[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 22

Christina Spiesel christina.spiesel at yale.edu
Mon Jan 25 04:32:25 EST 2010

Maybe the solution is to demand that corporations that engage in fraud 
or other misbehavior have to cease operations for a period  equivalent  
to sentencing imprisonment for persons and that if they kill, they are 
subject to a "death penalty" of dismantlement?


John Haber wrote:
> I must say I'm a little appalled at the idea that the problem is the 
> 14th amendment itself and, in particular, that it must be challenged 
> because it's inherently unfair to single out former slaves, whereas a 
> better legal framework would guarantee protection for all.  There's a 
> lot wrong here. 
> First, the 14th amendment already does say plain and simply that all 
> persons deserve equal rights under the law.  Its only mention of slavery 
> is in the last clause, to state that we didn't have to reimburse former 
> slave owners.  It's the 13th amendment, freeing the slaves, and the 
> 15th, giving them the vote, that mention "race, color, or previous 
> condition of servitude," and I trust we don't wish to rescind those.
> Second, what if it had specifically addressed the rights of African 
> Americans?  It's disgusting to think that there's anything wrong with 
> that.  It sounds like the right wingers complaining that whites are 
> suffering from civil rights.  In fact, it sounds like the position of 
> the faction of the court that reached this awful decision. 
> Third, one could, I suppose, argue that the amendment could have been 
> phrased differently to make clear that persons were, well, people.  The 
> trouble is that the current interpretation is so ludicrous that no one 
> would ever have thought of that before. 
> Now, it's not easy to explain how the idea of corporations as persons 
> under the 14th amendment came to be, along with the second plank, of 
> money as speech.  It would not have occurred to a nation after the Civil 
> War, when corporations were relatively rare, less powerful, and often 
> nonprofit.  It would seem to be denied by the text of the amendment 
> itself, which starts with the phrase "born or naturalized," thus, at 
> least to me, implying that "persons" are going to be life forms. 
> It's a long history, and I'm not really qualified to tell it, so I'll 
> let you look it up.  It started with a mere aside or note in a decision 
> largely unrelated to the point from a conservative court.  Even then, it 
> only slowly attained much value as precedent.  It certainly didn't imply 
> all this till this week.  I recommend Stevens's dissent, in fact, where 
> he starts right in by pointing out that, whatever value we agree to give 
> to corporate rights as persons, they're not the same as human rights 
> since, for example, corporations can't vote or hold office (his 
> examples).  Then he notes the 100 years of precedent that this decision 
> broke. 
> Anyhow, we could blame the American legal system, but I suggest we start 
> blaming the Republicans.  I know it's hard for us liberals to organize 
> rather than mourn (or backbite).  I sure felt that this week, with the 
> reaction to the Massachusetts election and the readiness to blame those 
> who actually supported a more liberal health-care bill rather than scum 
> like Nelson, Landrieu, Snowe and the fiercer rest of her party, and the 
> media network putting out their lies.  But consider it.  Had Bush not 
> got a second term, with Alito and Roberts appointed to the court, this 
> decision would not have happened, and indeed no one would ever have 
> dreamed it would happen. 
> To put it another way, perhaps more relevant to Empyre, this isn't about 
> legal or critical theory.  It's about politics and power, and the bad 
> guys won.
> John
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