Thursday, September 24, 2009

Corporations and the Constitution: A rare disagreement with Coyote

Coyote Blog is one of my favorites: driven by critical thinking and hard data.

Nonetheless, I disagree with the Coyote on this one:

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech. Doesn’t say by whom or for what. There are no modifiers. Doesn’t say “except when individuals organize themselves into a corporation.”


My disagreement comes from the fact that free of speech does not mean freedom from consequences for speech. Freedom of speech, as it was intended by the Framers, meant freedom from prior restraint. I cannot be stopped from speaking about you, but if I threaten you, libel you, slander you, or engage in fighting words, then you have recourse against me.

If a normal business partnership does that, I have recourse against the business and the individuals who organized that speech.

But the individuals who have organized themselves into a corporation have done so, at least in part, for the purpose of avoiding personal liability for their actions. That means that a specific individual with power within a corporation may, if acting in his/her official capacity, threaten me, libel me, slander me, and even issue fighting words, and I have no recourse against that individual, but only the assets of the corporation.

I have a distinct problem with people using a state-supported business structure to avoid the consequences of their individual actions.

Corporations are as much if not more creatures of the state than creatures of market forces. You cannot have a limited liabiity business model without the power of the State to enforce those limitations.

Moreover, corporations in practice serve as tax farmers for the State.

Sorry: I don't buy State-award artificial personhood, and I do not buy corporations rather than individuals being protected by the Bill of Rights.

3 comments:

Delaware Watch said...

"I don't buy State-award artificial personhood, and I do not buy corporations rather than individuals being protected by the Bill of Rights."

Amen!!

Nancy Willing said...

ditto

Perry said...

Excellent argument, Steve, using an argument that I have never before encountered, but which makes a lot of sense! So I also say "Amen".