26 January 2010

One more sinuous turn before Twelfth Night

(You will forgive me, as I am very much out of my element here. )

I am fascinated, nay, preoccupied with the Supreme Court's recent 
decision to block bans by the government on corporate spending limits during elections.  I am not going to write about whether or not I think that the lifting of this ban will result in the desolation and utter destruction of the American political system.  I say nothing because I am not exactly sure what will happen as a result of this decision.  

I have had neither the time nor fortitude to read the ruling nor the dissenting opinions for this case.   As a matter of consequence, I regret not doing a degree in Political Science and not taking Constitutional Law with Dr. HD or Dr. U because a decent background in the First Amendment would be non-trivial here.

The First Amendment reads as follows:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Naively, I suppose I always thought that the clause limited to 'abridging the freedom of speech' was left to the domus or oikos of the individual.  I never really thought about a corporate entity being granted the same (or similar?) rights surrounding speech.

To me, at least, a corporation is a multitude of voices and opinions, with a variety of shareholders who may not always support or accept the mission statement or goals of that corporation.  The only similarity that a corporation seems to have to an individual is the Latin root of the word, (corpus, corporis trans body).   I suppose that we could think of a corporation as a unified single body--like a body politic, but absent the  King or Queen's body,  I find it confusing.  I suppose some free market economist will think that I am silly for wondering if corporations believe in unified speech.

So when a corporation speaks, can that speech be wholly  different from the majority or minority shareholders and the employees of that company? What about spokesmen or spokeswomen hired to speak on behalf of a company in other venues? Once any given speech is made are unwilling participants folded into the body whose head decides to say something? Again, what if the head says something with which the arms and legs are profoundly uncomfortable? And is it always in a corporation's best interest to invoke freedom of speech by making commercials or ads in support of a particular candidate?

I have no intentions of trying to do anything  but attempt figure out what it is that I think about this ruling.  I don't know if most people even care about this ruling or its ramifications, but it seems to me that if a nonagenarian and longest serving judge in the highest court in this land wrote nearly 100 pages expressing his dissent and dissappointment over the ruling, I ought to take notice and do some thinking about it. 


Jenni said...

No corporation I have ever worked for asked me what I thought about anything important, nor would they have given a rats ass if I were to disagree with any of their "important" decisions.

In addition to that, if you were to take into consideration the time I worked for The Big JP Morgs and had to assign me a representative part of the corporate "body" I would assume I would have ranked somewhere around the armpit area.

With that being said, since all parts are not created equal in the corporate body, there should be enough evidence supporting the fact that the corporation as a body is in fact NOT one.

Does that answer your question?


ma said...

Yes! It does answer my question. I forgot about your former life in moneyworld. :)

So I guess you're not a fan of the ruling. ;)