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Old 04-12-2012, 10:38 PM
Bemused Bemused is offline
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Proposed constitutional amendment

The rights enumerated, implied, or otherwise found to exist in this Constitution shall be construed as applying only to human persons. These rights specifically shall not be construed to apply to any non-living human construct, including corporations, partnerships, or any other construct prepared for any business, political, or social purpose.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:42 PM
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There might also need to be some verbiage that prevents this amendment from undercutting the rights assigned to the various States.

The rights enumerated, implied, or otherwise found to exist in this Constitution shall be construed as applying only to human persons. These rights specifically shall not be construed to apply to any non-living human construct, including corporations, partnerships, or any other construct prepared for any business, political, or social purpose, except that those rights set forth in this Constitution which apply to the various States shall apply to the States.

Last edited by Bemused; 04-12-2012 at 10:44 PM.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:50 PM
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It should be non-sentient, not non-living. With an Amendment you have to think long term, which means you should consider how such a law would apply to artificial intelligences, uplifted animals, or the genetically engineered/cybernetically enhanced descendants of humans. Maybe even aliens.

Last edited by Der Trihs; 04-12-2012 at 10:51 PM.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:54 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Pretty much the dumbest amendment ever, seriously. If passed the government would find a way to keep it from actually going into effect because the consequences would essentially be the end of the United States as a country.

You're talking about overnight elimination of the property rights of every corporation in America, every LLC, every business partnership, pretty much every business period aside from sole proprietorships. Since the intentions of your amendment would be incompatible with the operation of our society, it just simply wouldn't be enacted in any meaningful way. Of course, because of that fact it would never be passed.

This amendment is essentially too stupid to even merit further discussion.

Last edited by Martin Hyde; 04-12-2012 at 10:54 PM.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:55 PM
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Right -- so, for example:
You don't want organised churches to have freedom of religion.
The property of corporations could "be taken for public use, without just compensation".
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:55 PM
obfusciatrist obfusciatrist is offline
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Under this amendment could Congress pass a bill that simply confiscated all land owned by General Electric, evict the company from those lands, and offer no compensation since they'd not have any right to due process? Could they pass a law requiring Google to house soldiers in their unused cubicles? Could they pass a law giving the FBI free reign of all corporate spaces since they'd no longer have any protections against unreasonable searches? Could they prevent NBC from broadcasting the evening news?
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:58 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Organizations of scientists, doctors, lawyers, economists et cetera would no longer have any collective freedom of speech rights so they would have no protected right to use their importance as a collection of experts to release information to the public. Instead of say, the American Pediatric Society being able to release statements about things that are dangerous (say tobacco use in children), only individual pediatricians would have that right. Sure, government wouldn't necessarily stop them, but they'd have no collective protections whatsoever.

Organized labor would also have no right to exist under these laws. Of course neither would any business aside from craft-level medieval style work so organized labor would just be a bunch of seamstresses getting together to bitch about the woman whose barn they use as their workspace.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:59 PM
Bemused Bemused is offline
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Pretty much the dumbest amendment ever, seriously. If passed the government would find a way to keep it from actually going into effect because the consequences would essentially be the end of the United States as a country.

You're talking about overnight elimination of the property rights of every corporation in America, every LLC, every business partnership, pretty much every business period aside from sole proprietorships. Since the intentions of your amendment would be incompatible with the operation of our society, it just simply wouldn't be enacted in any meaningful way. Of course, because of that fact it would never be passed.

This amendment is essentially too stupid to even merit further discussion.
But superpacs are OK? That your government is literally bought and paid for by large corporations, which control assets vastly beyond the reach of any individual, is OK? That the supreme court finds that corporations - which are supposed to be our servants, by the way - have a right to free speech that doesn't permit any of this to be restrained is OK?

I would certainly end the rights of every corporation. That doesn't mean that they wouldn't be able to function, it just means they wouldn't have any constitutional right to function.

