Soylent Green is people. Corporations are not.

Hobby Lobby Wiki

People have rights. Things do not.

A corporation is a thing. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, believes corporations are people.

The court has ruled, for instance, that corporations have free speech and can use this right to ply politicians with money. And last week, the court ruled that some companies even have religious freedoms and can use them to deny certain forms of birth control through the health insurance they offer employees.

Certainly, the people behind corporations have rights, but why do their legal edifices have the same rights?

To often, we have seen the corporation used as a device for people to hide behind as they shirk personal responsibility.

The whole idea of a corporation, at least legally, is to limit liability. It’s also a handy thing to blame when someone commits fraud or needs a bailout from the government.

When corporations go to Washington they have far more influence than individuals. We have become a nation of special interests – especially special corporate interests.

Click here to read my column in The Sunday Wall Street Journal.

As for birth control at Hobby Lobby – the main issue in this Supreme Court decision – I find the entire episode absurd.

Hobby Lobby argues that as a Christian company it shouldn’t have to pay for health insurance for its employees that in turn pays for morning after pills and intrauterine devices that Hobby Lobby – as a corporation – compares to abortion procedures.

Does Hobby Lobby also tell its employees what how they can spend their paychecks?

Health insurance is a form of compensation. If employees use that compensation to buy something, this isn’t Hobby Lobby’s business.

What if employees use their paychecks to purchase these same contraceptives that their health care plans won’t cover? Is Hobby Lobby violating its religious values because it paid them the money they used to buy them?

The fact is, we live in a pluralistic culture. Participating in that culture invariably means some of our hard-earn money goes to things we don’t support. I don’t like nuclear bombs, for instance, but I pay taxes to build them.

9 Comments

  1. May I ask what you thought of the SCOTUS decision that found the ACA to be constitutional to begin with? Health Insurance is NO longer a form of compensation, it has been moved to the inalienable rights column for those of you keeping track at home. While I fully support women’s rights, and have personally paid for birth control for my wife & daughters over the years, I wholeheartedly agree with this decision. NO one is stopping anyone from getting anything, the issue here is that the government, in typical fashion, greatly overstepped their reach, again, by mandating that ALL of these forms of b.c. be provided FREE to those who receive coverage by their employers. My should corporations receive any less standing than their union counterparts? Oh that’s right, THEY SHOULDN’T.

  2. If corporations want to be persons, they can pay Individual Income Tax rates like the rest of us persons and quit their bellyaching about high corporate taxes.

    Can’t have it both ways…..unless the Supreme Court says so.

  3. It always begins with the people. Employers and employees are people. They should free to negotiate wages, benefits, performance standards and expectations, and consequences for failure to meet those standards. Employees can quit and work elsewhere.
    You overplayed the corporate card. All businesses are owned and operated by PEOPLE. These People have certain beliefs.They ought to be free to hold fast to those beliefs and NOT be forced to compromise those beliefs in any way.

  4. Al,

    This weekend I read your article titled, “Corporate Personhood” in the Colorado Springs Gazette. In it (like above) you argued that corporations are not people and declared the courts are “treating a corporation like a person when even a dog knows it is not.” I’d like to offer a rebuttal in the form of an analogy (while sparing you religious bias, as requested).

    Let’s suppose you are a vegetarian by choice. Besides gaining the perceived health benefits, you believe deeply it is morally and ethically wrong to kill an animal for food. In fact, you are a staunch supporter of animal rights groups. While you hold these strong personal convictions, you aren’t one of those liberals who demands that everyone complies with your beliefs. You are, however, motivated to serve others who feel the same way you do so you start a small, family-owned grocery that serves the vegetarian community.

    At first, the business is just you and your wife. You put your personal savings on the line in hopes to be successful and you put in a lot of hours. Initially, you act as the boss, the accountant, the inventory control specialist, the purchaser, and the janitor. And to your happy surprise, the business takes off. Within a couple of years you are able to expand to a couple of stores in the same city.

    By now, you are the boss of a growing, thriving business. You’ve created jobs for members of the community and provided goods to like-minded vegetarians…and the demand keeps growing. Good for you. Fast forward a decade and you’ve gone national! You built a business based on a personal belief and a desire to provide good products to health-conscience, animal-loving consumers.

