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Waitsfield, VT 05673

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Where liberals and conservatives can agree - Corporations are not people - Neither are robots

People are ensured inalienable or “God given” rights such as freedom of speech, freedom from unwarranted search and the right to bear arms in our society because those rights are established in the Constitution of the United States.

Corporations existed back when the Constitution was written, yet the word corporation is not mentioned even once in the document. Robots aren’t mentioned either. Can there be any way to interpret the founders’ intent as being supportive of the idea that corporations (or robots) have inalienable human rights?

You don’t have to be a Constitutional scholar to see that the answer is clearly no. It doesn’t matter if you are conservative or liberal; this is just common sense folks. This is an issue where Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders agree, and one that should unite all Vermonters.

Abolishing corporate personhood is really about restoring Constitutional rule of law, where “we the people” are in control of our state, local and federal government. Today it’s pretty obvious that corporations and special interest groups have undue influence of our government institutions, especially at the federal level. This is a fundamental cause of all the corruption and bureaucratic bungling (oppressive regulation) we see in our government on a daily basis.

Corporate personhood means, among other things, that under the 14th amendment all “persons” (including corporations) must have “equal protection” under the law. This means that no federal/state or local laws can make special provisions or regulations for or against a certain corporation or category of corporation.

Many people think this is all about campaign finance because the issue got so much attention around the 2010 Citizens United (CU) Supreme Court decision. But corporate personhood is actually much bigger than that, and while CU re-affirmed that corporations are persons under the law, the case was about defining the limits of corporate speech, not corporate personhood.

Should a corporation, union or nonprofit have a right to unlimited free speech? Maybe, if that purpose (communication, political or otherwise) is specified in their charter. (Again, the corporate charter defines the rights/privileges/responsibilities of the corporation, by law, and state legislators determine what can be included in every corporate charter.)

What about the right to bear arms? (Can a paper-entity actually carry a rifle? That would be quite a feat of origami.)

What if a town decides they want to ban big box stores or pornography stores? Today these kind of local laws would be struck down as “unconstitutional” because of the 14th amendment and corporate personhood. Our hands are tied to govern ourselves because of corporate personhood.

The rights, privileges and responsibilities of a corporation, including limited liability for the shareholders for any crimes committed by the corporation, have always been specified by an act of a state legislature through the charter document of that corporation. Corporations, associations and unions would still have all of these rights and privileges even if they didn’t have constitutional human rights.

If you’re conservative, you should be appalled that our Constitution has been perverted by the activist judges who over the years have decided that corporations and unions should have the same “God given” rights as humans. God has never created a corporation or a union; only an act of a state legislature can create a corporation. (You don’t really think that our state governments are agents of God, do you?)

If you hate the fact that small local businesses have to jump through the same Act 250 hoops as a multi-national mega-corporation does, you should be against corporate personhood. Corporate personhood forces local and state laws to treat all corporations equally, even though we all know there’s a big difference between a locally owned small business and a foreign-owned mega-corp. That forces the small local companies to deal with regulations intended for mega-corps.

If you think it’s a good idea to for government to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” you should be against corporate personhood. Seeing corporations as people utterly perverts the entire idea of Democratic-Republican principles where PEOPLE govern THEMSELVES through elected representatives. If corporations are people, maybe the Walt Disney should run for president.

If you think elected legislators should make our laws instead of unaccountable activist judges, you should be against corporate personhood.

So how do we restore “we the people” and constitutional rule of law? At this point, abolishing corporate personhood can only be done by a constitutional amendment, which requires that three-quarters of the states pass the resolution after both houses of Congress pass it. The Constitution has been amended many times, and corporate personhood is as important of an issue as any of the previously passed amendments. If we could outlaw and then legalize alcohol through constitutional amendments, we can abolish corporate personhood.

All four of the towns in the Mad River Valley and approximately 40 other towns will vote on Town Meeting Day resolutions asking the state and federal government to make this amendment. This is where the process starts, and Vermont is poised to lead the nation on this issue.

Brown lives in Fayston.





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