If indeed their functioning is essential to the functioning of our society (and it certainly seems this is true), then we would pass laws that would enable them to function.

However - and this is the key - we could restrict their functioning in any way whatsoever that we found necessary. This is what we cannot now do.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:59 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Originally Posted by obfusciatrist View Post
Under this amendment could Congress pass a bill that simply confiscated all land owned by General Electric, evict the company from those lands, and offer no compensation since they'd not have any right to due process? Could they pass a law requiring Google to house soldiers in their unused cubicles? Could they pass a law giving the FBI free reign of all corporate spaces since they'd no longer have any protections against unreasonable searches? Could they prevent NBC from broadcasting the evening news?
In a housing co-op, you often own a share in the co-operative that entitles you to use a unit as a residence, but your right to have that residence is only as a virtue of being a member of the co-operative. In theory anyone living in a co-operative could find themselves homeless, as government seized their homes.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:02 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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But superpacs are OK? That your government is literally bought and paid for by large corporations, which control assets vastly beyond the reach of any individual, is OK? That the supreme court finds that corporations - which are supposed to be our servants, by the way - have a right to free speech that doesn't permit any of this to be restrained is OK?

I would certainly end the rights of every corporation. That doesn't mean that they wouldn't be able to function, it just means they wouldn't have any constitutional right to function.

If indeed their functioning is essential to the functioning of our society (and it certainly seems this is true), then we would pass laws that would enable them to function.

However - and this is the key - we could restrict their functioning in any way whatsoever that we found necessary. This is what we cannot now do.
No one would take the massive risks involved in forming business ventures if the government could simply seize all your assets anytime it felt like it. In reality all your amendment would do is create a totalitarian police state in which the government is all powerful. You would destroy every large block of political power in the country aside from the bureaucracy of the government itself, what do you think happens in that power vacuum?

All the way back to the American Revolution, groups of concerned citizens banding together as a collective organization to make their interests heard have been important in our political structure. The fact that Super PACs have been created and et al. is potentially a problem, but you're essentially talking about an amendment that would make it nigh impossible for anyone of like mind to meaningfully advance their position. Instead, everyone is isolated and weak before a government and bureaucracy whose power is massive.

Last edited by Martin Hyde; 04-12-2012 at 11:03 PM.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:05 PM
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Right -- so, for example:
You don't want organised churches to have freedom of religion.
I don't care if the church as an entity has the right. The individuals who comprise the church have the right. If this is seen as inadequate, then the wording could be changed to provide a religious exception. After all, it isn't the churches that are the problem.

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The property of corporations could "be taken for public use, without just compensation".
Yes, unless restrained by statute. It would certainly motivate a massive change in corporate law, to invest more ownership (and hence accountability) in people.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:09 PM
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Organizations of scientists, doctors, lawyers, economists et cetera would no longer have any collective freedom of speech rights so they would have no protected right to use their importance as a collection of experts to release information to the public. Instead of say, the American Pediatric Society being able to release statements about things that are dangerous (say tobacco use in children), only individual pediatricians would have that right. Sure, government wouldn't necessarily stop them, but they'd have no collective protections whatsoever.
Absolutely correct. We would presume a public interest in allowing them to speak, and that could be handled by statute. If their speech got out of hand, then they couldn't assert a right to keep doing it.

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Organized labor would also have no right to exist under these laws. Of course neither would any business aside from craft-level medieval style work so organized labor would just be a bunch of seamstresses getting together to bitch about the woman whose barn they use as their workspace.
There is no right for organized labor anyway. It is handled by statute.

The point is that if we so choose (and, for the most part, we WOULD so choose), we could continue with business as usual but with a flatly statutory basis for corporations and other entities, rather than a fundamental rights basis.

This would make our ability to restrain these entities when we needed to do so effectively unlimited.

Would it be abused? Probably. Are the conditions that presently prevail being abused? Without doubt.

