (the one referencing Article IV section 2) that the author believes has never yet been employed, either before the Supreme Court, or in educating the people, to challenge the technical legal assertion that a corporation is a person. (And I am willing to bet that you, and no one else reading this blog, has ever seen, heard about, discovered, or realized that airtight argument before it appeared here.)

      Your comment, Marilyn, reveals that you are a very perceptive, questioning person who was concerned about this problem long before it began to emerge, much distorted, on the infamous mass media “radar screen”, and that you are already very well informed on the subject. Thank you for your interest.

      Comment by clydewinter — January 9, 2012 @ 11:50 pm | Reply

  14. This is very valuable information. Deep, well thought out, and the opposite of a soundbite. I learned a lot. Thank you so much.

    Linda M, LWVNM

    Comment by Linda M — January 10, 2012 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

    • Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to read it and to comment, Linda.

      Comment by clyde winter — January 13, 2012 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  15. I must complain about Clyde….I spend so much time reading his extremely well-written, informative blog….that I don’t get anything else done 🙂

    Comment by Delores B — January 13, 2012 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

    • My essays can’t be taking up that much of your time, Delores.
      I posted only seven essays during all of 2011, and only nine in 2010.
      And with the exception of “Corporations v. Persons …”, each can be read during a TV commercial break.
      They definitely take longer than that to research and to write (to say nothing of edits and revisions), however.
      So I greatly appreciate your taking the time to read them.
      And letting me know, by commenting, is a real plus.

      Comment by clydewinter — January 13, 2012 @ 6:45 pm | Reply

  16. I am grateful for this article. I will use it many times!

    Comment by Beppie S — January 13, 2012 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

    • Likewise, I am grateful that you took the time to read it, and to comment.

      Comment by clydewinter — January 13, 2012 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

  17. I have always posed the corporation as person issue alongside robots as persons issue. Artificial Intelligence being a burgeoning field of law, I have been telling my 19yo son to Political Science major to study this field as it will surely become important as corporate power and technology lead us to this ultimate showdown. Will a robot be allowed to run for office?
    http://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/robotics.html
    As any Isaac Asimov reader knows there are 3 laws for robots:
    1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2) A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

    And as Tom Hartmann says in his book Unequal Protection, that the original corporate charters vastly limited the ability of corporations. The corporation used to have a lifespan, an intention and limitations of business practices, and limits as to being able to hold property, especially the right to own stock in another corporation (slavery in my mind.) I just think the two have way too many intertwined interests to not be legislated together for the sake of our country. Any revisions to “personhood” would be to make the general statement in regards to “ARTIFICIAL PERSON” versus humans, which are NATURAL PERSONS. Starting from that vantage point I think many things can be accomplished with very little re-wording.

    Comment by Claude Albertario — June 22, 2012 @ 2:56 am | Reply

    • The introduction of robots to this issue appears to be germane, at the present time, primarily as a further illustration, of the absurd notion that a “person”, as the U.S. Constitution itself employs that important word, is anything other than a living human being. The core purpose of this particular essay is to make the clear and simple legal case that, the unambiguous meaning and intent of the U.S. Constitution is that a person is a person is a person.

      Rights can be conferred on various entities by various other entities. Congress can confer rights . A municipality can confer rights. A corporation can confer rights. The Iroquois Confederacy can confer rights. The Magna Carta can confer rights. The Third Reich can confer rights. The United Nations can confer rights. A parent can confer rights. God or God’s self-appointed spokespersons can confer rights. The man sitting on the bar stool next to you can confer rights. Your spouse can confer rights. The subject of this essay is precisely, what rights are conferred on corporations by the United States Constitution? Keep your eye on the ball if you want to hit it.

      We’re talking about the emperor’s new suit of clothes, people. And even if corrupted, robed “Justices” have asserted a mysterious, abstruse concept of clothing to conceal their fraud, the fact is that the emperor (accompanied by the Court Jesters – er, Justices) are parading buck naked.

      No rewording at all of the Constitution is necessary in this regard. However, an Amendment appears to be necessary in order to correct the blatant distortion that has been made of it, and to reverse the judicial coup d’etat that outrageously asserts that the Constitution itself holds that a corporation is a person and that money is equivalent to speech.

