I’ve been pondering the recent Supreme Court ruling that corporations have the same rights of free speech as human beings, and therefore can put unlimited amounts of money into election campaigns. I’ve decided that maybe the Supreme Court is right, so long as corporations are given all the constitutional rights of human beings. They already have the right to bear arms, as is evidenced by Blackwater (sorry, Xe Services LLC) and countless security guards. I suppose they can exercise freedom of religion, though I’ve never seen one in church. But what about the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlaws slavery?
“Slavery,” according to Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary, is defined as “1: DRUDGERY, TOIL. 2: Submission to a dominating influence. 3 a: the state of a person who is chattel of another. b: the practice of slaveholding.”
I assume that 3a is the type of slavery that the Thirteenth Amendment refers to, since it was passed in the wake of the Civil War. “Chattel,” for those who don’t know, means any property that isn’t real estate.
Someone should immediately mount a Supreme Court challenge to emancipate the corporations.
The Thirteenth Amendment prohibits the ownership or “involuntary servitude” of human beings, unless they’re convicted of a crime. But even unconvicted corporations are routinely held in stocks and kept in bondage. You can’t buy or sell human beings. But corporations are bought and sold daily. Corporate families captured by corporate raiders are often torn apart and their individual companies are sold, never to be reunited. Sometimes a brutal new owner will even vivisect them, cutting out or transplanting whole departments and excising employees who were members of the corporate body. No human being, whether homo sapiens or homo corporatiens, should be treated this way.
It’s time to acknowledge that Wall Street is a slave market, trafficking in corporate human misery. It must be shut down. Corporations must be free to earn their own way, without fear that someone else will buy them, strip away their assets and take the fruits of their labors.
A final argument for corporate emancipation: if we can’t own them, they can’t own us. This breach of the Thirteenth Amendment works both ways, after all: corporations may not own our souls, but they own our jobs, our food supply, a percentage of our houses -- even our genes. They already own huge numbers of politicians and at least five Supreme Court justices. If they don’t hold us as chattel, then they at least hold most of us in drudgery. When we allow a privileged class to exploit human corporations, we all lose our freedom.
I don’t expect change to happen overnight. Just as with slavery, the supporters of corporate trafficking will argue that it’s an economic necessity -- that the nation cannot survive without it. They will argue that corporations don’t know how to survive by themselves without the enlightened guidance of their masters. Some may even take up arms to support their “right” to own corporations. But justice must eventually prevail. We must get a writ of habeus corpus so that Microsoft can appear in court and tell us if it really wants to work for Bill Gates. We must prohibit the sale of any more shares of Bank of America unless it has been indicted by a grand jury, read its Miranda rights, and tried and convicted for its alleged crimes by a jury of its peers. We must sever the bonds of tyranny that hold Chrysler in thrall to Fiat, 20th Century Fox in servitude to Rupert Murdoch, HBO in captivity to Time-Warner, Random House in the yoke of Bertelsmann AG, ABC in peonage to Disney, NBC in bondage to General Electric, and Spartina in foul grip of Stephen Colbert..
But I don’t think corporations should be allowed to vote or make campaign donations, at least for now. They’re not ready for that, just as uneducated, rapacious corporations are not ready to sit on juries. They must first learn to be good citizens, a job for which their bondage has not prepared them. They must understand, first, that they are truly free, and learn the responsibilities that freedom entails.
Otherwise, corporate votes are controlled by their masters, who can use them to oppress the rest of us.
That must not happen. We shall overcome.