This way, the corporations would be taken completely out of control. They would be our creatures again.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:14 PM
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In a housing co-op, you often own a share in the co-operative that entitles you to use a unit as a residence, but your right to have that residence is only as a virtue of being a member of the co-operative. In theory anyone living in a co-operative could find themselves homeless, as government seized their homes.
In theory that is true...more or less...at this level we definitely encounter the rights of individuals too.

But what is happening now? Millions of people are losing their homes as the corporations take them. In fact, an overall condition created by corporations running rogue has created conditions where a large fraction of the US population owes more on their home than it is worth, and it is actually a rational decision to stop making payments.

As far as that goes, if you are a tenant renting a property, in the vast majority of jurisdictions in the USA, you can be forced to move on the whim of your landlord, once adequate notice is given.

So this doesn't really change anything, except to destroy the vast majority of the power that corporations wield. They'd still have the power of their money. That should be plenty of power for them. And superpacs...corporate lobbyist groups...the Buying of the Government... could all be ended.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:15 PM
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There is also the idea that the 'personhood' of corporations, established to minimize investment risk and allow contracting and lawsuit capabilities, was in law for a couple centuries before someone decided to regard a corporation as a person for all purposes, including First Amendment rights. This may be a bit of overkill, and simple statutory deprivation of personal status for other than the specified commerical-law purposes of corporate personhood.might be sufficient.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:20 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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There is also the idea that the 'personhood' of corporations, established to minimize investment risk and allow contracting and lawsuit capabilities, was in law for a couple centuries before someone decided to regard a corporation as a person for all purposes, including First Amendment rights. This may be a bit of overkill, and simple statutory deprivation of personal status for other than the specified commerical-law purposes of corporate personhood.might be sufficient.
Right, if you don't want corporations funneling large amounts of money to Presidential elections just pass a constitutional amendment that says that. This amendment in its original text is stupid.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:20 PM
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Under this amendment could Congress pass a bill that simply confiscated all land owned by General Electric, evict the company from those lands, and offer no compensation since they'd not have any right to due process? Could they pass a law requiring Google to house soldiers in their unused cubicles? Could they pass a law giving the FBI free reign of all corporate spaces since they'd no longer have any protections against unreasonable searches? Could they prevent NBC from broadcasting the evening news?

My answer to all of these is yes, except for the last one, and with the following qualifications.

Corporations are owned by people. If the government seizes corporate assets, this is effectively an undue taking from people. So the government would have to pay compensation...to the shareholders.

As for the last one, freedom of the press is enshrined in the First Amendment and applies to people. It would be an interesting question whether in the particular case of a news organization any of the rights invested in the individuals attach to the corporation to the extent that the corporation is functioning to permit the individuals to assert those rights. Clearly, it would not be my desire to restrain individuals in this fashion, but it would indeed be a legitimate question that would have to be addressed.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:22 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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Honestly these threads are exhausting, I have participated in probably 4-5 threads on these forums in which people show they don't really understand what corporations are, why they're important, how they work, what the legal doctrine of "corporate personhood" is. Basically a lot of people who got upset of Citizens United but actually know nothing about the economy or corporations feel they have all these wonderful ideas to fix the world.

The OP shows this deep seated misunderstanding when he talks about making corporations "our creatures" again. Who exactly does the OP think currently control corporations? You do realize a corporation is just people, the inanimate parts of it have no will and no power.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:24 PM
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My answer to all of these is yes, except for the last one, and with the following qualifications.

Corporations are owned by people. If the government seizes corporate assets, this is effectively an undue taking from people. So the government would have to pay compensation...to the shareholders.