      Comment by clydewinter — June 22, 2012 @ 9:23 am | Reply

  18. The conundrum arising from the definition of People, Person, Party and Speech is objectively and thoroughly addressed by this treatise. The very fact that such terms were not defined by the founding fathers is confirmation that these terms were viewed to have the same meaning as would be intended in common everyday use.

    It doesn’t take a jurist to understand the common, everyday meaning of ordinary words. However, it does require a departure from common sense to create a conundrum from ordinary language. There is no compelling need to define or redefine commonly understood English words such as People, Person, Party and Speech.

    Nevertheless, the Court now finds a corporate entity and a human being to have equal standing for some or all purposes of Constitutional law. Moreover, we are now given to understand than personal funds, regardless of source or amount, have the same standing as speech and may be allocated to political objectives with little or no restrictions or requirements for disclosure as to source of funds or subversive agenda.

    What is needed now is a Constitutional amendment to reinstate the common sense meaning of People, Person, Party and Speech. Without this, or some equivalent limitation on the use of personal wealth to influence and control political affairs, a democracy founded on the premise of one man, one vote cannot long endure. That much is clear and it does not require a jurist for publication or confirmation.

    Hopefully, this treatise will inspire someone of competent authority to come forward with the word-for-word text of a clear, concise and workable amendment that will set right those decisions which have recently gone wrong. Absent intervention, financial power will soon become the source of all power. It’s most unfortunate that a major American political party now seeks to establish financial power as the supreme arbiter of all political issues.

    Comment by A. Adams — July 14, 2012 @ 1:55 pm | Reply

    • Thank you, A. Adams, for your very helpful comment. You are, of course, absolutely right that the problem posed by the Constitutional rights of persons having been unjustifiably bestowed on corporations by certain Supreme Court Justices, has been compounded by the related but distinct problem posed by the absurd ruling, again by certain Supreme Court Justices, that the unlimited expenditure of money by any entity to influence elections, government officials, and the two permitted political parties in the United States, is equivalent to “free speech”, and thus not subject to regulation or limitation by the Congress, the states, or the people. This second problem I have referred to, for the last ten years in essays I have written on the subject, as “legalized bribery”. I fully agree that both problems desperately need to be corrected by a Constitutional Amendment, at the very least.

      In my opinion, the best amendment proposal yet put forth publicly by a grassroots political organization of people is the one suggested by Move to Amend. It is also my opinion that the best amendment yet proposed by a member of Congress has been sponsored by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. But I have been disappointed by serious defects and inadequacies in all of the proposed amendments, including these two. Therefore, in February of 2012, I finally, and in frustration, composed my own proposed Constitutional Amendment language, and I will shortly publish it here on my “Hearts and Minds” blog.

      Also, I have extracted, from this essay, the essentials of the arguments alone regarding the two Constitutional citations I indicated in this essay, and I have reworked and presented the arguments alone, omitting the explanatory introduction, background, and fascinating, tragic historical context. I will soon publish this condensed argument here on my blog, as well. The essay on which you commented, above, was first composed and published well over a year ago. Over a thousand readers, from all parts of the United States, have visited it on my blog, and I have printed several hundred copies for personal distribution by hand. Thus far, I have not seen or heard a single credible refutation or contradiction of my analysis and assertions that holds any water. I have approved for posting every comment made by anyone. I have avidly sought criticism from everyone with whom I have been in contact who knows, or who might know, more than I with regards to the basics and the fine points of Constitutional law.

      Comment by clydewinter — July 15, 2012 @ 2:48 am | Reply

      • Having expressed an opinion as to how we came to be where we are, I thought it permissible to add a few words as to why we are where we are.

        Corporations are people. Everyone knows that; and everyone also knows it’s a legal fiction. It is of course, a useful fiction for certain specific and limited purposes. However, it serves no reasonable, productive purpose when corporations are elevated from make-believe people (for specific and limited purposes) to real people (for any and all purposes).

        The Constitution begins with a Preamble and the Preamble begins with “We the People”. Three words into the Constitution and “People” is used as it would be used in common, everyday English. We know for a fact the founding fathers did not discuss or debate the meaning of “People”. Likewise, they did not discuss or debate the meaning of “We”.

