Unequal Consequences,

Restoring Democracy as the Founders Imagined It

excerpted from the book

Unequal Protection

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 many years:


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."

Buckminster Fuller
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.


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 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 that basis.


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 synagogues.

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.

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."


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 billion

* 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 in history.


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 hospital malpractice."

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 contamination.

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 the deaths.

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 been prevented.

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.


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 was 17.

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.


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."


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 aristocracy.

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 of books.

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...


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]."


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 the 1920s.

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.


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 powerful."

Are we approaching that time Hamilton mentioned?

* 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.


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 with stability.

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" 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 animals.. ."

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 last word."

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 represent.

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.


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 activities.

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."



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 Ordinance."

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 Township.

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 States;

(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 the municipality;

(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.

Unequal Protection

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