Electric Politics
 
Donate to Electric Politics

Blank
Blank
Blank
Green Party USA
Blank
Socialist Worker
Blank
CoffeeGeek.com
Blank
Grist
Blank
Whole Foods
Blank
Whole Foods
Blank
Ben & Jerry's
Blank
Al Jazeera English
Blank
911Truth.org
Blank
Sierra Trading Post
Blank
Black Commentator
Blank
Black Commentator
Blank
Pluto Press
Blank
In These Times
Blank
USNI
Blank
In These Times
Blank
CASMII
Blank
CounterPunch
Blank
CounterPunch
Blank
News For Real
Blank
News For Real
Blank
If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger
Blank
News For Real
Blank
The Agonist
Blank
The Anomalist
Blank
Duluth Trading
Blank
Digital Photography Review
Blank
New Egg
Blank
Free Link

INTERMITTENT NOTESXML

High Court Decrees Existence of Corporate Übermensch

By Werther*

Freaks posterThe Supreme Court's wholesale rejection of a century of statutes regulating corporate contributions to political campaigns is a breath of fresh air in a hypocrisy-ridden political process. It certainly ought to sweep away the tendency of timid rationalizers to deny the existence of corporate domination and control of every aspect of governance in the United States — a fact which should have already been made abundantly clear by the terms of the bank bailout and the health care travesty.

What the Roberts Court has done is to dust off the hoary obiter dictum pronouncement in the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case, that corporations are persons for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment, and expand its application into new legal territory. If corporations are persons then it follows logically that corporations should suffer no legal encumbrances beyond those constraining any natural person in exercising their rights, including the First Amendment right of free speech, in participating in political campaigns. From there it is only a minor leap of logic to posit that spending money is a form of free expression. Accordingly, if money is speech (as George Will never tires of reminding us in a thousand op-ed columns), then corporations enjoy freedom to manipulate the political process limited only by the size of their bank accounts.

It is known that four of the justices siding with the majority opinion are practicing Catholics of a more or less ultramontane variety. Indeed, that is why they were nominated to their present positions by Republican presidents: it was assumed they would maintain the most uncompromising position on abortion demanded by adherence to dogmatic theology. But the perennial hysteria over abortion obscures an even more trenchant clue as to what is going on in the minds of these Justices.

It is retrospectively a pity that the confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas wallowed so obscenely in the Anita Hill controversy, because attention was misdirected from other things that Thomas was saying that would have had a material bearing on cases he would help decide. One of those things was his professed belief in natural law. This, despite the fact that there is no corpus of natural law that one can point to; no nation whose parliament legislates and whose courts find on the basis of natural law; and no solid body of natural law theory that could help one litigate, say, a speeding ticket.

Unlike most us who hold that laws are codifications of custom, experience, and culture that grow and evolve over time, the natural law adherent sees natural law as a kind of eternal neo-Platonic idea, like a perfect geometrical shape. Man does not make law; man discovers a preexisting law shimmering in a celestial sphere. Rather than trudging one's way through Blackstone or the United States Code Annotated for legal training, one would do better to read Plato's Republic. Natural law theory, as refined through two millennia of Church doctrine, is based on a priori, Platonic assumptions, from which follow a sequence of elegant, syllogistic deductions that inevitably lead one to the outcome one prefers. Everything hinges on the initial assumption.

In the campaign finance case, the reasoning, however it may have been camouflaged by the Court clerks, appears to have followed the template just described:

•   Corporations are naturally endowed with personhood (the a priori assumption, and one that sounds suspiciously like parallel reasoning on abortion);
•   Corporations accordingly enjoy the rights of natural persons, including free speech (deduction);
•   Money ≡ speech (the logical leap, which can be made to parse with enough Platonic logic-chopping);
•   Ergo, corporate spending is an exercise in free speech not delimited in dollar amounts by the First Amendment (the syllogism is complete).

An ironic feature of this is that the very Justices who claim to believe in judicial restraint and not legislating from the bench should have undertaken such a sweeping nullification of a century of campaign finance laws, based merely on a novel and controversial legal proposition. The Court could have simply decided the issue at hand (involving a political advocacy film) and left it at that. So much for stare decisis. It is not inconceivable, using the Court's logic, that antitrust laws could be thrown out as well. Since natural persons have freedom of association, why should not artificial persons have a similar freedom of association?

The Court has in fact created a species of Nietzschean Übermensch: a non-human human endowed with the strength of many people and theoretically immortal. [1]

In its breathtaking overreach the Roberts Court's decision is almost as expansive as the notorious Scott v. Sandford. When Dred Scott sued for his freedom, the Court, if it were adversely disposed, could have simply ruled that the plaintiff had no standing to sue. Instead, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (by coincidence, the first Catholic ever to serve on the high bench) found that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants (whether they were slaves or not) were not protected by the Constitution and were not and never could be citizens of the United States. It also found that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in the federal territories. From the initial premise, that Dred Scott was not a person, all could be deduced with sufficient assistance from Plato.

Now that our Supreme Court, with the assistance of a little medieval alchemy, has ruled that property can be transmuted into persons, is it conceivable that it could do the opposite? Before one dismisses the thought, the executive branch, with the connivance of lower federal courts, has already been busy establishing the precedent that persons held at Guantanamo prison and other facilities can be converted into the property of the United States Government, to be held indefinitely.

* Werther is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense analyst.

[1] Wikipedia list of oldest companies.

« American "Democracy" For Sale | Main | What To Do About Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission? »



Leave a comment