        One must ask why certain Justices of the Supreme Court (225 years after the fact) now find a compelling need to revise the definition of “People” (as well as the definition of “We”). One must also ask if a subversive agenda accounts for such behavior by those Justices known to be sympathetic to corporate interests.

        Prior to Citizens United, “Campaign Finance Reform” was more than a slogan; there was a chance it might actually happen. However, the Court intervened to prohibit the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions (as if expenditures by unions were of the same potential magnitude as expenditures by corporations). Someone, somewhere found it prudent to make sure “Campaign Finance Reform” would not grow into something larger than a slogan.

        Campaign finance reform was viewed to be the single factor that would ultimately decide all other issues. Moreover, it would likely force corporate, financial and business interests to return to the production of goods and services and get out of the business of government. “One man, one vote” was viewed as a potential threat to their common interests. Those same interests set about to preserve and protect the well established illusion of “one man, one vote”.

        “We the People” are now confronted with a conundrum not of our own doing. “One man, one vote” is an illusion; and it has been for some time. However, we are now faced with the prospect that the illusion is a permanent feature of the political landscape. A Constitutional amendment may in the long run make things right; but in the meanwhile, we are reminded of the words of John Maynard Keynes, “In the long run, we are all dead”.

        Comment by A. Adams — July 16, 2012 @ 2:12 am

      • The question that “we the people” need to grapple with and answer is whether a corporation legitimately has the rights, under the U.S. Constitution, that were described there as the rights of a “person”, or of “the people”. Keep your eye on the ball please, and be careful not to distract us, whether intentionally or not, from that central issue.
        Our sound-bite slogan expressing that central issue is, “A Corporation is Not a Person!“.
        And that I know for a solid fact. You can play around with the legal fictions if you want.
        That succinct slogan – A Corporation is Not a Person! – simply summarizes our answer to the precise question posed in the first sentence of this reply to your comment.

        It is important for us to know that, while the 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court corruptly ruled against the people and for corporations in 2010, they were not the first corrupt Supreme Court Justices to have ruled against the people in this critical central issue. And that is why “campaign finance reform” has long been a very important cause that has become enmeshed in increasingly difficult, convoluted, ultimately futile attempts at reform. That complicated difficulty, together with the fact that “campaign finance reform” itself is an uninspiring, really boring label, has failed to motivate sufficient sustained popular attention and passion. We don’t need “campaign finance reform” – we need a government that is of, by, and for the people, rather than one that is by and for the corporations and the super-rich. We need to end the legalized bribery that is destroying democracy and the American dream, and has been imposed upon us by the Supreme Court.

        Finally, I can no longer forbear from rebuking your repeated use and glorification of the phrase, “one man, one vote”, which first appeared in your previous comment, and has been repeated three times in this one. Now that the nineteenth century is behind us, and we are fully embarked (for better or worse) on the 21st, why not hold high instead the hard won principle of “One Person, One Vote!“?

        Watch your language and help us make progress rather than wandering about in murky, confused distraction.

        Comment by clydewinter — July 16, 2012 @ 7:34 am

  19. […] U.S. Constitution – examines another essential argument, based on the 14th Amendment.  My essay, Corporations v. Persons – the Struggle that will Define the 21st Century, posted May, 2011, and a preceding draft, posted in April 2011, places these two arguments in […]

    Pingback by Win every Debate Contest with this Argument: (Part 1 of 2) A Corporation is a Party, NOT A Person, under the U.S. Constitution « hearts and minds — July 25, 2012 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

  20. […] “Corporations v. Persons – the Struggle that will define the 21st Century” […]

    Pingback by Clinch the MockTtrial, and ace your Thesis with this Argument: (Part 2 of 2) A Corporation does NOT count as a Person, under the U.S. Constitution « hearts and minds — July 25, 2012 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  21. If, as some may argue, that the Second Amendment’s “militia” meaning, is that every person has a right to keep and bear arms. The only way to describe one’s right as a private individual, is not as a “militia” but as a “person” (“The individual personality of a human being: self.”). “Person” or “persons“” is mentioned in the Constitution 49 times, to explicitly describe, clarify and mandate a Constitutional legal standing as to a “person”, his or her Constitutional rights. Whereas in the Second Amendment, reference to “person” is not to be found. Was there are reason?. The obvious question arises, why did the Framers use the noun “person/s” as liberally as they did throughout the Constitution 49 times and not apply this understanding to explicitly convey same legal standard in defining an individual’s right to bear arms as a “person”?
    Merriam Webster “militia”, “a body of citizens organized for military service : a whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service.
    =

