Corporations are Alien Life Forms
You think I'm kidding. Or maybe you think I'm exaggerating. "Corporations are Alien Life Forms. Yeah, right! Tell me another one."
No, really. I mean it. Let's take the two notions -- "alien" and "life form" -- separately. Let's start with "life form".
You've probably heard of "Brown v. Board of Education" or maybe "Roe v. Wade". Know what they are? They're famous Supreme Court cases.
Brown v. Board was a 1954 landmark decision that ultimately led to the current Weiner Nation phenomenon. Michael Weiner is an angry Jewish fellow who calls himself Michael "Savage" on a reactionary AM talk radio program called "The Savage Nation". As far as anyone can tell, part of Mr. Weiner's anger dates back to the 1970s when he found himself on the short end of the affirmative action stick in his fruitless search for a job as a college professor. Mr. Weiner is the champion of all who have tried and lost, and need someone, anyone, other than themselves to blame.
How about "Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company". Ring a bell? Need some time to think it over? OK, cue the Jeopardy music ... doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo, ... bzzzzzz. Time's up!
The question is: Which Supreme Court case declared Corporations to be "persons"? [1/26/06 Note: Actually, the situation is a bit trickier than that.] Don't feel bad. Even Ken Jennings would have flubbed this one too.
This is because this 1886 case is highly obscure. Although obscure, it is, if the thesis of this blog is anywhere near correct, among the most important Supreme Court decisions in the history of the United States. This is because what that case held was that, as far the U.S. Constitution is concerned, Corporations are People too.
For example, you probably know that the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances". See that part about "the people peaceably ... petition[ing] the Government"? In your wildest dreams, did you ever imagine that that language means Corporate lobbyists who stick Congressmen in their back pockets are simply exercising the First Amendment rights of their employers? Bet you didn't learn that one in your civics class back at Jefferson High.
So there you have it. According to the U.S. Constitution, you, a Person, are recognized as a particular life form protected by the terms of that document. But in 1886, the Supreme Court said that we are not the only life form protected by that document. In the United States, since 1886, Corporations are People too.
The U.S. Declaration of Independence contains these famous words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Although the Declaration is not the Constitution, it did precede the Constitution, and it gives the flavor of what the guys who started up this country had in mind.
One thing they seemed to have had in mind is that, well, it's a man's world, baby! In 1776, these fellows said "all men", not all "men and women" nor "all people". It would take another 200 years for women to join men in exercising the Constitutional rights of contracting and spreading venereal disease, racking up debilitating consumer debt, and getting fat, sick, and outsourced. Welcome to America, gals! I've got your R-E-S-P-E-C-T right here.
While it took women 200 years to crash the party, Corporations made The Leap in little more than a 100 years. But there's something weird about that. I mean, women can experience life and liberty, and, praise be to Prozac, they can even pursue happiness too. But what about Corporations?
There's a reasonable argument that Corporations can experience life and liberty. Incorporation is sort of like birth. And Corporate dissolution is sort of like death. Moreover, during their lives, Corporations in this country seem quite at liberty to foment all forms of chaos and despair. So it's fair to say that Corporations are indeed a "life form".
But what about "the pursuit of happiness"? Can a Corporation be happy? I don't think even the reactionary Supreme Court of 1886 would have said that. They didn't need to, of course. All they said was that the Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, amended the Constitution to make Corporations People too.
The fact that Corporations can't experience happiness brings us to the second major topic of this posting. That topic concerns "aliens".
The definition of "alien" I am thinking of here is the following: "A person who is not included in a group; an outsider." Yes, Corporations are People too. But they're not included in "our" group. Those Corporate People are "them". We human People are "us".
The key difference between us and them is the critical resource that keeps us alive. What is that resource for humans? It is food? Nope. Humans can go on hunger strikes and live for weeks and even months without food. (Given the size of some People I saw last week at Costco -- a.k.a. The Land of the Fat People -- we might have to amend this to "years".)
Is it water? Nope. Humans can go for days, maybe even weeks, without water.
