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Bluerthanblue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 04:59 PM
Original message
If Corporations = persons
Then they can't be bought, sold or traded can they?

I heard a caller on the Diane Rehm show make this connection today.

Also, I'd like to know how Corporations can have the "rights" of personhood, but not the "responsibilities".

Any thoughts?

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AndyA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 05:06 PM
Response to Original message
1. There's that good old hypocrisy again.
The right just can't get away from it.

They are all hypocrites, abusers, and cowards.
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yurbud Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 05:09 PM
Response to Original message
2. If they are people, how can we give them AIDS?
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Wabbajack_ Donating Member (669 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 05:15 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. LOL
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onehsaquestion Donating Member (33 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 05:29 PM
Response to Reply #2
6. What does the C in LLC stand for?
Democratic Underground, LLC
PO Box 53350
Washington, DC 20009
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guitar man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:10 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. LLC= Limited Liabilty Company nt
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:19 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. Depends on the jurisdiction
Edited on Mon Jan-25-10 06:21 PM by jberryhill
Some states call it Limited Liability Company, some states call it Limited Liability Corporation.

LLC's are simply a more flexible form of corporate structure. When one is talking generally about "corporations", the term is inclusive of LLC's and several other statutory business organizations. An LLC is a corporation that is structured more like a partnership, but with the normal corporate firewall against personal liability that you don't get with a partnership per se. That's probably the simplest explanation (with the normal hazards of simple explanations).

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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 05:24 PM
Response to Original message
4. They do have the responsibilities, and they don't have all the rights.
This is really an overplayed concept around here. The whole point of the corporate structure (and this goes back centuries, it's nothing new) is so that a group of individuals can be treated as one individual, and it works for and against them. It allows them simple tasks like purchasing property, but it also holds them accountable in case of civil or even criminal suit. If there were no corporate structure, it would be difficult to sue a company. You would have to prove that each individual who owned the company acted negligently (or whatever the suit alleged), rather than proving that the company did.

So the structure is useful. There's a misconception around here that "corporate personhood" is new, or started with the Santa Clara case, and that it means corporations have the same rights as individuals. It's not true. Since corporations began--and they have similar structures even in Roman law--they have been considered "legal persons," or "fictitious persons," for the reason that it was easier to deal with them as a single entity than as a bunch of loosely connected entities. Santa Clara has really been overstated--I don't think it was even mentioned in the recent court case that has everyone so upset.

It also doesn't mean corporations have the same rights as individuals do. Even the recent ruling kept several restrictions in place that would not apply to individuals. The rule has always been that a corporation can't be unfairly treated, so laws can't target them or single them out when the same laws would not apply to individuals, unless there is some reason for doing so. That's pretty much all the recent court decision said. It did not give corporations complete rights, it does not consider them "real people," it simply said that the laws forbidding them from running ads in support of candidates or campaigns was unfairly discriminatory.

And the basis for such rules isn't that a corporation is a person, but is that a coporation is a collection of individuals. If a group of individuals wants to run ads and they aren't a corporation, they can do that (they have to form a PAC). But because the individuals have formed into a corporation, the law said they couldn't. In essence, the ruling as that banning corporations unfairly singled out the individuals who made up the corporation for exclusion. (Keep in mind that there are hundreds of thousands of corporations, and only a few are the large multi-nationals that we usually think of. I work for a corporation--it has four shareholders (a father and three sons), and makes just enough money to keep 19 people employed).

So, they aren't considered people, that's just an urban myth that has misrepresented the legal cases. And they do have all applicable responsibilities, and far from all the rights of individuals. I'm not saying they shouldn't be more tightly regulated in a lot of ways--I'm a big advocate of that. But some people have ideas about "corporate personhood" that are every bit as misinformed as the Republicans and their ideas or terrorism, Islam, or birth certificates.

They need more restrictions, closer monitoring, and less power in our media and government. They need to be taxed much more heavily to pay their share. They in many ways are weakening our government with the political policies many support. But "corporate personhood" does not mean they have all the rights and none of the restrictions of individuals.
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Hosnon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 05:26 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Thumbs up. nt.
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Bluerthanblue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 05:54 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. wow, thank you for your informative answer-
I'm still somewhat confused though. If a corporation is granted rights based on the rights we have as *individuals* .... not sure how to ask this in words that make sense-..

