Personal Corporatehood: Coping With the Reason Divided of Citizens United

great consternation brewing over the recent Supreme Court decision that
cements and extends the misbegotten logic of "corporate personhood,"
and rightly so. Surely one of the most farcical and tortuous doctrines
ever established in our system of jurisprudence, this conflated concept
has drawn the ire of (small-d) democrats at least as far back as Thomas
Jefferson, who wrote in 1816:
"I hope we shall ... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed
corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial
of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

and politics aside, as a matter of law this extension of power and
rights to corporations is woven into the very definitional fabric of
our federal legal code:
"In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context
indicates otherwise ... the words 'person' and 'whoever' include
corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies,
and joint stock companies, as well as individuals...." Still, the
notion of "corporate personhood" remains something of a misnomer. In
our system, as now expanded by the Supreme Court, corporations actually
enjoy more rights than individuals do in many ways. To
wit: liability shields, rights of transfer, political access and influence, subsidies, laissez-faire
regulation, freedom of movement, self-determination, self-governance,
tax breaks, etc. In particular when it comes to political speech,
corporations are now essentially unfettered in their freedom, something
that us mere mortals have yet to fully secure. Consider the language of
the Court's recent ruling:
"If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from
fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply
engaging in political speech."

Does anyone else see the ray of hope in this line of reasoning?
Apparently, the government can no longer arrest protestors during
political demonstrations, if we are to take this literally as a matter
of "strict construction." First Amendment advocates have long sought
such a validation, yet somehow it took a corporation claiming their
speech was impinged to finally motivate the Justices to so rule.
Disconcertingly, the Court didn't actually have to address these larger
questions, since the facts presented in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission left open myriad avenues of decision that would have been consistent with the longstanding doctrine of "constitutional
In light of this case, where the Court actively reached for the
constitutional questions by calling upon the parties to re-argue and
re-brief the issues along broader lines than originally brought forward
on appeal, it appears that we in fact do have a Supreme Court headed by
those dreaded "activist judges" after all.

President Obama called the decision
"a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance
companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power
every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."
What wasn't immediately clear is whether he intended this as a
lamentation or a mere observation of political reality. Either way, he
was in essence stating a working fact, namely that whatever shards of
democracy and the "will of the people" had existed up to now, the
pretense is all but gone and corporations will openly run the show. I
suppose this has the virtue, in any event, of being a more honest
representation of how things actually transpire. The question is where
things will go now that this critical threshold has been crossed.

likely, this ruling is a harbinger of further extensions of corporate
rights and powers. A broad mandate and a willing Court will impel
corporations to take on even more of the qualities ordinarily
associated with individuals, as noted in the SCOTUS blog's analysis
of the decision: "It is not too much to expect that lawyers for
corporate America may well be looking to explore the outer
possibilities of their clients' 'personhood' and new-found
constitutional equality." There previously had existed a founding
principle that "natural persons" and "artificial persons" were separate
and distinct entities under the law, with the former holding historical
priority in our constitutional framework. By now, that distinction has
been blurred to such an extent as to be effectively meaningless, as
evidenced by a 2008 Federal District Court ruling in which it was proclaimed by the judge that "Blackwater is a person...."

Blackwater is a person, I want out. Indeed, this suggests a strategy
that "natural persons" might take in embracing the implications of this
unrestricted corporate world. If a corporation can become a person,
then by implication a person can become a corporation. I am thus
advocating a new doctrine of "personal corporatehood" in which we
should all avail ourselves of the enhanced rights granted to
"artificial persons" in our system. People should begin taking steps to
themselves immediately. (I personally am pursuing a nonprofit option,
which matches my earning capacity quite well anyway.) Lest you think
this is arising as a response to an outlandish Supreme Court ruling, in
fact the sign I held during the FTAA protests in Miami in 2002 read: PERSONAL CORPORATEHOOD.

imagine the benefits. When someone asks you for a favor, you can
off-puttingly reply: "I have to check with my Board of Directors at
next month's meeting; someone will get back to you then." When you want
to meet with your Congressperson on matters you feel strongly about,
the receptionist will announce, "Senator, a corporation is here to see
you," which will likely get you instant access. If you go public, you
can sell shares in yourself and make a tidy sum (just be sure to retain
a controlling interest). If someone irritates you or has something you
want, you can likely get the Marines sent in to deal with them. You can
avoid having to appear personally at court hearings, sending your
hired-gun attorney instead. And you can't be thrown in jail, since a
corporation itself cannot be imprisoned. See?

the end of the day, us "natural persons" can try and fight city hall on
this one, or we can get in the game and embrace the benefits of
artificiality. In a world of surfaces, where profiteering masks as
politics and gerrymandering as justice, this may well be the best of
all strategies for survival. In fact, let's abolish altogether any
outmoded notions of corporealism vis-a-vis
"the body" in favor of cutting-edge views of corporatism as an
expression of "the company." Whereas our individual bodies have served
us well up to now, things will run much more smoothly overall if we are
all bade to serve the companies instead. This is at least as rational
as the logic of the Supreme Court in opening the floodgates for
complete commercial control of governance under the guise of freedom.

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