Restoring Democracy as the Founders
excerpted from the book
The Rise of Corporate Dominance
and the Theft of Human Rights
by Thom Hartmann
Rodale Press, 2002, paper
The Fourth Amendment, instituted to prevent
soldiers from bursting into homes and unreasonably searching and
seizing property, has been used by corporations to avoid government
regulators as if they were British dragoons.
Supreme Court cases in 1967 and 1978 affirmed
that corporations do not have to submit to random inspections
because as persons, they are entitled to privacy and freedom from
unreasonable search. Corporations have pursued this logic for
Like the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment
was written to prevent a recurrence of government abuses from
colonial days. Among other things, it says that a person cannot
be compelled to testify against himself (as often happened under
English royal rule) or be tried twice for the same crime. This
was in a time when the balance of power was definitely in favor
of the government, which could and routinely did execute people.
Today the shoe is on the other foot: Business,
the more powerful party, is claiming protection, again to avoid
government investigation of its alleged misdoings. Convicted once
of criminal misdoing in an anti-trust case, a textile supply company
used Fifth Amendment protections and barred retrial.
Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech, August 31, 1910
"There can be no effective control
of corporations while their political activity remains."
Corporations are neither physical nor metaphysical phenomena.
They are socioeconomic ploys-legally enacted game-playing-agreed
upon only between overwhelmingly powerful socioeconomic individuals
and by them imposed upon human society and its all unwitting members.
When corporations gained the protections that had been written
for person in the United States, a substantial shift began in
who bears what risk, resulting in an imbalance that now affects
virtually all parts of the world. Most companies handle risk responsibly,
but many corporations are legally allowed to avoid responsibility
in ways that would never be permitted for an individual.
THE BENEFITS OF MARKETING UNTESTED CHEMICALS OUTWEIGH THE RISK?
In America, newly developed chemicals
are usually put into the environment] before there has been time
to do studies on their long-term low-dose human toxicity. But
what are we doing to our children and our grandchildren?
Where did we get the idea that anyone
(corporate or real person) has every right to market what they
developed, whether or not we know what effect it has? And where
did we get the idea that we can't change that rule?
In effect, we and our children are the
lab animals for modern new chemicals, as were our parents with
DDT, PCBs, and lead in gasoline. The product is put on the market,
and if it turns out to be carcinogenic, everyone finds out the
hard way. And the developer isn't responsible because it was a
company "regulated" by a government agency.
THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE
The alternative system-used widely in
Europe-is known as the precautionary principle. It was written
into the 1992 Treaty of the European Union. It moves risks from
human persons to the manufacturer: A substance is considered potentially
dangerous until proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is
safe, and the burden of proving its safety is with the corporation
that would profit from its release, whether it's a new chemical
or a genetically modified organism. In other words, just as was
the intention of our country's Founders, a company is welcome
to do business as long as the welfare of the community is respected.
Interestingly, although American business
often portrays this as a fanatical idea, it's the principle we
already use in America to approve new drugs and medical devices.
It was even invoked by former New Jersey governor Christine Todd
Whitman, who is usually reviled by environmentalists, when in
October 2000 she told the National Academy of Sciences in Washington,
D. C., that "policymakers need to take a precautionary approach
to environmental protection .... We must acknowledge that uncertainty
is inherent in managing natural resources, recognize it is usually
easier to prevent environmental damage than to repair it later,
and shift the burden of proof away from those advocating protection
toward those proposing an action that may be harmful."
But the precautionary principle is not
law in the United States. In the United States, a company is entitled
to calculate risks, assess the economic risk of potential casualties
without considering any impact on humans, and decide solely on
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CORPORATE INSIDERS RUN THE GOVERNMENT
In May of 2001, the idea of taxation without
representation came full circle when a government leader proposed
that we shift all tax burden back onto the people, lowering corporate
income tax to zero. Paul O'Neill is a multimillionaire who has
been a top executive at Alcoa and International Paper, two of
the world's largest multinational corporations. At the time of
this writing, O'Neill is Secretary of the United States Treasury,
appointed by the Bush administration and approved by the Senate.
