Colbert on Corporate PersonhoodBy Mark T. Mitchell for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
In the wake of the Citizens United case, that astute political analyst Stephen Colbert weighed in. He gives a brief history of the idea of corporate personhood and imagines the implications. Corporations today are considered legal persons. This means that they enjoy the protections of the 14th amendment which implies that the bill of rights applies to “corporate” persons as well as “real” persons. But corporations are not persons. They are not alive. They are not even dead. They do not have natural life spans. They are not mortal creatures whose essential mortality induces reflection on the ultimate meaning of life and leads the wise to live out that brief existence with an eye to what matters most. A corporation never dies a natural death and therefore lacks the natural incentive to live a life that includes dying well. An immortal person is a god. By calling a corporation a person (whose charter is for perpetuity) have we created a strange new god? A new idol before which we prostrate ourselves? The corporation, rightly conceived, is to serve human beings. Corporate personhood has the effect of blurring this goal and reversing the relationship.
What would it take to end the idea of corporate personhood? What would be the results?