The Lie That Corporations Have “Rights” by Jeff Nielson, Sprott Money
People have rights – at least we used to have them, until the mythological “War on Terror” was rammed down our throats as a pretext for stripping us of many rights. Corporations cannot have rights, which should be evident to all citizens in our pseudo-democracies.
However, thanks to the endemic brainwashing of the corporate media, this important distinction of law/logic is no longer obvious to many. Indeed, in the United States, corporations have been elevated to a legal status at least equal to that of its citizens – if not above the status of the people.
At this year's SALT New York conference, Jean Hynes, the CEO of Wellington Management, took to the stage to discuss the role of active management in today's investment environment. Hynes succeeded Brendan Swords as the CEO of Wellington at the end of June after nearly 30 years at the firm. Wellington is one of the Read More
Precipitating this discussion, we offer a particularly odious piece of propaganda from the mainstream media, where a purported law professor attempts to advance the specious argument that corporations (in the United States) have “free speech rights.”
The scope of the First Amendment [free speech] lies at the heart of my thought experiment. We live in an era when criticisms of corporate speech can become overwrought. Many activists deny that corporations have any free speech rights at all.
Not even the four dissenters [judges] in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission took that position. They conceded that corporations possess First Amendment rights . They simply argued that the government, with sufficiently strong reason, can limit some avenues for the expression of those rights as long as it leaves other avenues open.
This is wrong, in every respect. It is “bad law” in every respect. It reflects a refusal of the corrupt U.S. judiciary system to acknowledge the limits of our governments’ authority. It is nothing less than a complete betrayal of the oath these judges take to uphold the law.
Here, the perversion of reality descends to the level of cultural insanity. In the United States, a corporation is “a person.” This is an outrageous distortion of law and reality, particularly once we place this legal perversion into its proper context. In the United States, a fetus is not “a person.”
Irrespective of one’s views on the highly emotionally-charged subject of abortion, one fact is clear. If a human fetus is not legally deemed to be “a person,” then obviously an inanimate corporation could never be deemed as such. As a matter of basic biology and elementary logic, the claim of a fetus to the status of “a person” must be above any claims by mere corporations.
Because of our brainwashing, this point still may not be obvious to some readers, thus a further definition of terms is necessary. We will begin with defining the word “right.” Since our context for examining rights is a legal one, our definition must be legally rather than linguistically oriented.
This is an important point, as the word “right” is used both very loosely and colloquially in our societies. Dictionary definitions are of little help here. Consult a half dozen different dictionaries, and one will see the word “right” defined in six different ways.
To define the word in a legal context requires first answering a preliminary question: from where do our rights originate? Primarily, our rights are derived from the Constitutions of our nations. To a lesser extent, they are also derived from the United Nation’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” However, as this document has (at best) only quasi-official status within our various nations, our rights are primarily derived from the former source.
Our Constitutions exist above the level of our governments. We know this to be true, because we require that any amendments to our Constitution only be enacted via some sort of Super Majority. This is to demonstrate to the people that the proposed change(s) reflects the will of the people, and it is only under such circumstances that we allow our governments to modify our Constitution.
Our rights come from our Constitutions, and our Constitutions have a legal status above that of our governments. Thus our rights exist, legally, above the level of our governments. Why is this point of such great importance? Because it sheds light on the true definition of “a right.”
Because our rights exist above the legal level of our governments, our governments do not (and cannot) bestow rights. Rather, our human rights are intrinsic and inalienable. This conclusion simply mirrors the language of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration:
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
As a proposition of both law and logic, this makes much of our anti-terrorism laws legally null and void, since they seek to infringe upon, if not eliminate, rights which exist above the authority of our governments.
Governments cannot grant rights. Equally, they cannot take them away, except via Constitutional amendment. Here it is very important that we distinguish the word “right” from a somewhat similar word/concept: “privilege.”
Privileges resemble rights except for one crucial distinction of law/logic. Privileges are revocable. Our governments do have the legal authority to grant privileges, and thus to revoke privileges – something for which they lack the legal authority with respect to rights.
This brings us to another extremely important definition: “corporation.” A corporation is an inanimate, paper entity. More specifically, it is a front for wealth. These paper shells have been created in order to facilitate the deployment of wealth, and thus facilitate commerce. Of equal importance, corporations are a creation of government.
Why are these basic traits of corporations of such great legal relevance to this discussion?
1) Corporations have a legal status created by our governments, and thus a legal status equal to our governments, but well below the status of our human rights.
2) In our world of mega-corporations, corporations have become primarily the paper fronts for the ultra-wealthy.
Dealing with the second point first, it should become immediately apparent why – as an issue of justice and equity – a corporation could never have rights. As individuals, the ultra-wealthy already have rights equal to and commensurate with the rights of all other citizens. This is all they could ever be entitled to. If we grant rights to the mega-corporations owned by the ultra-wealthy, we are granting this one class of individuals a second set of rights – in addition to their intrinsic, human rights.
This is obviously unjust and inequitable. When we then examine the first point (above), we see how supposedly granting rights to corporations is clearly illegal.
We have already established that our legal rights exist above the level of our governments. They cannot create or bestow rights, nor can they take them away. Obviously if they cannot bestow rights to the people, they cannot bestow rights upon inanimate corporations – entities with a legal status equal to that of our governments. They lack the authority.
Similarly, if a government cannot legally bestow rights upon corporations, they cannot elevate corporations to a status equal to that of the people, i.e. by defining a corporation as “a person.” This is simply an indirect means of doing what we have already established is illegal. If we allow our governments to define any entity it chooses as “a person,” we would be giving these governments the back-door power to bestow rights, something which is unequivocally beyond their legal authority.
One does not have to be a judge, or even a law professor in order to understand these elementary points of law, logic, and justice. How could someone who (supposedly) possesses the legal expertise of a law professor have constructed the fallacious and ludicrous argument that “corporations have rights”?
He did so by deliberately refusing to define the terms he was using. It is much easier to lie to people, and to pretend that corporations have rights if you scrupulously avoid any precise definition of what a “right” actually is.
A definition of terms is the foundation of all valid analysis. Refusing to define the terms that one uses in constructing their arguments is the methodology of the propagandist. Most lies and propaganda are couched in semantics, and engaging in semantic deception is impossible if one first precisely (and correctly) defines their terminology.
People have rights. People have a legal status well above that of mere corporations. Corporations can never have rights. Corporations exist at a legal level equal to that of our own governments (another form of paper entity), and well below the level of a person.
A corporation can, at best, have privileges bestowed upon it – privileges which can be taken away by any legislative act. Perhaps the greatest outrage and tragedy of this issue is that it even requires an explanation.
At one time, the citizens of our nations understood that the government serves the people, not the other way around. At one time, the citizens of our nations understood that their own legal status (and the status of their rights) exists above the authority level of our governments.
Instead, we are now mere serfs in the most illegitimate of hierarchies. Corrupt governments regularly pass pseudo-laws, which grossly exceed the level of their legal authority, and are thus null and void. Corrupt judiciaries have abdicated their own legal duty, and now simply rubber-stamp an endless stream of these null-and-void laws.
The people of our nations need to know their rights. But first, they have to understand them.
Rights of Corporations