In May 2001, O'Neill suggested that corporations
should be totally exempt from all income tax. He said that the
roughly 10 percent of federal funds they currently pay in corporate
income taxes to provide for and administer our commons is too
much; corporations should be just as tax-exempt as churches and
O'Neill also called for the abolition
of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare for working people
because, he told a reporter for London's Financial Times, "able-bodied
adults should save enough on a regular basis so that they can
provide for their own retirement, and, for that matter, health
and medical needs." In O'Neill's opinion, corporations should
pay no taxes Land individuals should pay all costs of the federal
government while also trying to pay for their retirement and all
of their own medical costs.
Social Security is half-paid by the employer.
If companies don't have to pay for it, the difference does not
pass through to the employee-the worker's total tax burden goes
up by another 734 percent of her income, and the employer's labor
cost goes down correspondingly.
YES, HE REALLY SAID IT
While O'Neill proposal was widely reported in England's business
press, the media of the United States chose to ignore it, with
the single exception of the suburban New York tabloid Newsday.
When Newsday columnist Paul Vitello called the Treasury Department,
he reported the following conversation:
VITELLO: "The secretary didn't really
mean to say that no matter how old, no person who has paid into
the Social Security system all his or her life would be entitled
to benefits until he or she is physically no longer able to work?
He didn't really mean to say that ExxonMobil and Time Warner should
be treated as we treat the church-as tax exempt?"
TREASURY DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: "Yes,
that is our position. The L quotes were all accurate."
IF CORPORATIONS ARE PERSONS, WHY AREN'T THEIR CRIMES IN THE STATISTICS?
In December 2001, the FBI issued a press
release on their Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which determines
the "Nation's Crime Index." It reports crimes by persons-but
it excludes corporate persons, even when the corporations have
been convicted of felonies. In its entire history; the FBI has
never issued an annual report on crimes by corporate persons,
although its reports on crimes by human persons are well-researched
and well-publicized. The upshot of this is that when you ask people
how most money and property are stolen, or how most people are
killed, they think of burglars and muggers and bank robbers and
crimes of passion. They think of human persons.
The reality; though, is that more money
and property are stolen by or lost to corporate criminals than
human criminals. Mokhiber's Corporate Crime Reporter notes that
in 1998, when the FBI estimated robberies and burglaries at almost
$4 billion, the cost of corporate crimes was in the hundreds of
billions ... as it is every year. These include:
* Securities scams that ran around $15
billion that year
* Car-repair fraud that hit around $40
* Insurance swindles and corporate fraud
found on your health insurance/HMO/hospital billings that runs
between $100 billion and $400 billion a year... a hundred times
greater than all the burglaries in the country combined.
Then there are the occasional "really
big crimes" like the savings and loan scandal that then-Attorney
General Dick Thornburgh called the (I biggest white-collar swindle
DEATHS FROM CORPORATE ACTIONS ARE NOT INCLUDED
More people die as a result of corporate
activity than because of the actions of deranged killers or overwrought
spouses. According to Corporate Crime
Reporter, the FBI reported that 1998 saw
about 19,000 Americans murdered at the hands of other people.
But that same year 56,000 people died from work-related diseases
like black lung and asbestosis-that were unreported by the FBI-and
many times that number died from "the silent violence of
pollution, contaminated food, hazardous consumer products, and
Much of the human death caused by corporate
activity has arguable benefits-for example, the many cancers caused
by compounds associated with plastics or pesticides. But the cost
of these deaths isn't factored into the unit cost of the products,
so there's no financial incentive for industry to develop toxin-free
or toxin-reduced alternatives, or to use the more expensive but
less toxic alternatives that already exist. )
And then there are the Big Mistakes.
In 1998, one of America's largest meatpacking
companies replaced a refrigeration unit on one of their processing
lines. Shortly thereafter, the detectors they have in place on
the line to look for deadly cold-loving bacteria like Listeria
monocytogenes started to react, indicating high levels of bacterial
The company's response was immediate.
Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public
Interest told reporters Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman,
"Then their tests started coming up positive, so they stopped
testing." This company's Fourth Amendment right to privacy
blocked surprise inspections by the government.
The detectors were apparently turned off
for a full month before the Centers for Disease Control used DNA
fingerprinting to track the bacteria that was causing a national
outbreak of Listeria back to the plant, provoking a nationwide
recall of a million pounds of product.
But during that month, hundreds of people
consuming this company's products were sickened by Listeria, and
21 humans died from it.
