Today's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, led by corporate enthusiast and Bush appointee Chief Justice John Roberts has fully removed the previous restrictions on corporate speech in political contexts. Arguing that corporate personhood is a legitimate, non-metaphorical construct that calls for the protection of its "free speech" rights, Roberts's majority opinion is a terminal watershed in a thirty-year trend of confusing the country's capitalist economic system for its social framework.
Already deeply corrupted at every level by influence of private interests, with this decision, the entire political and electoral communications process will be placed directly in the manicured hands of big business. The millions of corporate dollars that once stood between you and your government will be fondly remembered after they are replaced by billions of corporate dollars.
Yet, as one door closes, another opens.
Now that the personhood of corporations has been sustained, expanded and leveraged by Supreme Court right-wing activists, what are other ramifications?
Shouldn't it follow that when a corporation is bankrupted -- killed -- by its reckless management that its executives could be found guilty of the capital crime of murder?
To snuff an entity so endowed - that possesses free speech rights, overseas travel rights, legal state citizen rights, the right to sue and be sued, that can be libeled, and other rights -- seems no less than a crime, surely a matter for the justice system.
And wouldn't that help? Wouldn't adding murder charges to the consequences of executive failure in corporate stewardship go a long way toward restoring the long-lost arrangement where the corporation serves the society, as opposed to the other way around?
Put another way, if the the penalty that management faced for causing bankruptcy was an orange jumpsuit instead of a golden parachute, wouldn't we see less wild-west, insanely reckless capitalism from our economic engines?
Say someone at an investment bank innovated a new instrument to make money by lending money to people who can't pay it back. Today, nobody in that bank worries much about introducing systemic risk - they're too busy trippig over themselves to put the thing on the market. But if the consequences for eventually wiping out the bank included murder indictments, wouldn't we finally see some of that "self regulation" that free-market fundamentalists keep telling us exists?
What if Enron had taken place in today's era of fully realized corporate personhood? Had the company been treated like a murder victim, wouldn't Jeff Skilling be quickly looking at a Texas D.A., a gurney and a needle? Would that very personal risk have caught his attention at all?
If corporations are virtual people, and people can be murdered, and the widespread inclination of our business culture is to sociopathically not regard such murder as crime, shouldn't we do what we have also done for other, less pressing societal problem areas and changed the schools?
Convicted murderers don't usually serve their time in country club prisons. It's my guess we would all benefit greatly if the nation's business schools began "Scared Straight" seminars. This is where big, burly maximum-security convicts march around shouting dire, streety cautions about bad behavior at the impeccable haircuts of Wharton and Kellogg.
Practical skills training would follow. Something tells me that introducing MBA students early on to jailyard socialization techniques, effective shiv sharpening and how to make wine in the toilet might actually orient them to reject, rather than revel in and celebrate a culture of unaccountability. It might get them to take seriously the full expectations of corporate personhood as a social responsibility and legal theory.
I know: I make a terrible law student. In my defense, I never went to law school.
What's John Roberts' excuse?