Could 'Move to Amend' Destroy Corporate Independence?

The New York Times is annoyed that FedEx paid no income taxes in 2018.  Leftists have always despised corporations:  Greedy, evil enterprises that exploit their workers, swindle their customers, pollute the environment, abuse their power, and much worse, all in the pursuit of unjust, obscene profits.

But put aside for a moment the distortions in the Times article, and the fact that the Times itself paid no income taxes in 2017.  The writers omit an important and critically relevant dimension of the story:  A longstanding progressive movement to strip corporations completely of all rights.

"Move to Amend" is a proposed constitutional amendment that would do just that.  Ultimately it would enable material government control of every U.S. corporation -- and establish the basis for constitutionally-protected socialism in this country.

The relevant provisions of the proposed amendment, documented at movetoamend.org, are these:

[Section 1]  [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]  Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

[Section 2]  [Money is Not Free Speech] Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions... to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure… The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

The movement stems from the left’s outrage over the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, in which the Court struck down key portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  This decision was extremely unpopular with the left because it permitted new freedom for corporate election influence.  Barack Obama famously insulted the members of the Supreme Court as they sat before him during his 2010 State of the Union address over the decision.

The stated rationale for "Move to Amend" is that "corporations wield ever-increasing control" over a number of areas of human conduct.  But while analogous claims can be made for government, the left never seems to notice, or mind, the egregious abuses of power that arise in government.  Never mind that a consumer's relationship with a corporation is optional, while the citizen-government relationship is necessarily one of compulsion.  Unlike corporations, whose "power" ultimately is feeble and fleeting in the face of constant competition and consumer choice, only government can define crime and compel citizen behavior.  A corporation cannot put you in jail if you fail to buy its product.  A government can.  And governance throughout history exhibits a recurrent, inexorable tendency toward totalitarianism. 

On the politics of the matter, the Citizens United decision enabled groups nominally on the right to raise money and have election influence merely equal to that of labor unions habitually aligned with the left -- a former advantage reversed, constituting a major setback for the left.  An examination of the proposed amendment, however, shows that it does much to advance the cause of pure socialism in the U.S.

The amendment would eliminate a long-standing legal principle known as "corporate personhood" that gives corporations many of the same rights that individuals have under the Constitution.

At its simplest, "Move to Amend" puts leftist hypocrisy on stark display.  There is apparently no inconsistency in progressive thinking that a corporation should pay taxes, but have no voice in the matter, no opportunity for representation, and no rights.  If we have a constitutional amendment that extinguishes "corporate personhood," then intellectual honesty and a sense of justice and fairness demand the simultaneous elimination of all corporate taxes, at a minimum.  "No taxation without representation" is a fair claim even for "artificial entities."

But the reality here is considerably worse.  Thoughtful citizens ought to be alarmed by the sweeping nature of the proposed amendment -- "[Corporations] shall have no rights under this Constitution."  Equal protection of the law?  Due process?  Integrity of contracts?  Property rights?  Shareholder rights?  Sorry, no guarantees.

If the Times exhibits no cognitive dissonance on this point, maybe it is because of the last provision of the proposed amendment:

[Section 3]  Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to abridge freedom of the press.

Perhaps the tax-avoiding Times corporation believes it will escape the destruction.

Ultimately, the amendment raises the very question of "control of the means of production" -- a defining point of socialism.  "No rights" means no enforceable barrier to eventual de facto government control of the private sector.  "No rights" means that free-market capitalism continues to exist only at the whim of politicians and bureaucrats.

Perhaps it will not come to that.  But why should we suppose otherwise?  We see that the Times prefers to have it both ways.  The left is not known for intellectual honesty.

The New York Times is annoyed that FedEx paid no income taxes in 2018.  Leftists have always despised corporations:  Greedy, evil enterprises that exploit their workers, swindle their customers, pollute the environment, abuse their power, and much worse, all in the pursuit of unjust, obscene profits.

But put aside for a moment the distortions in the Times article, and the fact that the Times itself paid no income taxes in 2017.  The writers omit an important and critically relevant dimension of the story:  A longstanding progressive movement to strip corporations completely of all rights.

"Move to Amend" is a proposed constitutional amendment that would do just that.  Ultimately it would enable material government control of every U.S. corporation -- and establish the basis for constitutionally-protected socialism in this country.

The relevant provisions of the proposed amendment, documented at movetoamend.org, are these:

[Section 1]  [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]  Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

[Section 2]  [Money is Not Free Speech] Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions... to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure… The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

The movement stems from the left’s outrage over the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, in which the Court struck down key portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  This decision was extremely unpopular with the left because it permitted new freedom for corporate election influence.  Barack Obama famously insulted the members of the Supreme Court as they sat before him during his 2010 State of the Union address over the decision.

The stated rationale for "Move to Amend" is that "corporations wield ever-increasing control" over a number of areas of human conduct.  But while analogous claims can be made for government, the left never seems to notice, or mind, the egregious abuses of power that arise in government.  Never mind that a consumer's relationship with a corporation is optional, while the citizen-government relationship is necessarily one of compulsion.  Unlike corporations, whose "power" ultimately is feeble and fleeting in the face of constant competition and consumer choice, only government can define crime and compel citizen behavior.  A corporation cannot put you in jail if you fail to buy its product.  A government can.  And governance throughout history exhibits a recurrent, inexorable tendency toward totalitarianism. 

On the politics of the matter, the Citizens United decision enabled groups nominally on the right to raise money and have election influence merely equal to that of labor unions habitually aligned with the left -- a former advantage reversed, constituting a major setback for the left.  An examination of the proposed amendment, however, shows that it does much to advance the cause of pure socialism in the U.S.

The amendment would eliminate a long-standing legal principle known as "corporate personhood" that gives corporations many of the same rights that individuals have under the Constitution.

At its simplest, "Move to Amend" puts leftist hypocrisy on stark display.  There is apparently no inconsistency in progressive thinking that a corporation should pay taxes, but have no voice in the matter, no opportunity for representation, and no rights.  If we have a constitutional amendment that extinguishes "corporate personhood," then intellectual honesty and a sense of justice and fairness demand the simultaneous elimination of all corporate taxes, at a minimum.  "No taxation without representation" is a fair claim even for "artificial entities."

But the reality here is considerably worse.  Thoughtful citizens ought to be alarmed by the sweeping nature of the proposed amendment -- "[Corporations] shall have no rights under this Constitution."  Equal protection of the law?  Due process?  Integrity of contracts?  Property rights?  Shareholder rights?  Sorry, no guarantees.

If the Times exhibits no cognitive dissonance on this point, maybe it is because of the last provision of the proposed amendment:

[Section 3]  Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to abridge freedom of the press.

Perhaps the tax-avoiding Times corporation believes it will escape the destruction.

Ultimately, the amendment raises the very question of "control of the means of production" -- a defining point of socialism.  "No rights" means no enforceable barrier to eventual de facto government control of the private sector.  "No rights" means that free-market capitalism continues to exist only at the whim of politicians and bureaucrats.

Perhaps it will not come to that.  But why should we suppose otherwise?  We see that the Times prefers to have it both ways.  The left is not known for intellectual honesty.