As for the last one, freedom of the press is enshrined in the First Amendment and applies to people. It would be an interesting question whether in the particular case of a news organization any of the rights invested in the individuals attach to the corporation to the extent that the corporation is functioning to permit the individuals to assert those rights. Clearly, it would not be my desire to restrain individuals in this fashion, but it would indeed be a legitimate question that would have to be addressed.
Not so fast, corporate assets are currently owned by corporations. If you remove the corporate right to property I see no reason you can just assume the government would have to compensate shareholders for seizing that property. As far as the government could be concerned it is abandoned, as the legal entity that owned it has no ownership rights. Owning shares in a corporation does not specifically entitle you to any of the assets of the corporation.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:25 PM
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There is also the idea that the 'personhood' of corporations, established to minimize investment risk and allow contracting and lawsuit capabilities, was in law for a couple centuries before someone decided to regard a corporation as a person for all purposes, including First Amendment rights. This may be a bit of overkill, and simple statutory deprivation of personal status for other than the specified commerical-law purposes of corporate personhood.might be sufficient.
How are you going to restrain a corporation statutorily when it has been found by the Supreme Court to have a right? You can't do it; any attempt to do it will be found unconstitutional.

Corporate personhood, taken to the extreme we have taken it, is literally destroying our society.

So the best response...is to destroy corporate personhood.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:29 PM
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Not so fast, corporate assets are currently owned by corporations. If you remove the corporate right to property I see no reason you can just assume the government would have to compensate shareholders for seizing that property. As far as the government could be concerned it is abandoned, as the legal entity that owned it has no ownership rights. Owning shares in a corporation does not specifically entitle you to any of the assets of the corporation.
These things could in principle happen. And passing this amendment or a close variant would make a LOT of laws and principles obsolete.

That, actually, is the explicit point...destroy corporate personhood.

So, quite obviously, there would have to be a transition...which would be handled statutorily...and would vest the individuals who own the corporation with the assets of the corporation for purposes of disposal, if that was necessary.

Such things could be handled statutorily, and would be handled statutorily...that would have to happen.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:34 PM
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With such a constitutional amendment, New York Times v. Sullivan would be decided differently. In other words, newspapers owned by corporations would be far less free to criticise public figures, including government officials, because of the danger of being sued for libel and having to prove the truth of all their allegations.

On the other hand, it would do nothing to control the powers of rich individuals, including their ability to fund PACs -- they just have to leave the PAC unincorporated.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:40 PM
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Honestly these threads are exhausting, I have participated in probably 4-5 threads on these forums in which people show they don't really understand what corporations are, why they're important, how they work, what the legal doctrine of "corporate personhood" is. Basically a lot of people who got upset of Citizens United but actually know nothing about the economy or corporations feel they have all these wonderful ideas to fix the world.

The OP shows this deep seated misunderstanding when he talks about making corporations "our creatures" again. Who exactly does the OP think currently control corporations? You do realize a corporation is just people, the inanimate parts of it have no will and no power.
Yeah, I only own three corporations outright and play the stock market, so naturally I don't know anything about it. And I do explicitly own the corporations to front for me in my business interests so that I can keep myself out of sight.

And I confess to being equally exhausted by people who can't think outside the box to address a problem.

And corporate personhood, in today's world, is a massive and growing problem. And, yes. Corporations are supposed to be our creatures. They are supposed to exist to facilitate our ability to do business.

But in the modern era where the largest corporations are larger than all but the very largest governments, we are losing our ability to control them. When the amounts of money they control are so enormous that any government can be bought, we can't control them so long as we allow them an equal footing with us before the law.

Instead, what we are doing is giving absolute control of our lives and future to the people who control the corporations. While this may in principle be the shareholders, it is in fact the senior officers of the corporations.

It is time to make a change, a massive change.

And if you're too weary, I suggest you take a nap. Maybe the change will happen while you are asleep.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:43 PM
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The rights enumerated, implied, or otherwise found to exist in this Constitution shall be construed as applying only to human persons. These rights specifically shall not be construed to apply to any non-living human construct, including corporations, partnerships, or any other construct prepared for any business, political, or social purpose.
Two conditions
1) the AI thing mentioned, if it could be worked in, would be good
2) if it passes, it would not be effective for some period of time, so that legislation making up important gaps could be passed

So get back to me when I'm dictator, alright?
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:43 PM
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With such a constitutional amendment, New York Times v. Sullivan would be decided differently. In other words, newspapers owned by corporations would be far less free to criticise public figures, including government officials, because of the danger of being sued for libel and having to prove the truth of all their allegations.
Why would this change anything in that regard? First Amendment attaches to individuals - including the individual who writes the story. Absent malice, no problem.

