Can Towns Bar Chick-fil-A From Opening New Stores for Its Explicit Anti-Gay Stance?
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Maybe he is. If so, I’d rather be on Roosevelt’s side of this issue than Greenwald’s since Roosevelt was well aware of the corrosive influence of money in politics, having seen it played out during the robber baron era. Yet, Greenwald seems to be ignoring that same reality in his defense of corporate free speech, just as corporations are ramping up to spend more than a billion dollars in our upcoming elections.
In mind-blowing irony, Greenwald is defending the rights of corporations to buy politicians, then advocate for laws that break up unions that will essentially have the same free speech chilling effect he’s railing against.
The other argument Greenwald may be making is that we must give absolute free speech to all corporations in order to prevent future governments stepping in and discriminating against particular corporations. It’s not so much the chill of free speech that Greenwald warns about as much as the fear of political parties rigging the game by eliminating private institutions that fund or coordinate with their political opponents.
That’s a flawed argument. To begin with, a complete ban on all corporate election or issue advocacy spending would have the same effect as no ban on corporate election or issue advocacy spending in curbing discrimination. Discrimination can’t spring up if both liberal and conservative corporations are already banned from spending money.
Second, what Greenwald and the corporate personhood sympathizers suggest is that governments are somehow doing harm to corporations by discriminating against them. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but corporations can’t feel pain, they have no emotions, they don’t die. They are fictional entities created under law to give them access to courts and for governments to be able to tax them. President Grover Cleveland perhaps put it best in his 1888 State of the Union Address when he said corporations should be “the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people.” I won’t weep for denying corporations like ExxonMobile constitutional rights.
Having said that, I can foresee a problem arising from certain forms of discrimination against corporations. Here’s a hypothetical:
A State Legislature enacts a law that states: Any corporation that employs more than 50% minorities or generates more than 50% of revenue from minority consumers shall be revoked of any business license or permit to operate within the state boundaries.
Clearly, this law could have devastating effects. But is the solution constitutional? Does it follow that we must grant corporations the same rights as people to defend against this? No.
The solution, should the people feel inclined to act, is to pass laws that prevent discrimination against corporations based on the race, religion, or sex of the owners, workers, or consumers affiliated with that corporation. Federal laws if need be.
In passing a law like this, corporations are safe from the worst forms of discrimination, yet are still restrained by “we the people” and not on equal footing under our Constitution.
Also, laws can be passed preventing unreasonable search and seizure against corporations, without also giving them personhood rights – particularly unfettered access to the Fourth Amendment. It’s in the same way laws can be passed to protect animals and pets, without giving them complete personhood rights, too.
Simply put, there are ways to deal with Greenwald’s hypotheticals beyond just giving corporations personhood, which has proven to be a complete disaster, and which I would argue underpins most of the problems facing our nation today as outlined in several books – beginning with Thom Hartmann’s book Unequal Protection – and vocalized during the Occupy movement.