So I was watching the Daily Show a few nights ago, and they were discussing the many problems that seem to arise from this odd notion of regarding corporations as people, when I finally realized the appropriate test to apply.
I direct you to The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1
To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.
Simply try to apply the standard that Shylock asks to be applied to himself—intended, in the play, to point to the fundamental similarity between Christians and Jews: the quality of being a person.
Apply this to any human being you find on the street, of any color, gender, sexual orientation, religion (or lack thereof), health, wealth, height, weight, etc., and your answer must, of course, be that human being is a person.
Corporations, though…if you prick them, they do not bleed: they are not people, and it is unsurprising that basing laws on such a pretense should have a distorting effect no our society.
Coupled with the fact that the whole notion of a corporation is fundamentally about disclaiming legal liability, it shouldn’t even be a surprise that they are fundamentally amoral.
There is simply no basis for affording them the rights that we grant ourselves as citizens. They are not people, and there is no good reason to pretend so.