Apologies to my international friends for digressing into a purely American issue. I think it does have worldwide impact, all the same.
In Vermont, state senator Virginia Lyons earlier today presented an anti-corporate personhood resolution for passage in the Vermont legislature. The resolution, the first of its kind, proposes “an amendment to the United States Constitution … which provides that corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States.” Sources in the state house say it has a good chance of passing. This same body of lawmakers, after all, once voted to impeach George W. Bush, and is known for its anti-corporate legislation. Last year the Vermont senate became the first state legislature to weigh in on the future of a nuclear power plant, voting to shut down a poison-leeching plant run by Entergy Inc. Lyons’ Senate voted 26-4 to do it, demonstrating the level of political will of the state’s politicians to stand up to corporate power.
The language in the Lyons resolution is unabashed. “The profits and institutional survival of large corporations are often in direct conflict with the essential needs and rights of human beings,” it states, noting that corporations “have used their so-called rights to successfully seek the judicial reversal of democratically enacted laws.”
Thus the unfolding of the obvious: “democratically elected governments” are rendered “ineffective in protecting their citizens against corporate harm to the environment, health, workers, independent business, and local and regional economies.” The resolution goes on to note that “large corporations own most of America’s mass media and employ those media to loudly express the corporate political agenda and to convince Americans that the primary role of human beings is that of consumer rather than sovereign citizens with democratic rights and responsibilities.”
Denouncing this situation as an “intolerable societal reality,” the document concludes that the “only way” toward a solution is the amendment of the Constitution “to define persons as human beings.”
I have long argued that the bizarre logic which says that “speech”= advertising and “free”= bought with money (such that speech is only free if you can pay for it) distorts and corrupts the meaning of the First Amendment beyond recognition. That line of thinking, combined with the implicit recognition of the government-chartered, legal-fiction entities known as corporations as “persons,” lies at the root of the egregious, narrowly split (5-4) decision by the Supreme Court to overturn restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations, even while limitations and strict reporting requirements on political campaign contributions by individuals remain in place. I sense a bit of pride that the state I grew up in is on track to be the first to address this head on.
It is just as immoral for a non-human, fictional entity which has no soul to be given all the privileges afforded to actual human beings, as it once was for some living, breathing human beings to be counted — according to the US Constitution — as three-fifths of a person, or for half the population to be denied participation in our political process. Both of these injustices, formerly built into the American system, were addressed and corrected with Constitutional amendments. This one can be, as well. That’s how “we the people” can continue to “form a more perfect union.”