The U. S. Attorney's office, according
to Mokhiber and Weissman, "said there was insufficient evidence
to bring a felony charge" against the company. Instead, the
company paid a $200,000 fine and issued an unprecedented joint
press release with the Bush administration's USDA... that managed
to say that the company had paid the fine without ever mentioning
the brand name of the product that had been contaminated and caused
Mokhiber and Weissman raised the case
at the White House with Press Secretary An Fleischer. Here's the
transcript of the interaction.
QUESTION: An, has the President expressed
a view on the death penalty for corporate criminals-that is, revoking
the charter of a corporation that has been convicted of a crime
that resulted in death?
FLEISCHER: The President does not weigh
in on those matters of justice. They should not be dictated by
decisions made at the White House.
QUESTION: No, An, wait a second. An, An,
wait a second. He's in favor of the death penalty for individuals
generally. Is he in favor of the death penalty for corporations
convicted of crimes that result in death?
FLEISCHER: These are questions that are
handled by officials of the Justice Department-not by people at
the White House.
The White House hasn't commented further.
And because the FBI doesn't report on such deaths, or on workplace
deaths, it's hard to know how many deaths every year could have
The American Heritage Dictionary, 1983
A system of government that exercises
a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging
of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.
WHO OWNS THE WORLD'S WATER?
While Enron had started the discussion
going in Florida in 1999 about privatizing that state's water
supplies and the Everglades, the process was already a done deal
in Bolivia in 1998, the Bolivian government requested a $25 million
loan guarantee to refinance their water services in the community
of Cochabamba. The World Bank told the Bolivian government that
they would guarantee the loan only if Bolivia privatized the water
supply, so it was handed over to Aguas del Tunari, a subsidiary
of several large transnationals, including an American corporation
that is one of the world's largest private construction companies.
The next year, Aguas del Tunari, in an
effort to squeeze profits out of Bolivia's water, announced that
water prices were doubling. For minimum wage or unemployed Bolivians,
this meant water would now take half their monthly income, costing
more than food. The Bolivian government, acting on suggestions
from the World Bank and Aguas del Tunari, declared all water corporate
property, so that even to draw water from community wells or to
gather rainwater on their own properties, peasants and small farmers
had to first pay for and obtain permits from the corporation.
The price of water was pegged to the U.
S. dollar to protect the corporation, and the Bolivian government
announced that none of the World Bank loan could go to poor people
to help with their water bills.
With over 90 percent of the Bolivian people
opposing this move, a people's rebellion rose up to de-privatize
the water system. A former machinist and union activist, Oscar
Olivera, built a broad-based coalition of peasants, workers, and
farmers to create La Coordinadora de Defensa del Agua y de la
Vida, or La Coordinadora. Hundreds of thousands of Bolivians went
on a general strike, brought transportation in Cochabamba to a
standstill, and evoked violent police response in defense of the
Aguas del Tunari corporation's right to continue to control the
local water supply and sell it for a profit. Victor Hugo Danza,
one of the marchers, was shot through the face and killed: He
The government declared martial law, and
members of La Coordinadora were arrested and beaten in the middle
of an early April night. The government seized control of the
radio and television stations to prevent anticorporate messages
from being broadcast. But the uprising continued and grew.
The situation became so tense that the
directors of the American corporation and Aguas del Tunari abandoned
Bolivia on April 10, 2000. They took with them key files, documents,
computers, and the assets of the company-leaving a legal shell
with tremendous debt.
The Bolivian government handed the debts
and the water company, SEMAPA, to La Coordinadora. The new company
is now run by the activist group-essentially a local government
itself, now-and its first action was to restore water to the poorest
southern neighborhoods, over 400 communities, which had been cut
off by the for-profit company because the residents didn't have
the money to pay profitable rates for water. Throughout the summer
of 2000, La Coordinadora held hearings through the hundreds of
neighborhoods they now served.
In the meantime, the American corporation
moved its holding company for Aguas del Tunari from the Cayman
Islands to Holland so that they could legally sue the government
of Bolivia (South America's poorest country) under WTO and Bilateral
Investment Treaty (BIT) rules that Bolivia had signed with Holland.
As of this writing, the lawsuit for $40
million is proceeding, while at the same time a disconcerting
pattern of harassment, surveillance, infiltration, and physical
violence has stepped up against members of La Coordinadora.
