There is a lot of absurd hubbub about the recent Supreme Court ruling (Citizen’s United) that says that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to speech. It’s obvious where the hubbub is coming from—those who want unions to get preferred treatment over other corporations.
To understand why corporations need unlimited speech (at least as much as individuals do), I want to tell a story. Let’s suppose that I, you, and a whole lot of other people get sick of political corruption. We decide we want to not only spend a lot of our own money to discover corruption wherever it is, but spend twice as much money as the candidates to expose the corruption when they run for office.
This certainly sounds reasonable! After all, if John Q. Citizen wants to spend all his free time following up on what the politicians are doing, he should be allowed to do so. If John Q. Citizen wants to buy a huge billboard spelling out why Politician X is corrupt and doesn’t deserve to be elected, he should be allowed to do so. Without this, we cannot function as a democratic republic.
What? You think we should be allowed to tell someone when they have said enough? You want to create a system where those routing out corruption are not allowed to outspend and out-speak the guilty and corrupt? Yes, the same rights and privileges afforded to those with noble intentions is awarded to those with ignoble intentions, but who, ultimately, can judge between the noble and ignoble? That’s what elections are all about.
If you agree that any individual should have unlimited speech, then let’s talk about what corporations really are. Let’s say John Q. Citizen is doing a really good job routing out corruption, but he could do more if he had a team of people working for him. This requires capital, of course, and he comes up with the ingenious idea of asking for money. He promises that 100% of the money you give him will go to pay those who are routing out corruption and run election ads against those who are corrupt.
Should the very fact that John Q. Citizen is cooperating with others disqualify his speech, or the speech of the group? Does it matter whether they appoint someone to be their CEO, someone to be their spokesman, someone to run the books, some people to be on the board, and so on and so forth?
The shallow arguments against corporate personhood sound reasonable on their face. But what they truly represent is an argument against individual liberty. That’s why communists and leftists love to use this shallow argument—they are fundamentally opposed to individual liberty.