Category Archives: C

Giant Psychopathic Corporations with the Same Rights as You?

The legal status of corporations is in an interesting ferment. With recent corporate legal challenges to the Patient Protection Act’s requirement that health insurance cover birth control, the idea of corporate personhood is back in the news. For example, the owners of Hobby Lobby claim that the company has a religion.

Although its website has a Ministry Projects page, the corporation is a structure–a metaphorical building. Even though corporations can be established for religious purposes, their legal and physical structures do not themselves hold opinions, religious or otherwise. It’s the people that occupy that do, and their right to religious expression does deserve legal protection.

Like these corporate lawsuits, Mitt Romney’s famous statement that corporations are people blurs the distinction between corporations and human beings. (I do not believe that, as some have claimed, he meant that corporations ARE human beings, just that people inhabit corporations and benefit from them.)

Part 1 of 4 mindmaps of ideas in the documentary The Corporation. See them all at https://secure.flickr.com/photos/deathtogutenberg/2339726414/in/photostream/ Photo Credit: Austin Kleon via Compfight cc
Part of a mindmap of ideas in the documentary The Corporation. See them al at https://secure.flickr.com/photos/deathtogutenberg/2339726414/in/photostream/ by scrolling left.
Photo Credit: Austin Kleon via Compfight cc

This blurring is dangerous because, as the 2004 documentary The Corporation has argued, if corporations were people, many would be psychopaths. Giant psychopathic corporations with all the rights of citizens are the last thing we need!

Another important development is the dawn of benefit corporations (aka public benefit corporations). In states that have created this category of corporation, the corporation has a fiduciary commitment not only to its own bottom line but also to the community and the environment. Supporters of benefit corporations may call these the triple bottom line: profit, people, and planet.

When extreme conservatives talk of corporate rights and corporate personhood, I think Framologists should respond with corporate responsibility and the triple bottom line. When extremists say that corporations are persons before the law, we can point out that, although they do have the rights to advertise their products, enter contracts, own property, and sue, they are not and should be citizens. Citizenship is for Americans. Corporations created by American states have responsibilities to those states and to the people and natural world that make their business possible.

But what do you think?

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Is Scrooge a Hero?

Although Scrooge spoils Christmas by refusing to help those less fortunate and by paying his worker poverty wages, he has a change a heart.
Although Scrooge spoils Christmas by refusing to help those less fortunate and by paying his worker poverty wages, he has a change a heart.

In American pop culture, we call someone that dislikes Christmas or spoils the holiday Scrooge. But the protagonist of the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge, spoils  Christmas with more than his sour mood: he refuses to contribute to charity and pays his employee poverty wages, limiting his ability to care for his sick son and to celebrate Christmas.

The main way Scrooge has harmed society is by refusing to share his wealth.

Today, by trying to undermine or take away social insurance, public education, civil liberties, access to health insurance, access to meaningful participation in elections, public transportation, raises to the minimum wage, and long-term unemployment insurance, the radical conservative movement is behaving far worse than Scrooge. Rather than merely withholding their aid to vulnerable Americans, radical conservatives are trying to take rights and public goods away from us. This is wrong and spoils America, not just Christmas.

Because we don’t have time to wait for ghosts to do it for us, progressives should consider comparing the radical conservatives to Scrooge because it’s a story everyone knows. Progressives should point out that the radical conservatives are acting worse than Scrooge and that by the end, Scrooge does begin doing justice by sharing his wealth and giving his employee a raise. Will radical conservatives remain worse than Scrooge the villain, or will they rediscover America’s tradition of public-spiritedness and follow the example of Scrooge the hero?

Framing Climate Change

As with global warming, the phrase climate change fails to convey the urgency of the situation. Although it might be appropriate in scientific descriptions of climate, when used in politics, it sounds as if there’s nothing to be done except prepare for it. That false and morally wrong because we can respond more effectively to the climate crisis, and failing to do so would be irresponsible.

As discussed in the global warming post, two possible alternatives are to frame the issue as the climate crisis and the planet having a fever that we must treat.

What do you think? Is climate change a good phrase for progressives that want to protect ourselves and future generations? Or should we use a different one?