Why such extraordinary steps against such
a poor country? There's more at stake than the immediate situation.
If this citizen's group is successful in turning a water supply
back from private to government hands, and thus improving water
service and making it more egalitarian and less expensive in this
poverty-stricken country, it could threaten water-privatizing
plans of huge corporations all around the world.
The stakes are high, even as cities across
India, Africa, and other South American countries hand their local
water systems to for-profit corporations. Nonetheless, politicians
around the world are stepping up the rate at which they're pushing
for a transfer of the commons to the hands of for-profit corporations.
Checking voting records and lists of corporate contributors, it's
hard not to conclude that there is a relationship between this
political activity and the generous contributions these corporations
give to pro-privatization politicians.
CHANGING YOUR CITIZENSHIP IN A DAY
For a human to change their citizenship
from one country to another is a process that can take years,
sometimes even decades, and, for most of the world's humans, is
practically impossible. Corporations, however, can change their
citizenship in a day. And many do.
The New Hampshire firm Tyco International
moved their legal citizenship from the United States to Bermuda
and, according to a 2002 report in the New York Times, saved "more
than $40 million last year alone" because Bermuda does not
charge income tax to corporations, while the United States does.
Stanley Works, which manufactures in Connecticut, will save $30
million. Ingersoll-Rand saves $40 million a year.
Offshore tax havens figured big in the
Enron debacle, as that corporation spun off more almost 900 separate
companies based in tax-free countries to shelter income and hide
transactions. Through this device, the company paid no income
taxes whatever in 4 of the past 5 years, and received $382 million
in tax rebates from Uncle Sam.
Generally when a human person changes
citizenship, they are also required to change their residence-they
have to move to and participate in the country where they are
a citizen. But Bermuda and most other tax havens have no such
requirement. All you need do is be a corporate person instead
of a human person, pay some fees (it cost Ingersoll-Rand $27,653),
and, as Ingersoll-Rand's Chief Financial Officer told the New
York Times, "We just pay a service organization" to
be a mail drop for the company.
Ironically, the Bush administration justified
rounding up human people and holding them incommunicado in jails
without normal due process after September 11 because as noncitizens,
they lacked the full protections of citizens under the U. S. Constitution.
Similarly, if you or I were to open a post office box in Bermuda
and then claim that we no longer had to pay U. S. income taxes,
we could go to jail.
Corporate persons, however, keep their
rights intact when they decide to change citizenship, and save
a pile in taxes. And, notes the New York Times, "There is
no official estimate of how much the Bermuda moves are costing
the government in tax revenues, and the Bush administration is
not trying to come up with one."
SPENGLER'S THE DECLINE OF THE WEST
In his book The Decline of the West, first
published in German in 1918 an then in English in 1926, Oswald
Spengler suggested that what we call Western Civilization was
then beginning to enter a "hardening" or "classical"
phase, in which all the nurturing and supportive structures of
culture would become, instead, instruments of the exploitation
of a growing peasant class to feed the wealth of a new and growing
Culture would become a parody of itself,
peoples' expectations would decline while their wants would grow,
and a new peasantry would emerge which would cause the culture
to stabilize in a "classic form" that, while Spengler
doesn't use the term, seems very much like feudalism-the medieval
system in which the lord owned the land and everyone else was
a vassal (a tenant who owed loyalty to the landlord).
Spengler, considering himself an aristocrat,
didn't see this as a bad thing. In 1926, he prophesied that once
the boom of the Roaring Twenties was over, a great bust would
wash over the Western world. While this bust had the potential
to create chaos, its most likely outcome would be a return to
the classic, stable form of social organization, what Spengler
calls High Culture and I call neofeudalism.
He wrote, "In all high Cultures,
therefore, there is a peasantry, which is breed stock, in the
broad sense (and thus to a certain extent nature herself), and
a society which is assertively and emphatically 'in form.' It
is a set of classes or Estates, and no doubt artificial and transitory.
But the history of these classes and estates is world history
at highest potential. It is only in relation to it that the peasant
is seen as historyless." (All italics are Spengler's from
the original text.)
More recent cultural observers, ranging
from billionaire George Soros in his book The Crisis of Global
Capitalism, to professor Noreena Hertz in The Silent Takeover:
Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy have pointed to deep
cracks in the foundational structure of Western Civilization,
traceable to the current legal status of corporations versus humans.
