Corporate Personhood: Rights Without Responsibilities
Corporate personhood: Where does it leave us?
This transubstantiation of corporations into persons advances some pretty uncontroversial policy goals. If corporations lacked personhood, you couldn’t sue FedEx for crashing a van into your car, or Walmart for selling you a defective space heater that burns down your home, or J.P. Morgan for defrauding you when you get a lemon mortgage. You wouldn’t be able to enter into contracts with a corporation at all. Legislatures and courts have been treating corporations like persons for hundreds of years: There is even a general interpretive rule in the that when Congress says "persons," it means corporations as well, unless the context of the statute provides otherwise.
Abolish Corporate Personhood - Bumper Sticker / Decal (10.75 X 3")
Posner also highlights another class of non-human entities who have been dubbed persons: endangered species. Nixing corporate personhood could mean nixing other forms of artificial personhood as well, with negative consequences for conservation and animal rights:
The spread of the Occupy Wall Street movement to cities across the country has led to a national discussion on the role of corporations and brought the term “corporate personhood” to the fore in recent weeks.Kitch: [Without corporate personhood, the] business and other activities would have to be carried out through alternative legal arrangements. Whether that would be good or bad would turn on the structure and practicality of the alternative arrangements. Before the general corporation statutes became available in the middle of the 19th century, lawyers used the trust device as an alternative. Experience showed that the trust device involved a somewhat higher degree of legal uncertainty and required slightly more complex structures.Law School professors Edmund Kitch, Frederick Schauer, and Richard Schragger, as well as Dean Paul G. Mahoney recently weighed in on the topic of corporate personhood, including what it means and why it sometimes puts everyday people at odds with big business.Corporate personhood has no constitutional implications across the board. Courts decide on an issue-by-issue basis as to what provisions of a constitution affect corporations. Corporations, for instance, can’t vote, while people can. But corporations can assert a constitutional claim for compensation when their property is taken by the government, just as people can.