    Article 2, Section 2 “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States;…”
    =

    In the whole of the U.S. Constitution, “militia” is mentioned 5 times. In these references there is no mention of person or persons. One reference to “people“ in the Second Amendment. People, meaning not a person but persons, in describing a “militia”. “People” is mentioned a total 9 times.
    =

    It’s not enough to just say that “person(s)” is mentioned in the United States Constitution 49 times. But to see it for yourself, and the realization was for the concern envisioned by the Framers that every “person” be secure in these rights explicitly spelled out, referenced and understood how these rights were to be applied to that “person”.

    “..No Person shall be a Representative..”
    “..whole Number of free Persons,..”
    “..three fifths of all other Persons…”
    “..No person shall be a Senator…”
    “..And no Person shall be convicted…”
    “..no Person holding any Office…”
    “..Names of the Persons voting for…”
    “…of such Persons as any of the States…”
    “…not exceeding ten dollars for each Person…”
    “…And no Person holding any…”
    “…or Person holding an Office of Trust o…“
    “…and vote by Ballot for two persons,…”
    “…List of all the Persons voted for,…”
    “…The Person having the greatest Number of Votes…”
    “…and if no Person have a Majority,…”
    “…the Person having the greatest Number…”
    “…No person except a natural born Citizen,…”
    “…Any Person be eligible to that ….”
    “…No Person shall be convicted of …”
    “…except during the Life of the Person attainted….”.
    “…A Person charged in any State…”
    “…No Person held to Service…”
    “…The right of the people to be secure in their persons,…”
    “…and the persons or things to be seized….”
    “..No person shall be held to answer…”
    “..nor shall any person be subject for the same offense….”
    “…they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President,…”
    “…the person voted for as Vice-President,…”
    “…all persons voted for as President,….”
    “…all persons voted for as Vice-President…”
    “…The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, …”
    “…and if no person have such majority,…”
    “..the persons having the highest numbers …”
    “… The person having the greatest number of votes…”
    “..and if no person have a majority,…”
    “…But no person constitutionally ineligible…”
    “…All persons born or naturalized …”
    “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,…”
    “…nor deny to any person within …”
    “…number of persons in each State,….”
    “…No person shall be a Senator or …”
    “..and such person shall act accordingly….”
    “…of the death of any of the persons from…”
    “…death of any of the persons from…”
    “…No person shall be elected to the office…”
    “…and no person who has held the office of President,…”
    “..to which some other person was elected…”
    “…shall not apply to any person holding the office…”
    “..prevent any person who may be holding…”
    =

    Excerpts in reading Emerson v. United States (1999), or Miller v. United States (1939), one can be struck with the many thoughts, interpretations of what the second amendment means, but more important how it came about and ended. However, even still, I am left with the thought if the Framers had treated Amendment 2 with the same obedience, and reverence to explain the 49 Constitutional references to “person”, there would be no controversy in what is perceived as a right to bear arms.
    =

    MEMORANDUM OPINION 1
    United States v Emerson
    “The American colonists exercised their right to bear arms under the English Bill of Rights. Indeed, the English government’s success in luring Englishmen to America was due in part to pledges that the immigrants and their children would continue to possess “all the rights of natural subjects, as if born and abiding in England.”
    =
    “A foundation of American political thought during the Revolutionary period was the well justified concern about political corruption and governmental tyranny. Even the federalists, fending off their opponents who accused them of creating an oppressive regime, were careful to acknowledge the risks of tyranny. Against that backdrop, the framers saw the personal right to bear arms as a potential check against tyranny.”
    =
    “The framers thought the personal right to bear arms to be a paramount right by which other rights could be protected. Therefore, writing after the ratification of the Constitution, but before the election of the first Congress, James Monroe included “the right to keep and bear arms” in a list of basic “human rights” which he proposed to be added to the Constitution. HALBROOK, supra at 223 n. 145 (citing James Monroe Papers, New York Public Library (Miscellaneous Papers of James Monroe)).”
    =