The extent of the problems within our structures is laid bare
with startling and sometimes frightening clarity by a wide variety
The origin of many of modern global society
problems are clearly laid out in The Trap by now-deceased billionaire
speculator Sir James Goldsmith, and it appears that perhaps that
"crazy old coot" (as the media would have us believe)
Ross Perot, with his charts and graphs and warnings about corporate
money in the political process, GAIT, and NAFTA was right in many
regards, at least from a nationalistic American point of view.
The summary version of these and dozens
of other books documenting Spengler's decline of the West is this:
We're entering a new and unknown but hauntingly familiar era.
It's new because it represents a virtual abandonment of the egalitarian
archetypes the Founders of the United States put into place in
our Constitution and Bill of Rights. And it's hauntingly familiar
because it resembles in many ways one of the most stable and long-term
of all social structures to have ever established itself in the
modern history of Europe-feudalism...
THE NEW FEUDALISM
Feudalism doesn't refer to a point in
time or history when streets were filled with mud and people lived
as peasants (although that was sometimes the case). Instead, it
refers to an economic and political system, just like democracy
or communism or socialism or theocracy. The biggest difference
is that instead of power being held by the people, the government,
or the church, power is held by those who own property and the
other necessities of life. At its essential core, feudalism could
be defined as "government of, by, and for the rich."
Marc Bloch is one of the great 20th-century
scholars of the feudal history of Europe. In his book Feudal Society,
he points out that feudalism is a fracturing of one authoritarian
hierarchical structure into another: The state disintegrates as
local power brokers take over.
In almost every case, both with European
feudalism and feudalism in China, South America, and Japan, "feudalism
coincided with a profound weakening of the State, particularly
in its protective capacity." Given most accepted definitions
of feudalism, feudal societies don't emerge in civilizations with
a strong social safety net and a proactive government.
There is a slight debate, in that some
scholars like Benjamin Guérard say feudalism must be land-based,
whereas Jacques Flach and others suggest that the structure of
power and obligation is the key. But the consensus is that when
the wealthiest in a society take over government and then weaken
it so that it no longer can represent the interests of the people,
the transition has begun into a new era of feudalism. "European
feudalism should therefore be seen as the outcome of the violent
dissolution of older societies," Bloch says.
Whether the power and wealth agent that
takes the place of government is a local baron, lord, king, or
corporation, if it has greater power in the lives of individuals
than does a representative government, the culture has dissolved
into feudalism. Bluntly, Bloch states, "The feudal system
meant the rigorous economic subjection of a host of humble folk
to a few powerful men."
This doesn't mean the end of government,
but instead, the subordination of government to the interests
of the feudal lords. Interestingly, even in feudal Europe, Bloch
points out, "The concept of the State never absolutely disappeared,
and where it retained the most vitality men continued to call
themselves 'free' . .
The transition from a governmental society
to a feudal one is marked by the rapid accumulation of power and
wealth in a few hands, with a corresponding reduction in the power
and responsibilities of government. Once the rich and powerful
gain control of the government, they turn it upon it, usually
first eliminating its taxation process as it applies to themselves.
Says Bloch, "Nobles need not pay taille [taxes]."
EXTREME CONCENTRATIONS ARE DESTABILIZING
Too much concentration of anything makes
it vulnerable to toppling. Most historians and economists recognize
that a root cause of the Great Depression was a severe economic
imbalance. The sharp increase in concentration of wealth described
in this chapter also has much in common with the statistics of
This is also the history of civilizations.
As wealth and power accumulate into fewer and fewer hands, the
rest of the populace loses its sense that there's any point in
trying to keep up. Whether on a national or a worldwide stage,
revolutions and terrorism result when enough people perceive too
great a gap between the most rich and the average poor.
THE END OF THE AMERICAN DREAM?
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "I
have a dream" speech, referred to how the people who wrote
the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution "were
signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall
heir." The contents of that note King referred to were identified
by Jefferson when he wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The American dream is something every
schoolchild understands. Its the heart and soul of democracy.
It means opportunity and freedom, the ability to raise a family
or pursue one's own dreams. It means the strong participate in
the protection of the weak, lest they lose their own rights if
they become oppressors.