    Can you imagine if the federal government demanded that all groceries, including yours, provide high protein foods to customers? You proclaim, “But I already provide proteins in the form of beans, sprouts, and nuts!” But the government, due to the nutrition demands of an unelected person, say, the first lady, decrees that animal proteins are in the best interest for everyone. You are therefore forced to purchase, stock, and sell beef, chicken, pork, and lamb.

    What happened, Al? Because of your successful growing business, you are compelled to provide something with which you are morally opposed? What happened to your “rights?” I mean you and your vegie-loving wife built your business from the ground up founded on a set of personal beliefs. Is it fair that because of the size of your business – your national corporation – that you must comply with enforced immorality?

    Look, a corporation is not a neon sign and a brick-and-mortar building. A corporation is the boss and his wife, the cashiers, the stockers, and the janitors. A corporation is made up of people; living, breathing, rationalizing, feeling people; people with personal value systems who might love animals and abhor slaughter houses or who might love babies and find abortions detestable. So if you, as the boss, don’t want to offer erectile dysfunction drugs to employees due to some personal belief, then how is that wrong? You pay your employee enough to afford to buy his own boner pills.

    Since corporations are people, then the rights of people are bestowed upon those corporations. The rights of free speech (they can donate to any cause or politician they want), freedom of religion (to support or oppose social issues), and yes, even the right to protect themselves with guns (have you heard of the Colorado restaurant whose waitresses are armed?). And when corporations (people) are abusive and break the law, the people behind the neon signs get punished. Just ask Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO of Enron, who is still in jail for 19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and lying to auditors. Maybe you could consult with Martin Grass of Rite-Aid who agreed to serve eight years in prison and pay a $500K fine for conspiracy to defraud, or Joseph Nacchio of Qwest who lied to boost stock prices and is serving six years and was fined $19M. Perhaps Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski who stole $600M and was sentenced to a maximum of 25 years would agree that corporations are entities and people should not be punished for the deeds of the lifeless entity.

    Seriously, Al, if you stop “feeling” like corporations are fictional edifices and start “thinking” like a rational person, then you might see corporations are indeed people and have rights. That includes the right to NOT provide something they find morally reprehensible.

  5. Very good writing sir I cared for the artical a great deal. 🙂 keeping this blog in my favorites. Or if you can or do… add me to the e-mailing list. Again good stuff al.

  6. Al,

    Once again, you have gone off the deep end. The concept of a corporation being a person applies in specific situations but exists as a legal entity in other situations. You know all of this and still write a column that pretends you fail to grasp the difference.

    Overall, this column is one of the silliest because you are smarter than the poor logic presented in this column. I am disappointed.

  7. Hi Al, I tried to post this on the WSJ site, in response to, “Why is the WSJ wasting precious electrons on this guy?” but, so far, there’s no evidence it posted.

    …because there is a long history of justifiable skepticism about the unbridled power of corporations.

    “…Neither body to jail nor soul to damn.” – Lord Edward Thurlow (1731-1806) describing a new British invention, the corporation. One might add, nowadays, “…nor conscience to pique …nor death to ponder.”

    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. … corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” – attributed (falsely it seems) to A. Lincoln, letter to Col. William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.

    “Madison Avenue is a very powerful aggression against private consciousness. A demand that you yield your private consciousness to public [corporate] manipulation.” – Marshall McLuhan (1911-80).

    “It is our job to make women unhappy with what they have.” – B. Earl Puckett, Allied Stores Corp. 1953.

    “For the corporation executives, the military metaphysic often coincides with their interest in a stable and planned flow of profit; it enables them to have their risk underwritten by public money; it enables them reasonably to expect that they can exploit for private profit now and later, the risky research developments paid for by public money. It is, in brief, a mask of the subsidized capitalism from which they extract profit and upon which their power is based.” – C. Wright Mills, Causes of World War 3, 1960.

    “Corporations, which previously had been considered artificial entities with no rights, were accorded all the rights of persons, and far more, since they are ‘immortal persons’, and ‘persons’ of extraordinary wealth and power. Furthermore, they were no longer bound to the specific purposes designated by State charter, but could act as they choose, with few constraints.” – Noam Chomsky.

    “The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” – Alex Carey, Australian social scientist, 1995.

    “The corporation is an externalizing machine (moving its operating costs and risks to external organizations and people), in the same way that a shark is a killing machine.” – Robert Monks (2003) Republican candidate for Senate from Maine and corporate governance adviser in the film “The Corporation”.

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