    307 U.S. 174 United States v. Miller
    Structural Analysis
    “Furthermore, the very inclusion of the right to keep and bear arms in the Bill of Rights shows that the framers of the Constitution considered it an individual right. “After all, the Bill of Rights is not a bill of states’ rights, but the bill of rights retained by the people.” David Harmer, Securing a Free State: Why The Second Amendment Matters, 1998 BYU L. REV. 55, 60 (1998). Of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, only the Tenth concerns itself with the rights of the states, and refers to such rights in addition to, not instead of, individual rights. Id. Thus the structure of the Second Amendment, viewed in the context of the entire Bill of Rights, evinces an intent to recognize an individual right retained by the people.”
    =

    After debating by the Framers on the proposed right to bear arms, from these few references, some credence is given to the “intent” to “to bear arms”. Analysis of structural statutory construction, “..viewed in the context of the entire Bill of Rights,..” individual citizens, a person, to “bear arms“ however proposed and debated, there is reference to “person” mentioned 49 times, is this not to be considered when looking at the context of the entire Bill Of Rights? Right to bear arms was debated and proposed, but the Second Amendment remains silent.
    =

    Jones v Smart [1785} 1 Term Rep.44,52 (per Buller, J.) “[W]e are bound to take the act of parliament, as they made it: a casus omissus can in no case be supplied by a Court of Law, for that would be to makes laws.” (Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts) Antonin Scalia/ Bryan A. Gardner .West.
    =

    What am I missing?

    Comment by William H — January 17, 2013 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

    • Your 2nd Amendment analysis, William, is a good ways off the subject of this article, which is whether there is any justification for the legal theory that a corporation possesses the rights that were specified in the U.S. Constitution as the rights of a person.

      I will, however, note here, for any reader’s contemplation, two items directly pertinent to your comment and to my essay:

      First, corporations in the USA have been increasingly acting as though they fully possess the right to not only keep and bear arms, but also to raise, equip, supply and deploy a standing army based in the United States, and even to contract and provide military services, including direct combat, employing those forces, to foreign nations, corporations, and -yes- “persons”. This seems to me to be clearly in direct and blatant violation of common sense, human rights, and the U.S. Constitution.

      Second, your argument comparing the language employed in the Second Amendment, with the language used in all other Amendments in the Bill of Rights, and elsewhere in the Constitution, with respect to “person, persons, or people”, does not seem to lead anywhere or reveal anything with any clarity.
      In the Bill of Rights, only the Fifth Amendment actually uses the word “person”.
      The Fourth Amendment alone uses the plural form, “persons”.
      The Second Amendment (in contrast with the 4th and the 5th) uses only the word “people” in asserting “… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
      But the First Amendment also uses only the word “people” – in the clause respecting the “right of the people” to “assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
      And similarly, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, also, each use only the word “people”.
      None of the other four Amendments in the Bill of Rights actually uses any of the three words you mention: “person”, “persons”, or “people.
      I guess my question addressed to your comment is, “So What?”

      Comment by clydewinter — January 21, 2013 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  22. […] “Corporations v. Persons – the Struggle that will define the 21st Century” […]

    Pingback by CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to end legalized bribery and to protect the rights of the people | hearts and minds — April 14, 2013 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  23. […] “Corporations v. Persons : The Struggle that Will Define the 21st Century” But actually, it is even more serious than that. It is corporations v. life as we have come to know it on Planet Earth. It is corporate rule v. democracy and a bright future. […]

    Pingback by Pitfalls to Avoid in Our Struggle to Obtain Democracy | hearts and minds — July 2, 2013 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  24. The only fiction fostered in this essay is the idea that an individual voluntarily joining a group lose his natural born, God-given rights.

    Comment by Sertorious — July 5, 2013 @ 11:55 am | Reply

    • I cannot see how anything I wrote in this essay implies that an individual who joins a group loses his rights.
      Also, the rights I specifically discussed in this essay are Constitutional rights. I do not presume to define or make authoritative statements about God-given rights. This may or may not have anything to do with your comment (which I do not understand because you were not at all specific), but there are several misconceptions about the implications of corporations not legitimately having Constitutional rights. So let me clear those up explicitly:

      1. If a corporation does not have Constitutional rights, that does not mean that a corporation cannot exist or that it cannot, for example, engage in business or enter into contracts. It just means that in a Constitutional democratic republic, the people are sovereign, the people have inalienable rights, and the people, through their elected representatives in government, can charter and regulate corporations, which are NOT sovereign, and which do not have inalienable rights.