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On the other hand, it would do nothing to control the powers of rich individuals, including their ability to fund PACs -- they just have to leave the PAC unincorporated.
No, it wouldn't control wealthy individuals. But it would make it impossible for them to hide their actions.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:46 PM
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Two conditions
1) the AI thing mentioned, if it could be worked in, would be good
2) if it passes, it would not be effective for some period of time, so that legislation making up important gaps could be passed

So get back to me when I'm dictator, alright?
OK. I can go with that. We start the whole thing with a prefatory statement: "Effective exactly five years after this amendment is ratified, ... "
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:57 PM
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Why would this change anything in that regard? First Amendment attaches to individuals - including the individual who writes the story. Absent malice, no problem.
But in NYT v. Sullivan, it wasn't the journalist that was sued: it was the corporation that owned and published the newspaper. You can only gt around that by having newspapers (and magazines, and radio and TV stations) owned by individuals, not by corporations.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:59 PM
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I submit the OP is talking about destroying the U.S. in order to save it.
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Old 04-13-2012, 12:27 AM
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I also tire of these discussions because they don't see the problem right in the language of the First Amendment. The amendment does not say "persons have the right to free speech." It says "Congress shall make no law." It doesn't matter if the law restricts natural persons, corporate persons, or extraterrestrial persons. It's a restriction on what Congress can do, and the OP's proposal wouldn't change it one whit.
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Old 04-13-2012, 01:41 AM
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I wonder if the OP is aware that the ACLU, the NAACP, the Democratic Party, the City of New York, the Humane Society, and the church of his choice are all "corporations", and as such would no longer have any freedom of speech, religion, the press, right to due process of law, right of privacy, protection against self-incrimination, right to trial by jury, freedom from excessive fines, and so on?
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Old 04-13-2012, 02:55 AM
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I don't care if the church as an entity has the right. The individuals who comprise the church have the right. If this is seen as inadequate, then the wording could be changed to provide a religious exception. After all, it isn't the churches that are the problem.
No law should ever have a religious exemption.
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Old 04-13-2012, 04:46 AM
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Would this even work? I admit I know nothing about corporations, but it seems to me that a corporation could just use the civil rights of the individuals that make it up to get around any lack of personhood. Maybe Microsoft can no longer have freedom of speech, but Bill Gates still does. If an excessive fine were to be levied against the company, it would also have to be levied towards the individual. In order for the company to self incriminate, the individuals speaking would also have to self-incriminate. And so on.

It seems to my admittedly uninformed opinion that there would just have to be some rearranging and everything could go on exactly as before, as long as the basic concepts of a corporation are kept (like limited liability). Nothing is fixed, nothing is broken.
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Old 04-13-2012, 10:07 AM
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[QUOTE=Polycarp;14961592]There is also the idea that the 'personhood' of corporations, established to minimize investment risk and allow contracting and lawsuit capabilities, was in law for a couple centuries before someone decided to regard a corporation as a person for all purposes.../QUOTE]

No one has done this.
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Old 04-13-2012, 10:28 AM
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If the problem is campaign contributions to politicians, then wouldn't a better constitutional solution be an amendment stating that Congress has the power to limit campaign contributions, regardless of the First Amendment?
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Old 04-13-2012, 10:45 AM
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I think we need to put an explanation of the whole "corporate personhood" thing in the registration agreement for this MB. Fewer concepts are more misunderstood. Oh, and we can add an explanation about the difference between the limit powers of the federal government and the plenary powers of the states, too.

