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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Corporate Rights

Now that the United States Supreme Court has basically affirmed that corporations enjoy free speech rights (see a very good summary of the recent case HERE), it got me thinking: What other "right" should corporations now enjoy?

How about the right the bear arms? Sure, many companies employ armed security (my employer does, although they are not the security guards you see when you enter the building), but why stop there? Perhaps corporations should be allowed to have their own militias. Sounds crazy? I don't know that it's much crazier than the notion that a corporation as free speech rights.

Here's why I am adamantly opposed to this ruling: If speech were like water flowing through a pipe, then money is like the pressure that the water is under. My speech (and yours as well) is like a drip on the head of your elected representatives. The voice of a corporation, supported by large sums of money, is like a fire hose pointed at your elected representative. Tell me, which will get noticed?

I know, some will claim "but unions and liberal special interest groups...", which is a difficult argument to counter until you think back to my water analogy. One single Fortune 50 company probably earns in a given year an amount equal to several of the treasuries of the largest unions in this country. Now I am not what you would consider a union supporter (that's an understatement), but let's just keep things in perspective. Unions can never compete with for-profit special interests in the lobbying arena, as they simply lack the resources. The real truth here is that un-muzzled corporations can easily out-spend other special interest groups. Sure, shareholders have a say in all of this (which is the argument that the Limbaugh's of the world would probably make), but I highly doubt that most corporate stockholders:

1. Know how much their companies spend on lobbying
2. Care how much their companies spend on lobbying

I speak from experience, as I own many shares of my employer's stock and I have no clue as to where this information could be found. The business of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders, so if a (now) legal activity like lobbying helps in that regard, then you could make the case that there is nothing wrong about it. The "wrong" part is that corporations are legally allowed to do this in the first place; failing to use all legal means to maximize profit actually runs counter to the nature of a for-profit corporation.

Look, some may not want to admit this, but the reality of this situation is that money (in volume) is what influences elections in this country. My voice is a whisper...add it to yours it may be a chorus...but now corporations have a much more powerful megaphone. Let's see who gets heard.

1 comment:

Tom Borthwick said...

Excellently said. We've all been sold out.