      2. A person who is employed by a corporation has Constitutional rights, just like a person who has no relationship whatsoever with a corporation has Constitutional rights. Same thing goes for a person who is an officer of a corporation, or a person who owns stock in a corporation, or a person who has a contract with a corporation, or a person who is a customer or does business with a corporation. They all have the full Constitutional rights of a person, like any person has. The CEO of a corporation has the Constitutional rights of a person.

      It’s just that the corporation itself is not a person, and therefore, the corporation itself, as an artificial legal entity, does not have the Constitutional rights of a person.

      Comment by clydewinter — July 5, 2013 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  25. Hi! Can you tell me how the Supreme Court applied the 14th amendment to corporations as “persons”?

    My apologies if the question is not asked quite properly, but this is what my teacher has asked me.

    Thank you!:)

    Comment by Anne — October 23, 2013 @ 12:09 pm | Reply

    • The Supreme Court actually did NOT apply the 14th Amendment to corporations. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1886, did not actually rule on any Constitutional law questions in deciding “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company”. It was a clerk of the Court who made the preposterous assertion that the equal protection clause of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment applied to corporations. That unjustified and unjustifiable assertion has become the cornerstone of modern corporate law when certain Supreme Court Justices have subsequently seen fit to cite that assertion as legal precedent. But the simple truth is that the U.S. Supreme Court has never actually considered or ruled on the question of whether the 14th Amendment, or the Constitution as a whole, considers a corporation to be a “Person”. And they really couldn’t do so, because the Constitution itself explicitly contradicts such a theory.

      Comment by clyde winter — April 5, 2014 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

      • I found that out when I read Thom Hartman’s book Unequal Protection.

        Comment by Claude Albertario — April 5, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

      • Unequal Protection, second edition, is an excellent book, published in 2010, which I purchased, read and annotated early in 2014. I did not use it to research or inform my essays on this subject, which have been published since 2002, and are all posted on this Hearts and Minds blog. In particular the research that I did to answer the question, “Does a corporation legitimately possess the inalienable rights that were defined by the U.S. Constitution as the Constitutional rights of a ‘person’?”, was entirely based on my own research of two primary sources – the text of the U.S.Constitution itself, and the official published text of the 1886 “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company” U.S. Supreme Court case. Hartmann’s book and my essays were independently and concurrently derived, so, to the extent that they agree, they tend to confirm or at least reinforce each other, and to the extent that they disagree, the discrepancies may provoke further examination that may prove fruitful and useful.

        It is my impression that Hartmann and I agree fully that the 14th Amendment and the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case are both pivotal to understanding the perverse and absolutely unjustified means by which corporations came to be gifted the inalienable and Constitutional rights of the people, and we agree that the legal theory of corporate constitutional personhood is nothing but a fabrication, a travesty, and a corporate-engineered coup d’etat.

        On the other hand, I believe that Hartman has examined the justification (or lack of same) for the legal theory that corporations have Constitutional rights, quite differently (both in method and in results) than have I. Part 1 of my study examines a sentence in Article IV Section 2 of the Constitution which is the only place in the entire Constitution in which the word “Party” is used – and which sentence also, and most fortuitously for our case, uses the word “Person”! This is an especially important and useful discovery, coming as it does from the text of the Constitution itself.

        Part 2 is based on the concluding paragraph of Article I Section 2 of the Constitution itself, and on the entirety of Section 1, the first sentence of Section 2, and the first sentence of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

        This two-part clear and simple, understandable proof, based only on the actual text of the U.S. Constitution itself, answers the otherwise perplexing and perpetually nagging question, which will not go away: “Considering the overriding importance to the growth and consolidation of massive corporate power (in what was meant and designed to be a democratic republic, where the people were sovereign, with inalienable rights protected by a founding document) of corporate usurpation of the inalienable rights and the sovereignty of the people, why did corrupted members of the U.S. Supreme Court never actually produce any legal analysis or reasoning whatssoever in their official published rulings and opinions, so that all could see their carefully reasoned Constitutional justification for this legal theory that a corporation has the Constitutional rights of a ‘Person’?”

