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Corporate Rights

Amend the Constitution
(+1, -1)
  [vote for,

Amendment <X> to the Constitution of the United States of America:

Article 1: No for-profit Corporation is guaranteed the rights of an individual. Congress may pass any laws restricting a corporation's right to free speech, the right to bear arms, etc. This Amendment does not apply to Not for Profit Corporations.

Article 2: Congress may approve the Charter of an Enfranchised Corporation that may retain the rights of an individual. However, Congress must ensure that the CEO, board of Directors, and any signifigant shareholder may be held criminally responsible for actions taken by an enfranchised corporation.

Article 3: All for-profit corporations are prevented from giving money, goods, or services to an elected or appointed government official or employee, candidate for elected office, or political party.

dbsousa, Dec 23 2002

Corporations & Human Rights http://www.corporat...issue12/cw12f3.html
Apologies for ECHR slant but the underlying principles are the same. [my face your, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

What Rights Should Corporations Have? http://www.terminus...esis/chap3.html#C22
part of a thesis on this topic. [my face your, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Abolish Enforceable Contracts http://www.halfbake...rceable_20Contracts
At a slight tangent but relevant to the discussion. [DrBob, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]


       While, I heartily applaud the spirit of this idea, I have reservations about its execution:   

       Article 1: A gun manufacturer without the right to bear arms would be, frankly, screwed. Consequently, the supply of firearms to people with a high gun-throughput (i.e. do a lot of shooting) would dry up, and... actually, I have no objection here. As you were.
friendlyfire, Dec 23 2002

       Article 1 would not prevent gun manufacturers from making guns. It would, however allow congress to enact laws that restricted the actions of gun manufacturers. Article 1 merely removes constitutional protections from companies that are not enfranchised   

       Article 2 is not already the case. Currently, the law protects a shareholder from criminal liabilty from the actions of a corporation unless he had direct corporation's knowledge of the action. A corporation is like a spoiled child, with the rights of a citizen but no ability to be punished beyond fines. Articles 1 and 2 would require the corporation's "parents" to decide whether to give up their corporation's constitutional rights, or retain them, but be held criminally responsible for the actions of their "child".
dbsousa, Dec 23 2002

       Sure, let's ammend the Constitution to specifically disenfranchise a particular category of people by both explicitly and implicitly taking away the rights endowed to every U.S. citizen. Beause, there just isn't enough class hatred out there as it is. (-)
Pharaoh Mobius, Dec 23 2002

       "any shareholder?"   

       So, effectively eliminating the stock market? Or creating a huge new market for our great friends: the insurance companies. New policy products include coverage for legal representation during criminal proceedings against Grandma.
bristolz, Dec 23 2002

       Allow me to clarify. This amendment creates two classes of corporation. One that accepts the government's right to restrict its charter, and another that retains the rights of an individual, but forces any shareholder to be liable for his investments. No individual loses his rights in this amendment. Basically Phillip Morris would have to decide whether to allow the government to pass laws banning cigarette ads, or keep their rights, and risk criminal prosecution if the corporation breaks a criminal law...
dbsousa, Dec 23 2002

       It's better than the black hole gun...
snarfyguy, Dec 23 2002

       Is this proposed elimination of rights for corporations absolute? If so, I can't go for it. One repercussion of an absolute elimination would be that capitalism would be rendered impossible. For example, without the right of access to a court, the binding nature of contracts would be, in practical terms, useless.   

       If, on the other hand, the elimination is selective, which rights are to be eliminated?
my face your, Dec 23 2002

       Corporations aren't people, so taking away "their" "rights" wouldn't be disenfranchisement. Each human member of a corporation would retain all their individual rights.
landruc, Dec 23 2002

       //A corporation is like a spoiled child, with the rights of a citizen but no ability to be punished beyond fines. //
1) Corporations do *not* have all the rights of a citizen. Corporations can't vote, for instance. Additionally, given that corporations are economic entities, fines are the only apropriate punishment for the corporation as a whole. Individual criminal wrongdoing is punished according to what the *individual* has done, and punishes the *individual* (not some hapless shareholder who had nothing ot do with the crime).
//No individual loses his rights in this amendment//
Blatantly false. Individuals in positions of authority within a corporation (heck, according to what you wrote, each and every shareholder) would be hamstringed in terms of free speech and any number of his/her other Constitutional rights when it comes to pursuing the interests of the corporation and its shareholders. The government could, if it so chose, stop a corporation from advertising altogether at any time. Yeah, let's give the leviathan that is federal government more power.
//Article 1 merely removes constitutional protections from companies that are not enfranchised//
There is no "merely" about that proposition.
Ultimately, I cannot support this idea because it specifically punishes a particular demographic (including people who may hold shares in a company without any say in or knowledge of specific actions) while arbitrarily exempting "non-profit" corporations. It is blatantly anti-achievement, and will guarantee that almost nobody would be willing to take a risk within the marketplace due to the fear of some heavy-handed bureaucrat turning some vaguely-worded law into a truncheon with which to beat him or her senseless. The Constitution should not be ammended lightly, and particularly not for the sake of a class envy-inflamed witch-hunt. If I had another fishbone to give this idea, it still wouldn't be enough.
Pharaoh Mobius, Dec 23 2002

       Think about the problems faced by an institutional investor under this scheme. All those 401s and IRAs and pension funds. You could be a criminal without even knowing you're a shareholder.
bristolz, Dec 23 2002

       In article 1, have changed the words <entitled to> to <guaranteed>, in the interests of clarity.   