What it is is oxygen. Try killing yourself by holding your breath. It doesn't matter if you're on the most wicked suicidal Prozac relapse. Your body won't let you die this way. Automatic reflexes kick in to force us to gulp some air. There are no analogous reflexes for food or water.
Humans would last only a few minutes without oxygen. Oxygen is the critical resource that keeps us alive. When we go into diabetic shock from consuming our fifteenth Snickers bar, and they put us on life support, that mask they strap on our face is giving us the oxygen we need to stay alive.
It's not just us. Most non-plant life forms also need oxygen to survive. That includes your cat and your goldfish. Plants are symbiotic with us. While we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, plants "breathe in" carbon dioxide and "breathe out" oxygen. It's a wonderful ecosystem, full of all manner of teeming life forms exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. Its kind of like the EBay ecosystem in which EBay addicts endlessly circulate the refuse of postmodern consumerism.
But some forms of life are not part of this great EBay cycle of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. These are the anaerobic life forms. "Anaerobic" organisms are ones that don't require oxygen to survive. Examples of anaerobic organisms include certain kinds of bacteria and, to the extent they can be considered "life forms", viruses.
Another example of an anaerobic organism is Corporations. Like certain bacteria and viruses, Corporations don't require oxygen to survive and prosper. But the big difference between bacteria and viruses, and Corporations, is that the latter are Constitutionally protected, while the former couldn't even get into court. At least not through a summons.
But if Corporations don't require oxygen to survive, what do they require? In a word, it's "money". Upon incorporation -- Corporate birth -- the parents of the infant must pay a registration fee, and they must declare the shares that define the infant. The shares represent the financial assets (i.e. money) that comprise the infant. So at birth, a Corporation is just an embryonic puddle of money.
During its life, a Corporation breathes in money in the form of sales revenue, equity issuance, debt issuance, and so on. Corporations breathe out money through costs of labor, costs of capital, costs of sales and marketing, costs of lobbyists, and so on. If the Corporation runs out of money, or threatens to do so, it goes on life support. In the Corporate world, this is called "bankruptcy". The whole point of bankruptcy is to stem the outflow of money that is draining the life from the ailing Corporation.
Finally, when even bankruptcy can't save it, the Corporation dies. This is called "dissolution". In dissolution, the carcass of the dead Corporation -- a carcass consisting purely of money -- is picked clean by vultures known as "Corporate lawyers".
Whereas we oxygen-breathing humans can live at most 80-110 years or so, those money-breathing Corporations can live for centuries. In fact, the very first modern Corporation -- the British East India Company -- lived a full 284 years. This is 3-4 full human life spans.
Summing up, Corporations are alien life forms that can live for centuries, and that breathe money, not oxygen. In fact oxygen, happiness, love, anger, food -- all the things that make us humans human -- mean nothing to Corporations. They breathe in money. They breathe out money. Oxygen, happiness, love, anger, and food have meaning to Corporations only insofar as they can be exchanged for money.
Put this together with the conclusion of the previous posting. That posting concluded that the People who act on behalf of Corporations comprise mobs the members of whom bear no personal responsibility for these acts.
So a Corporation is a Constitutionally protected irresponsible anaerobic organism that feeds on money. If that's not an alien life form, I don't know what is.
The next few sections address the "crimes" of the Corporations. They talk about the Corporations "lying", "cheating", "stealing", and "killing". But I want to caution that these are just human notions. They mean nothing to Corporations. As I said, Corporations are simply irresponsible anaerobic organisms that feed on money. Crime, lying, cheating, stealing, and killing are concepts that have no meaning for such organisms.
So as you read the next few sections, try not to get mad at the Corporations. They're just doing what they were born to do. It's like an avian influenza virus that mutates to become transmittable among humans, and leaves behind an indiscriminate swath of human misery and death. The virus wasn't "thinking" about any of that. The little bugger was just doing what its RNA programmed it to do. It was nothing personal. The same goes for Corporations, and the "depraved behaviors" you will be reading about in the next few sections.
But before we wade into the swamp of these depraved behaviors, one further issue remains: Why would Corporations engage in depraved behaviors?