Friday, September 24, 2010

Corporations, Democracy and Popular Sovereignty

Corporations, Democracy and Popular Sovereignty

Our Constitution is founded in twin ideals of liberty and democracy.  Good government is essential to human freedom, but incompetent or overreaching government is a threat to it.  We need government to restrain private power, to organize people for the common good, and to create the conditions for security, economic prosperity, health, happiness and human flourishing.  At the same time, we must constantly beware lest the government of the people turn from our servant to our master.
Americans have long believed that we need two basic controls on our government:
  • First, limitations on government designed to preserve liberty -- certain areas of private life should be beyond collective control, so that individual human beings have a space in which to live and exercise their own individuality based solely on their own consciences.  We, therefore, guarantee each American freedom of speech and religion and basic rights to privacy in our own homes, in order to preserve a space for the individual free from collective pressure. 
  • And second, democracy.  The basic purpose of government is, in the language of our Constitution, to "promote the General Welfare."  The government must remain answerable to the people, first because only the people can, in the end, determine what is their general welfare, and second, in order to preserve government from being taken-over by powerful groups or individuals or -- today -- corporations that seek to use it to promote their own private interests and increase the power of the already powerful.   
Today, much of our collective governance is outside the formal state.  Our largest, richest and most powerful bureaucracies are far less likely to be city school boards or state departments of motor vehicles than business corporations, funded by the profits on sales of necessities or ordinary consumer goods all over the world, governed by self-perpetuating bureaucracies answerable only to the institutional investors of the financial markets or the not-always benevolent anonymous forces of the market itself, and subject to neither the restraints of limited government nor democratic control.
As America becomes increasingly unequal, the threat of concentrated wealth to our system becomes increasingly dire.  Neither democracy nor capitalism can survive if law is for sale -- the rich will simply use their money to buy elections, or, cheaper still, threaten to buy negative campaign ads, in order to assure that politicians think first and foremost about preserving the wealth and power of the already wealthy and powerful.  Capitalism thrives on innovation and competition, but innovation and competition always threaten the currently dominant companies and their owners.  Successful capitalism requires a large and well-paid middle class to buy its products and services -- but the quickest way for the upper class to get richer still is to increase the share of profits at the expense of middle class wages and salaries.  Capitalism requires an extensive and powerful set of regulators and regulations to assure that the powerful do not use their power to avoid the rules of the game -- but if the rich can buy legislation, they will simply change the rules to benefit themselves.
No capitalist economy has long survived the combination of corrupt politics and sharply unequal wealth.  We must act now to regain control of our country and economy before we decline into a slough of corruption, in which great wealth is made not by innovation but simply by pressing the middle class.
The techniques are clear -- well known since almost the beginning of the capitalist era.  We need democracy -- to keep the government under the control of the middle class so that wealth comes from serving the needs of the middle class and not simply using the government to redistribute it upwards.
The following proposals are directed at reversing the Supreme Court's catastrophic holding that corporations -- human institutions that like the government agencies they so closely resemble are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed -- are, instead, entitled to be treated as citizens, as if we were their servants and not the other way around.  Only by securing the independence of the government from the corporations can our corporate-based market system survive.
Moreover, they seek to extend the lessons we have learned about democracy itself to the corporate sector.  Just as, by long and bitter experience, we have learned that government should never be viewed as the private property of those entrusted with running it, so too our other large, bureaucratic, publicly financed governance organizations.  Multi-national corporations are no more private than the King's Exchequer was in the bad old days.  It is time we applied the basic lessons of Eighteenth Century liberal republicanism to the institutions of the Twenty-first Century.
  • Constitutional Amendment: Corporate Rights and Obligations

  • An amendment to the Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court's lawless misreading of the Constitution to secretly create Constitutional rights preventing us from controlling the behavior of our economic organizations, including the Santa Clara and Citizens United cases. The Amendment seeks to establish clearly that business corporations, like municipal corporations and other governmental agencies, are creations of the people, not their masters.
    • I. This Constitution grants no rights against the People or their governments to any legal person that is not a human being.
    • II. Corporations shall be fully subject to the police power and regulation by the states and Federal government.
    • III. Corporations shall be deemed state actors for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.
    • IV. Corporations shall not be deemed citizens of the United States or any state under this Constitution, or persons entitled to protection under the Constitution, regardless of the citizenship or rights of the human beings affiliated with them.
    • V. For purposes of this provision, "corporations" shall include similar entities defined or created by law or by permission of the law, that have privileges of entity liability, legal personality or a legal existence separate from some or all of the human beings associated with them, including but not limited to trusts, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies.

1 comment:

  1. There is no foundation for democracy. However that is not as bleak as it may sound, you will have to refigure...