A few days after one of my Money, Politics and Democracy presentations, an attendee wrote to me, saying,
“After asking you a question at the DUUC presentation, I went home and began re-reading the Constitution, thinking that the Supreme Court decision re: Citizens United basically indicated that corporations were persons and therefore were entitled to freedom of speech. I got as far as Article 1 Section 2 [paragraph 2]: ‘No person shall be a Representative . . .’ and thought, ‘No corporation could be elected a Representative,’ so how can those esteemed justices equate corporations with persons? Surely, the Founding Fathers didn’t envision corporations as persons, so those strict constructionist justices violated their own philosophy and stretched the applicability of the amendment to make it possible to rule in favor of corporations.”
It seems an absurd stretch to extend all the rights of human beings to inanimate objects, in this case called “artificial persons” – that seems to be some kind of a legalistic term for corporations – but that is what the court did.
My view is that money is not speech, but instead, quite obviously, is property. The view of the Supreme Court is that money is the equivalent of speech and, therefore, cannot be regulated. While I don’t care for their interpretation, at least a thin case can be made for that equivalency. For example, it will cost me money to make a documentary based on my Money, Politics and Democracy presentation. Given that my presentation is an exercise in free speech, the money spent to produce the documentary has some rough equivalency to free speech. That is a stretch, but, as I said, at least a thin case can be made.
Not so much with rights for “artificial persons”. In fact, I can make the case that a robot is an “artificial person”, but it is pretty difficult to envision extending all the rights and protections of citizenship to R2D2 or your Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.
It seems to me that a strict constructionist would see that, strictly speaking, only people are people and that only people are given rights and privileges by the Constitution, a document which makes no mention whatsoever of corporations or “artificial persons”. Yet somehow we find ourselves with five justices of the Supreme Court who can’t tell the difference between people and robots.
Strangely, an amendment originally designed to protect the then-freed former slaves has now given way to protection of corporations just as though they were flesh and blood human beings. It seems that for today’s Supreme Court, the 14th Amendment has been lengthened by an additional sentence, such that it now reads:
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. All of the foregoing shall apply equally and without limit to any corporation or institution of any kind or any inanimate object.“ (text in bold italics mine – JA)
And if that is true, then the 1st Amendment protection of free speech applies equally to those same corporations, institutions and inanimate objects. Just imagine how repugnant the post-Civil War congress of 1868 would find that.
And things may get worse.
In the McCutcheon v. FEC case now before the Supreme Court the plaintiff seeks to remove all limits to political contributions. Should those five justices continue to fail to understand consequences and continue to be unable to make simple differentiations that are readily apparent to most of us, then our politicians and our government will go to the highest bidder and the sale of our American democracy will be complete.
News Bulletin from AT News
Dateline: Washington DC
The Washington Redskins are changing their name because of all the hatred, violence, and hostility associated with that word.
From now on they will be known simply as the Redskins.
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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