In The Federalist Papers No. 51, Alexander
Hamilton wrote, "In a society under the forms of which the
stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy
may as truly be said to reign. . ." and under such circumstances,
eventually, even "the more powerful factions or parties will
be gradually induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government
which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more
Are we approaching that time Hamilton
* At the same time that the concentration
of wealth has taken place over the past 3 decades, the entry-level
wage of an American male high school graduate has declined 28
percent (in real dollars).
* Twenty percent of American workers now
earn income below the official poverty rate defined by the U.
S. government-and that doesn't include the unemployed.
* The top 1 percent of Americans in 1998
in terms of income equaled the lowest wage earning 100 million
Americans. (And there are only a total of about 140 million working
Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
* The top 20 percent of American families
have seen their income go up by 97 percent in the past 2 decades.
Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent fell 44 percent in their real
income, although most were working harder, working longer hours,
and many carried multiple jobs.
Oswald Spengler noted that cycles of growth
and collapse are built into the culture, and at a certain point
it "hardens" and then becomes feudal or "classical."
The warning signs, he says, are easily seen: replacement of human
and spiritual values with slogans and self-indulgence, concentration
of wealth into the hands of a few as poverty increases exponentially,
citizens who are politically disengaged and ignorant, and a culture
that becomes a parody of itself as it obsesses on its slogans
and symbols but ceases to live out its ideals.
The fall of the Roman Empire is a classic
example, and we may be another.
BILLIONAIRE SPECULATOR SIR JAMES GOLDSMITH, 1993
In the great days of the USA, Henry Ford
stated that he wanted to pay high wages to his employees so that
they could become his customers and buy his cars. Today we are
proud of the fact that we pay low wages. We have forgotten that
the economy is a tool to serve the needs of society, and not the
reverse. The ultimate purpose of the economy is to create L prosperity
President Theodore Roosevelt
"We stand for the rights of property;
but we stand even more for the 'rights of man .... We will protect
the rights of the wealthy man, but we maintain that he holds his
wealth subject to the general right of the community to regulate
its business use as the public welfare requires."
FREE TRADE RAVAGES NATIONAL ECONOMIES
"Free trade" is a phrase behind
which multinational corporations have essentially strip-mined
both the developed and the developing world. That's strong language,
but the metaphor holds up under examination. In stripmining, a
company comes in, strips off anything necessary to get at what
it wants, and leaves. Similarly, the developing world is being
mined for its resources, including human labor. At the same time,
the already-developed world is being mined for its wealth, as
its middle class and working poor sink further into debt while
multinational corporations become richer than any historic kingdom
the planet has ever seen.
... in a free trade world dominated b; corporate values instead
human values, social stability is not a consideration unless or
until it affects profits. This is the lesson of unequal values.
And when a country becomes socially unstable, rather than working
to restore the stability of the nation, multinationals simply
leave town and go somewhere else, as Asian nations learned in
the 1990s and Argentina learned in 2002.
This is not a new model, by the way. It's
how the East India Company treated India, the early American colonies,
and numerous smaller countries that it considered its property.
It reflects the mentality not of communities but of pirates, a
mentality that gives birth to phrases like "corporate raider".
In the United States and most other developed nations, most of
the distinctions between politicians are becoming increasingly
blurred, and in many nations all the local politicians have joined
the parties of the corporations. Those parties and politicians
that exist to represent the interests of human beings have been
marginalized or overwhelmed by the parties and politicians that
exist to represent the interests of the corporations. The reason
for this is simple-most of the world has followed our lead regarding
"free speech" campaign contributions.
After the end of apartheid in South Africa,
American corporations donated the services of corporate lawyers
to help draft the new South African constitution. Pointing to
the 1886 Santa Clara case, they essentially said that in America,
corporations have the same constitutional status as humans, so
you should write this into your constitution, too.
South Africa did that, as have many other
countries that have emerged or developed or separated from the
former Soviet Union.
... The result is that corporations have
functionally taken control of governments the world over, particularly
through their participation in the funding of the electoral process.
Thus, corporations have become the honey pot from which many politicians
and political parties draw their nourishment.
Alexis de Tocqueville
It would seem that, if despotism were
to be established amongst the democratic nations of our days,
it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive
and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them ....
"I am trying myself to choose an
expression which will accurately convey the whole of the idea
I have formed of it, but in vain; the old words despotism and
tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new; and since
I cannot name it, I must attempt to define it.