       Article 2 creates a new class of corporation, with the right to free speech, but criminal accountability assigned to its owners. This is a voluntary decision entered into by a corporation, most likely small businesses for whom the distinction between corporate and individual criminal liability is miniscule. It is unlikely that any fortune 500 company would choose to incorporate under article 2, but they would be allowed to do so if they felt that their civil rights were more important than criminal liability. Neither Articles 1 or 2 explicitly remove "human" rights from a corporation, but together they allow congress to write laws regulating corporate behavior among article 1 companies, and hold owners of Article 2 responsible for actions taken by their corporation.
dbsousa, Dec 23 2002

       You're still eliminating the political speech (speech which the First Ammendment specifically protects) of "for profit corporations" while leaving the political speech of "non-profit corporations" (a number of which are decidedly anti-capitalist and anti-corporate) intact. No matter how you may whitewash this idea, it remains a "punish X" idea.
Pharaoh Mobius, Dec 23 2002

       //Neither Articles 1 or 2 explicitly remove "human" rights from a corporation, but together they allow congress to write laws regulating corporate behavior.//   

       Fogive my ignorance of the US constitutional set-up, but can Congress not write such laws already?   

       In the same vein, can Congress not already legislate for a new corporate form without having to muck about with the Constitution? (I ask this because the UK government can do this and I'd be surprised if the US legislature couldn't do it, too.)
my face your, Dec 23 2002

       The rights of a corporation are a matter of state law, not federal, although Congress has some power through the commerce clause.   

       (Also, Amendment X already exists; it's what makes this a question of state law. This would be Amendment XXVIII.)   

       Article 1 is unworkable as written. What rights are we talking about, and how do you take them from corporations without taking them from the individuals who comprise the corporation? Are we simply talking about not extending the corporate veil over speech, etc., or prohibiting individuals from exercising their personal rights in the interest of a corporation?   

       Article 2 defeats the purpose of a corporation - to minimize the risk to shareholders by eliminating liability beyond their contribution to the corporation.   

       This strikes me as "punish people who do X", where X is incorporate. What have you got against corporations anyhow?
bookworm, Dec 23 2002

       //Amendment X already exists; it's what makes this a question of state law. This would be Amendment XXVIII//   

       My Fault. I meant X as an undetermined number, not a roman numeral.   

       Personally, I have nothing against corporations. I just believe that the case for their constitutional personhood is as ephemeral as the right to privacy, and should be decided one way or the other. I would like to know how many who are opposed to this amendment would support its opposite, an amendment which specifically extends all constitutional rights to a corporation?
dbsousa, Dec 23 2002

       So, it needs to be all one way or the other?
bristolz, Dec 26 2002

       [My face your] asks if "Congress can write such laws already?" Congress may write any law it likes, but any law may be challenged as unconstitutional. A series of Supreme Court Decisions over the last 180 years has created a legal precedent that extends rights guaranteed to people in the constitution to corporations. (see above links) This amendment would override the precedent and allow the legislature to decide what rights corporations have.   

       [Bristolz], I don't think it needs to be one way or the other, I am merely interested in hearing the opinions of those who believe that corporations should have the same rights as individuals, and what rights they should have.   

       [UnaBubba], I would like to hear you expound upon the practical ramifications of this idea. I am a little confused by the preceding statement: //... you haven't thought particularly hard about this one, or you would have kept it to yourself. // The accusation that any serious thinker would dismiss this idea out of hand seems to be a thinly veiled ad hominem attack. I made several attempts in the links section to document the problem that led to my admittedly half-baked solution. As for your suggestion that this idea doesn't belong in an international forum, I can only confess ignorance. I had assumed that the public:law:constitution category was designed to discuss the US Constitution. If there is a more appropriate place to discuss this, please tell me.
dbsousa, Dec 26 2002

       I still can't find anything specific about what corporations are doing wrong, or why their rights should be abrogated, just rants that suggest the ranters wish to return to an 18th-century economy.
bookworm, Dec 26 2002

       Okay, I understand.
bristolz, Dec 26 2002

       Bookworm, I contend that cigarette companies enjoy a freedom of speech that allows them to market cigarettes to children. I contend that the ephemeral "right to privacy" as extended to corporations, has resulted in Love Canal, Silkwood, and the Ford Pinto. I further contend that allowing a corporation the unrestricted right to lobby congress results in a system in which the a corporation has more access to the corridors of power than a voter. I formulated this amendment to restrict that power. It does not restrict an individual, or a non-profit association, such as the International Tobacco Growers Association, from lobbying Congress. It merely allows Congress to determine what are appropriate and inappropriate corporate rights.
dbsousa, Dec 26 2002

       I have just changed the word "shareholder" in article 2 to the phrase "signifigant shareholder".
dbsousa, Jan 22 2003

       I think it would have to be "controlling interest shareholder" to be fair.
bristolz, Jan 22 2003

       If the phrase were "controlling interest shareholder" then it would be a trivial matter to sell all but 49% of a corporation and be immune from criminal prosecution. I am not aware of a single fortune 1000 company that has a controlling interest stockholder (I'm sure,though that the first half-baker who is will post a link.) I am content for congress and the courts to decide what signifigant means.
dbsousa, Jan 22 2003

       As I understand the procedural requirements that need be met for an amendment to the US constitution to be passed, you'd have a significant job on your hands making this happen: a two thirds majority in both chambers and a 3/4 majority of the states, with the massed ranks of Big Business fighting you every step of the way? No, I can't see corporations losing all or any of their human rights via legitimate channels.
my face your, Jan 22 2003


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