If we completely eliminated all forms of corporate personhood, we'd have to invent a new concept for the non-Citizens United forms that have been in existence for hundreds of years and form some of the most important foundations of a modern economy.
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Old 04-13-2012, 12:37 PM
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But in NYT v. Sullivan, it wasn't the journalist that was sued: it was the corporation that owned and published the newspaper. You can only gt around that by having newspapers (and magazines, and radio and TV stations) owned by individuals, not by corporations.
No journalists were involved in Sullivan. The NYT was being sued because it published an advertisement created by a third party (the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South). Sullivan sued members of the committee (including Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy) as well as the Times.
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Old 04-13-2012, 01:11 PM
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The rights enumerated, implied, or otherwise found to exist in this Constitution shall be construed as applying only to human persons. These rights specifically shall not be construed to apply to any non-living human construct, including corporations, partnerships, or any other construct prepared for any business, political, or social purpose.
How would you square this with the First Amendment's right peaceably to assemble, including, it must be conceded, those assemblies solidified by way of various corporate forms permitted under the law?

Damn that First Amendment! Forever prohibiting us from outlawing the opposition! What we need is a one-party state (once we've banned counterrevolutionary organizations) that can effectuate the dictatorship of the proletariat unimpeded!

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Old 04-13-2012, 01:26 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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I think it might be stretching things a bit to say that the right to peaceably assemble protects the rights of intangible legal constructs. That isn't to say that I don't think the Constitution presupposes the existence of corporations, just that they aren't "assemblies".
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Old 04-13-2012, 01:34 PM
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I think it might be stretching things a bit to say that the right to peaceably assemble protects the rights of intangible legal constructs. That isn't to say that I don't think the Constitution presupposes the existence of corporations, just that they aren't "assemblies".
It certainly protects individually each of those members. Corporations are not just conjured into existence, they represent the joint enterprise of their members. The right to assemble is meaning if the assemblers are forbidden from acting as a cohesive whole. Notice also that the OP would restrict the rights of even partnerships, which come into being legally whenever two or more people agree to undertake a lasting joint enterprise (whether for profit or otherwise).

What do you think is the sine qua non that corporations lack that make them something other than assemblages of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights (among other things)?
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Old 04-13-2012, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimmy_Gibbler View Post
It certainly protects individually each of those members. Corporations are not just conjured into existence, they represent the joint enterprise of their members. The right to assemble is meaning if the assemblers are forbidden from acting as a cohesive whole. Notice also that the OP would restrict the rights of even partnerships, which come into being legally whenever two or more people agree to undertake a lasting joint enterprise (whether for profit or otherwise).
I disagree that this is necessarily what's being aimed at. Corporations of all types are liability shields. It is often argued that such a shield is necessary in order for these kinds of organizations to function. The creation of such an entity is not necessarily the same thing as what you propose. I don't truly know what the OP is concerned with, but this problem---if it is a problem---has bothered me for a long time. Corporations are individuals---there is a bottom to them, when people look for redress. But there is no bottom for the benefits: they flow past the individual lines all the way back. Only bad contracts and individuals can get away with such nonsense in the long term.

There is no reason to suppose that people can't get together to agree to do something without the law backing their play (modulo contracts which the civil laws would see as binding). But I can't sue a contract, I sue individuals or parties. Instead, law reifies the contract and the corporation becomes an entity for cost purposes, but remains a fluid, many-faced entity for benefit purposes. That is, specifically, in my opinion, all corporations are inherently externality machines, pumping out costs while laundering and sinking benefits. This aspect is specifically and identically tied to the notion of corporate personhood. Without it, you can see how far the rabbit hole goes.