"The first thing that strikes the
observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and
alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry
pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living
apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest-his children
and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind;
as for the rest of his fellow-citizens, he is close to them, but
he sees them not;-he touches them, but he feels them not; he exists,
but in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still
remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his
... He continued, "Above this race
of men stands an immense and tutelary [care-taking] power, which
takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to
watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular,
provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent,
if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood;
but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood:
it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they
think of nothing but rejoicing ....
"Thus, it every day renders the exercise
of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes
them well within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of
all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared
men for these things: it has predisposed men to endure them, and
oftentimes to look on them as benefits.
"After having thus successively taken
each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned
him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole
community . . . . The will of man is not shattered, but softened,
bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they
are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy,
but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses,
enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation
is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious
George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984, said, "Freedom
of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to
criticize and oppose."
Richard Nixon said, "The media are far more powerful than
the President in creating public awareness and shaping public
opinion, for the simple reason that the media always have the
During the 1980s ... the media corporations successfully lobbied
that the national airwaves should no longer be the shared property
of the citizens. Instead, they said, the airwaves and channels
should be carved up by region and frequency; and sold off to the
highest bidders at frequency auctions. When we auctioned off this
part of the commons, it went into the hands of parties that already
enjoy many unequal advantages over humans.
This was followed in 1996 by the Telecommunications
Act, the product of prodigious lobbying on Capitol Hill and which,
according to media watchdog Ben Bagdikian, "swept away even
the minimal consumer and diversity protections of the 1934 act
that preceded it."
Auctioning off the airwaves had a secondary
effect that was perhaps more important than who owned them. When
we auctioned off the airwaves, the corporations who bought them
claim that we gave up the right to have a say Lin their use. The
free press became corporate-owned ...
... what is needed is a foundational change in the definition
of the relationship between living human beings and the nonliving
legal fictions we call corporations. Only when corporations are
again legally subordinate to those who authorized them-humans,
and the governments representing them-will true change be possible.
For humans to take back control of our governments by undoing
corporate personhood, we'll have to begin with the governments
that are the closest and most accessible to us. It's almost impossible
for you or me to go to Washington, D. C., and have a meeting with
our Senator or Representative-most of us usually can't even get
them on the phone unless we're a big contributor. But most of
us can meet with our city council members or show up at their
meetings. Lobbying within the local community is both easy and
effective. Local politicians are the closest to the people they
represent, and generally the most responsive to the people they
When enough local communities have passed
ordinances that directly challenge corporate personhood, state
legislatures will begin to notice. As with the issues of slavery,
women's suffrage, and Prohibition (among others), when local communities
take actions that are followed by states, eventually the federal
government will get on board.
ELIMINATING THE CORPORATE PERSONHOOD BARRIER
Once corporate personhood is eliminated
and corporations are again seen as they really are-the fictitious
legal creatures of the states that authorized and created them-all
this can change. The rightful representatives of humans - our
governments-can then pass laws like the ones that were once part
of this nation and its states, forbidding corporations from attempting
to influence the laws and regulatory agencies that oversee their
As stated in the Wisconsin law that stood
until it was finally noticed and struck down in 1953, "No
corporation doing business in this state, shall pay or contribute,
or offer, consent or agree to pay or contribute, directly or indirectly,
any money, property, free service of its officers or employees
or thing of value to any political party, organization, committee
or individual for any political purpose whatsoever, or for the
purpose of influencing legislation of any kind, or to promote
or defeat the candidacy of any person for nomination, appointment
or election to any political office."
MODEL ORDINANCES TO RESCIND CORPORATE PERSON HOOD
Attorneys Daniel Brannen and Thomas Linzey
drafted the following model ordinance for this book, and directions
for its use. It's customized to one particular township, so you
can see where and how to fill in the bolded text ordinance with
your local information.
In our correspondence, Brannen noted,
"You asked how a municipality can overrule the Supreme Court.
Municipalities are not going to be overruling the Supreme Court
with this ordinance. Rather, they are going to be giving the Supreme
Court an opportunity to correct a legally incorrect ruling (Santa
Clara). That's the way constitutional jurisprudence develops.
