Abolishing corporate personhood: still stupid

Larry Ribstein —  13 December 2011

Doug Mataconis criticizes efforts in Congress to overrule Citizens United by abolishing corporate personhood (HT Bainbridge).

I’ve already addressed this issue, noting among other things that “the loss of personhood would not have the slightest effect under Citizens United” because that case reasoned that the speaker’s identity is irrelevant.  In any event, I pointed out that “if personhood matters at all under Citizens United and subsequent decisions, the loss of personhood actually could be a constitutional boon to corporations.” That’s because “the post-Bellotti cases on corporate political speech showed that it is easier to deny First Amendment rights if the speech is attributed to an artificial person.”

In general, as I noted in my earlier post, this attempted sneak attack around CU crosses St. Hubbins-Tufnel fine line between clever and stupid.

Larry Ribstein


Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law

19 responses to Abolishing corporate personhood: still stupid


    That should be the table of contents http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/amdt14toc_user.html to show the deception a little more conveniently.


    Corporate personhood is exactly what you get when you volunteer to be “…subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” it’s a contract!

    The Founding Fathers were citizens of their individual states, and thru this status they were also United States citizens. Today, we have a commercial status of “persons” who are “citizens of the united States”; exactly the opposite! Instead of rights, “persons” have “privileges”, instead of the first ten Amendment guarantees, “persons” have “immunities”, instead of being citizens of their states they are “residents”.

    Want to see where it’s all spelled out? See http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/amdt14a_user.html#amdt14a_hd1 Just about everything that is wrong with America today is listed, in legally-binding black and white.

    If you would be shocked to read that Soylent Green is people, you’ll probably be shocked to read the above too. Because you will find that you are NOT one of the Posterity; you are legally an artificial corporation.


    How is a corporation different from any other group?


      Um, it’s a governmentally franchised artificial person, as opposed to a woman, or a man?


    As to the free speech in campaigns, I suggest we return “power to the people” and only the people. Any group represents a special interest. Here’s my idea:

    (Commentary in {..}, not part of proposed Amendment}

    No candidate for the Presidency or either house of Congress shall accept contributions in cash or in kind from any organization or group of persons for expenses incurred in a campaign for that office. All such contributions shall be made only by individual citizens who shall attest that the funds or other items of value are from their own resources and that they have not received, nor have they been promised, offsetting items of value from any other party in exchange for their contribution. The identity and extent of contributors to such campaigns shall be made public for a period of thirty days from receipt before being employed or used as collateral for a loan by such campaigns. Organizations of any type, {i.e. corporations, unions, gun rights advocates, environmental protection groups, even “Susie’s Flower Shop”, a theoretical small business cited in the Citizen’s United Case,} may, without restriction, expend money to advocate a position on any issue before or likely to come before the electorate insofar as no candidate’s name or description is included in their expressions of advocacy.

    {The intent of the above is to bring “transparency” to campaign financing by removing any group from the process whereby that group may conceal the identity of an individual contributor as well as limiting the influence of such groups or “special interests”. It further prevents an organization from making such contributions when an individual within that organization, such as a union member or corporation stockholder, may oppose the candidate. Considering the large equity position in certain corporations that the federal government has recently taken in response to the economic crises, this is particularly important in excluding such influence. The money from “special interest” groups will then go to promote that for which they exist, their “special interest”. The media will be directed to expositions on the issues facing the electorate, thus enhancing discussion and hopefully understanding of issues, bereft of personalities.}


    For a philosophical defense of corporate personhood based on an analogy to material constitution and higher-order sciences, see http://papers.ssrn.com/paper=1949507.


    Creating corporate personhood in tghe first place: still stupid.

    “The desire to punish a THING for the transgressions of PEOPLE is bizarre.”

    Exactly. Corporations are NOT people, and should not be treated as such for any purpose. Ever.


    If corporations are not persons, do they still have to pay taxes?

    If corporations have no free speech rights, can the government silence trade unions, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc?

    Do we REALLY want to go down this road?


      Where do corporations get the money with which to pay taxes? Could it be from you and me, their customers? Where else? Following on that, might elimination of corporate income taxes be in order?

    prochazka_the_insane 19 December 2011 at 6:35 am

    maybe slightly OT, but I’ve always thought that the one unfair advantage a corporation has over a natural person is immortality ….
    requiring dissolution (and reorganization if desired) after (say) 50 years would level the field toward sole proprietorships and other organizations.


    I’ll believe unions are people when I see one on trial for murder.


    “Except if a corporation commits a crime, you can’t arrest it and put it jail.”

    Except corporations cannot commit a crime. People commit crimes. Corporations are THINGS made up of PEOPLE.

    The desire to punish a THING for the transgressions of PEOPLE is bizarre.

    “Corporate personhood” is a short-hand expression for giving collections of people the same rights as individuals. If we wish to end this, then let’s end it across the board, including those pernicious cartels known as “unions”.


      Yes, the idea of punishing a corporation for the transgressions of individuals smacks of being a Deodand.


    The problem I have is with the original 1800s decision that rules a corporation is a “natural person”. Except if a corporation commits a crime, you can’t arrest it and put it jail.

    A corporation is an agent (of its shareholders), and exercises certain of it principals rights on their behalf. And the corporation is itself made of of persons, with their own rights. Pretending the corporation is a person is philosophically confused, and muddles peoples thinking.

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