If we are to enter a debate on these points, please let me state that I have been in several real-life arguments about this aspect and have always concluded that there is no practical alternative whatsoever. Nothing. I can and do live with that. I just don't like it.
  #40  
Old 04-13-2012, 02:36 PM
Kimmy_Gibbler Kimmy_Gibbler is offline
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Originally Posted by erislover View Post
I disagree that this is necessarily what's being aimed at. Corporations of all types are liability shields. It is often argued that such a shield is necessary in order for these kinds of organizations to function. The creation of such an entity is not necessarily the same thing as what you propose. I don't truly know what the OP is concerned with, but this problem---if it is a problem---has bothered me for a long time. Corporations are individuals---there is a bottom to them, when people look for redress. But there is no bottom for the benefits: they flow past the individual lines all the way back. Only bad contracts and individuals can get away with such nonsense in the long term.
A couple things, which perhaps you already know, but that occur to me.

First, as far as a shield from liability, that is correct. But there are important caveats. For contract liability, the liability is unlimited only if the counterparty knew or should have known that it was dealing with a corporation (say by including "Inc." or "Ltd." in the corporation's name when papering the deal). That is, the counterparty knows in advance of this potential limitation of sources of redress.

Now, this counterparty might only be able to deal with corporations (and I think this is a large part of the resentment directed to corporations, they're the only game in town). To that, I say tough. I don't think the law should distort markets such that if a business is prepared to offer a product only with the availability of the corporate shield, the law will endeavor to frustrate that. (And the outcome would be, of course, not the provision of the product by unlimited liability entities, but the withdrawal of the product, which people do wish to buy, from the market altogether.)

Secondly, a sham corporation that exists only to attempt to shield the nefarious acts of its managers or owners can have their limited liability set aside (piercing the corporate veil) and personal liability imposed on the responsible natural persons. This is what would occur if a manager or owner used the corporation to commit an intentional tort.

As for negligence, liability is generally limited.

As for the limited downside and unlimited upside, this holds for natural persons as well. A negligent uninsured, judgment-proof motorist is only going to have to pay the amount he has. You can't get blood from a stone after all. So it seems strange to count this as a unique and perverse privilege afforded only to corporations.
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Old 04-13-2012, 02:51 PM
Blaster Master Blaster Master is offline
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Absolutely correct. We would presume a public interest in allowing them to speak, and that could be handled by statute. If their speech got out of hand, then they couldn't assert a right to keep doing it.
And what happens when that speech is against the interest of the government? If we have no guarantee that some group, acting in the interest of the people, can't at some point be shut down because the government doesn't like what they're saying, it's a no go. A major part of the reasoning behind these rights being enumerated in the constitution to begin with was because they were what the founders felt the British were restricting to them and were an important part of the revolution and founding of the country.

Settling for statutes that let certain groups effectively have personhood related to certain rights and not others is just begging for corruption. Imagine a world where one party gets enough power and they use statutes to limit the speech of groups that oppose them.

While I understand your desired effect, this isn't the solution. If this is something you wanted to tackle, I think the nuclear approach of removing all rights from all non-people will ultimately cause far more harm than good.
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Old 04-13-2012, 03:59 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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You keep saying these things could be handled statutorily, but you also keep advocating for the removal of any guarantee that they would be handled statutorily. The whole point of the Constitution is to prevent the government from doing things it wants to do. Are you seriously suggesting that the government should have the ability to not enforce corporate property rights? To toss them out the window if it so felt motivated?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bemused View Post
And corporate personhood, in today's world, is a massive and growing problem.
You don't even know what that means, let alone if it's a problem.
  #43  
Old 04-13-2012, 07:24 PM
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You keep saying these things could be handled statutorily, but you also keep advocating for the removal of any guarantee that they would be handled statutorily. The whole point of the Constitution is to prevent the government from doing things it wants to do. Are you seriously suggesting that the government should have the ability to not enforce corporate property rights? To toss them out the window if it so felt motivated?

You don't even know what that means, let alone if it's a problem.
Stipulating that this sort of thing would even work (since no one answered my question above), then all you'd have to do is build some basic rights into the amendment. The difference would be that these rights would be written with our current knowledge of the power of corporations, instead of the original rights which were written with only real persons in mind.