For a long time, the Supreme Court sanctioned the concept of separate
but equal facilities. Eventually the Supreme Court overruled this
concept, but it took local action to get a case before the Court
to give it a chance to correct itself."
An ordinance by the Supervisors of Haines
Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania eliminating constitutional
privileges from corporations doing business within the Township
Section 1. Name. The name of this Ordinance
shall be the "Corporate
Privilege Elimination and Democracy Protection
Section 2. Authority. This Ordinance is
adopted and enacted pursuant to the authority granted to the Township
by all relevant state and federal laws, including, but not limited
to, the following:
The general authority granted by the Constitution
of Pennsylvania and the Second Class Township Code to make and
adopt all such ordinances, bylaws, rules, and regulations as may
be deemed expedient or necessary for the proper management, care,
and control of the Township and its finances and the maintenance
of the health, safety, peace, good government, and welfare of
The Constitution of Pennsylvania, Art.
1, § 2, which provides that all power is inherent in the
people, and that all free governments are founded on their authority
and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness.
The Constitution of Pennsylvania, Art.
9, § 2, which provides that a municipality that has a home
rule charter may exercise any power or perform any function not
denied by the Constitution, charter, or General Assembly.
The Pennsylvania Statutes, Tit. 53, Municipal
and QuasiMunicipal Corporations, § 66506, which empowers
the board of supervisors of second class townships to make and
adopt any ordinances, bylaws, rules, and regulations necessary
for the proper management, care, and control of the township and
its finances and the maintenance of peace, good government, health,
and welfare of the township and its citizens.
Section 3. General Purpose. The general
purpose of this Ordinance is to recognize that:
(1) A corporation is a legal fiction that
is created by the express permission of the people of this Township
as citizens of this Commonwealth;
(2) Interpretation of the U. S. Constitution
by Supreme Court justices to include corporations in the term
"persons" has long wrought havoc with our democratic
process by endowing corporations with constitutional privileges
originally intended solely to protect the citizens of the United
(3) This judicial bestowal of civil and
political rights upon corporations interferes with the administration
of laws within this Township and usurps basic human and constitutional
rights exercised by citizens of this Township;
(4) The judicial designation of corporations
as "persons" grants corporations the power to sue municipal
governments for adopting laws that violate the claimed constitutional
rights of corporations;
(5) The judicial designation of corporations
as "persons" requires that municipal governments recognize
the corporation as a legitimate participant in public hearings,
zoning hearing board appeals, and other governmental matters before
(6) The judicial designation of corporations
as "persons" grants corporations unfettered access to
local elections and First Amendment rights that enable corporations
to control public debate on and discussion about important issues;
(7) By virtue of the wealth possessed
by corporations, buttressed by these protections of law, corporations
enjoy constitutional privileges to an extent beyond the reach
of most citizens;
(8) When the Pennsylvania legislature
knowingly authorizes corporations to do business in this Commonwealth
under the current framework of legal protections, the legislature
enables corporations to wield their constitutional privileges
to interfere with democratic governance within this Township;
(9) Democracy means government by the
people. Only citizens of this Township should be able to participate
in the democratic process in the Township and enjoy a republican
form of government;
(10) Interference by corporations in the
democratic process usurps the rights of citizens to participate
in the democratic process in the Township and enjoy a republican
form of government;
(11) The ability of citizens of this Township
to establish rules to protect the health, safety, and welfare
of Township residents has been diminished by the exercise of constitutional
privileges by corporations.
Section 4. Specific Purpose. The specific
purpose of this Ordinance is to eliminate the purported constitutional
rights of corporations in order to remedy the harms that corporations
cause to the citizens of the Township by exercise of such rights.
Section 5. Statement of Law. Corporations
shall not be considered to be "persons" protected by
the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania within the Township of Haines.
Section 6. Severability. The provisions
of this Ordinance are severable. If any section, clause, sentence,
part, or provision of the Ordinance shall be held illegal, invalid,
or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, such
decision of the court shall not affect, impair, or invalidate
any of the remaining sections, clauses, sentences, parts, or provisions
of this Ordinance. It is hereby declared to be the intent of the
Supervisors that this Ordinance would have been adopted if such
illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional section, clause, sentence,
part, or provision had not been included herein.
Section 7. Effective Date. This Ordinance
shall be effective immediately upon passage or as soon thereafter
as permitted by law.