        The answer to that question is simply that the Constitution itself not only fails to support such a theory, the Constitution itself explicitly contradicts and disproves such a theory. So corporate lawyers and members of the Supreme Court who wished to establish that legal theory as the supreme law of the land, were simply unable to do it in a legitimate, open fashion. They were obliged to blatantly employ magic and deception, and then build a grand old house on that foundation of nonsense.

        This simple analysis and proof, understandable by any citizen, without the need for complex technical legal training; this extremely important tool for our cause, was not found by Thom Hartmann (or by anyone else) and has, unfortunately, not yet appeared to catch fire.

        Comment by clydewinter — April 5, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

      • I have begun to use the argument pertaining to the “originalists” on SCOTUS (LOL) perception that the Constitution should or would have conferred personhood rights, and therefore shared in the United States rights from the framers of the Constitution by recalling the Boston Tea Party (which has been severely bastardized by the Koch brothers’ groups who think they are throwing off government tyranny by adopting the corrupted meme of “tea party.”)

        The Boston Tea Party was in actuality a revolt against the East India Company (EIC), a wholly owned incorporation of the crown of England. King George had mandated that the colonists could not produce their own tea, and had to buy EIC tea at exorbitant prices. So the colonists, dressed as Indians, boarded the boats shipping the tea into Boston, and ruined all of the EIC tea by throwing it overboard. This, being one of the seminal events starting the revolution, clearly illustrates my point.

        There is no way the founding fathers would have desired to write a Constitution that gave any corporation the power of a person, as they were feeling the grip of King George through the power of the corporation. This totally undermines any and all ORGINALIST thinking on the subject of Constitutional corporate personhood. The founding fathers would raise their muskets to anyone who would have raised such a notion at the convention.

        Comment by Claude Albertario — April 5, 2014 @ 11:03 pm

      • I agree with your historical understanding and with your argument. However, my two part argument which examines whether corporations legitimately possess Constitutional rights, is based strictly and entirely on the text of the U.S. Constitution itself. If an airtight, clear and simple case can be proven using only the text of the Constitution itself, that provides a completely sufficient argument on “Constitutionality” which should and does technically override any contrary interpretations based on secondary sources and hostile speculations based on historical analysis. I believe you’ll also find that my two part argument is not contradicted by anything, anywhere in the entire Constitution, as amended. And also, my proof is, I believe, supported overwhelmingly by secondary sources and by history. Therefore, I continue to hope to focus public attention on the two part proof which is based entirely on the text of the Constitution itself. It is a very useful and helpful tool.

        If, on the other hand, the Constitution itself somehow affirmed the legal theory that a corporation does possess the inalienable rights and the sovereignty of the people, I would be the first to declare that the Constitution is mistaken and needs to be amended to fix that mistake. In other words I am not what you refer to as an “Originalist”.

        However, the unmistakable fact that the U.S. Constitution itself clearly and explicitly establishes that a corporation does NOT have the Constitutional rights of a person, is extremely important and valuable for us to recognize and publicize and organize around. It is a most useful and helpful fact, which we should not dismiss or ignore. We can use it to rebut many challenges and satisfactorily answer many questions. We can use it to win allies and convince reluctant skeptics. We can use it to lay a sound and solid keel, and to claim and seize the high ground.

        We do not need the Amendment to fix a mistake in the Constitution, in this case.
        We need the Amendment to reverse the Supreme Court coup d’etat that was engineered by corporate power and oligarchs, which blatantly violated both the U.S. Constitution, and the inalienable rights and the sovereignty of the people.

        Comment by clydewinter — April 6, 2014 @ 12:11 am

  26. […] like to live in a real democratic republic? In our lifetimes, we have never experienced it. We need government that is truly of, by, and for the people – not government that is by and for the co… – and their henchmen. And we all know that it has gotten far worse in the last several […]

    Pingback by Fair Representation of the People in a Real Democratic Republic | hearts and minds — March 11, 2014 @ 4:31 pm | Reply


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