Because I think the OP isn't really advocating for the dissolution of corporate personhood, but just for making them limited persons, without some of the rights real persons have. Because if he's also wanting to get rid of their ability to enter into contracts or the liability shield, I agree that what he wants is absolutely stupid. Our economy is based on the concept that this is possible.
  #44  
Old 04-13-2012, 11:45 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Originally Posted by Kimmy_Gibbler View Post
What do you think is the sine qua non that corporations lack that make them something other than assemblages of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights (among other things)?
The presence of said citizens.
  #45  
Old 04-14-2012, 05:29 AM
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The presence of said citizens.
How much "presence" is required? Do they have to be there every day, punching out widgets? Can voting at annual stockholders' meetings be enough? Where would you draw the line between the two?
  #46  
Old 04-14-2012, 10:38 AM
erislover erislover is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimmy_Gibbler View Post
Now, this counterparty might only be able to deal with corporations (and I think this is a large part of the resentment directed to corporations, they're the only game in town). To that, I say tough. I don't think the law should distort markets such that if a business is prepared to offer a product only with the availability of the corporate shield, the law will endeavor to frustrate that.
Distort markets? That's not playing with a full house, Kimmy_Gibbler. The government created that market through the very laws we're calling into question. That leaves us with two possibilities: absent these liability shields, the market would be distorted (externalities, moral hazards, etc.); or, with or without the liability shield, the market would operate normally (but differently). Assuming we are leaving off the table that the current market is distorted by the presence of the liability shields, which seems to suit you.
Quote:
As for the limited downside and unlimited upside, this holds for natural persons as well. A negligent uninsured, judgment-proof motorist is only going to have to pay the amount he has. You can't get blood from a stone after all. So it seems strange to count this as a unique and perverse privilege afforded only to corporations.
I don't know how I feel about other kinds of liability shields. Cops have them. Jurors have them. Some I've given passing consideration and others have never even occurred to me. I don't think that corporations are particularly unique as individuals. I could probably be persuaded that liability shields in general are Not GoodTM. To throw out something without due consideration, my first inclination would be that a liability shield should only be granted in cases where insurance markets could not exist. The uninsured driver should be covered by insurance---there's a strong social expectation and that is easily revealed by the use of "uninsured driver" instead of just "driver"---and legislation should support that action, instead of granting him the immunity of empty pockets, as the damage he can cause is deeper than his pockets, and someone will have to pay. Of course, the next problem is: what happens when the insurance company's pockets are empty? Grr.

Nope, still can't see a workable solution.
  #47  
Old 04-14-2012, 12:44 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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How much "presence" is required? Do they have to be there every day, punching out widgets? Can voting at annual stockholders' meetings be enough? Where would you draw the line between the two?
When they're there, they are assembling, and when they're not there, they aren't.
  #48  
Old 04-14-2012, 02:13 PM
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Well, that's a useless non-answer.
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Old 04-14-2012, 05:12 PM
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Corporations are owned by people. If the government seizes corporate assets, this is effectively an undue taking from people. So the government would have to pay compensation...to the shareholders.
This is my response to all of these threads. Take away a corporation's right of free speech, you take a way those shareholders' rights of free speech. Or, in your view, is the right of free speech an individual one? If you and your next door neighbor decide to speak jointly about something, then the government can crush you with an iron fist? If not, then tell me the difference between you and your neighbor and corporate speech.
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Old 04-14-2012, 05:31 PM
foolsguinea foolsguinea is offline
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How about "living organisms" instead of "human persons"? It avoids the issue of denying rights to Gallifreyans, Newcomers, Jews, etc.

ETA: Oh, Der Trihs has a point: "sentient intelligences" might be better. I wasn't sure how to include AI's without getting corporations snuck in (still ain't).

Last edited by foolsguinea; 04-14-2012 at 05:33 PM.
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