The corporations 'right' to pool vast sums of money together to purchase advertisements/programing which is designed to influence the opinion/votes of other individuals is simply the collected use of individual rights? I kind of understand the logic that it is simply a 'collection' of individuals who have the right to speak their peace-
but if that is true, how can people who are part of this 'collection' avoid personal responsibility for what is done by the 'group'?

I'm admittedly ignorant when it comes to "corporations" and the legal stuff. I've heard people talk about "incorporating" businesses etc. to protect themselves, their own "personal assets". I don't understand the rationale for the protection of personal accountability- if the 'corporation' did something that damaged someone badly, why are those same people, not individually accountable? Why can people "be parts of corporations" and get the benefits- having the combined wealth which gives greater power- financially benefiting from their connection with the 'group' things which DO benefit them "individually" and not have the same responsibility for the decision to participate in that group?

Does my question make any sense to you? I'm having a hard time understanding the dis-connect between the "group" use of our individual rights, and the ability to avoid individual responsibility for the group use those rights.

thank you for taking the time to explain this to me.

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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:25 PM
Response to Reply #8
11. Here's a handy guide...

Does the New York Times Co. have First Amendment rights? Yes, and that's a good thing. See, e.g. New York Times Co. v. US; New York Times Co. v. Sullivan; Hustler Inc. v. Falwell; etc.

Now, if you want to talk about "responsibility" in the context of speech - can the New York Times Co. be sued for libel? Yes it can.

What sort of "responsibility" for exercising First Amendment rights did you have in mind?
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Bluerthanblue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 07:43 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. well, that still doesn't answer my problem-
why is the "liability" for what a corporation does, NOT imposed 'personally' on the individuals who are part of the 'collection'? Those same individuals benefit personally- through dividends etc- ?

If I have part ownership in a corporation, I profit individually when the corporation does well, I can take my money and do whatever I like with it- if the corporation is incredibly successful there are no limits as to how much I can profit individually-


If I am part of a corporation which flounders, and ends up owing others money, or which is willfully negligent and is responsible for costly damages to others, I am protected from losing my 'personal' asserts- even though I'm not restricted from PROFITING individually- The accountability we have as "individuals" doesn't make the leap that the profit does.

That makes "corporate" person- rights ones that are un-equal to individual citizens rights from my perspective.

Can you find the speck of logic in this mish-mash?

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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 08:41 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. What happens in practice....
Edited on Mon Jan-25-10 08:41 PM by jberryhill that if you are running a corporation as your own personal instrument, it is undercapitalized, you don't have outside directors, and you are doing rotten stuff, the corporation is not going to provide a lot of protection.

The flip side is that if you own X shares of Exxon, and they run an oil tanker into Waikiki beach, nobody is coming to take your house.

I'm not restricted from PROFITING individually- The accountability we have as "individuals" doesn't make the leap that the profit does.

Yes and no. That profit is going to be taxed twice (with a minor exception for very small corporations). There are also a number of situations in which directors are held personally liable for things that a corporation does, which is why there is a type of liability insurance specifically designed for corporate directors. It is not the blanket shield to all legal harms that it is made out to be. As far as extending credit to corporations, that's why there are credit ratings.
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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-26-10 01:52 PM
Response to Reply #8
16. All good questions, and some need better answers in legislation.
I'm a little fuzzy today. Major headache. I hope I can do this justice.

Without going into a full lecture, :) (I can talk a corpse to death if I'm allowed), a corporation is just a legal identity for a group of people with a common goal. It can be business or non-profit--PETA is probably a corporation, for instance. Actually, a single person can become a corporation. There are tax benefits to doing so, although sometimes they are liabilities. Basically, if an individual owns a business as a sole proprietor or as on partner in a partnership, then the company's profits and losses are his, straight out of his own personal ledger and bank account. His salary is only the profit of the business.

A corporation is different. It sets up a separate company, and the owners become "shareholders" of the company, so that their expenses and the company's are completely separate. Incomes, too. A shareholder gets paid dividends (just meaning his share of the profits), and holds stock that he may or may not be able to sell (depends on the corporation's charter) at will, and if he works for the company he can get a salary. Even if the corporation is only one person, the income and expenses are still not his--they belong to the corporation, and the shareholders (even though he is the only shareholder). He can get paid a salary, but he can't just pocket the profits. With one owner, of course, he can just take profits whenever he wants, but they would be taxed as his own personal income, and he has to file the right paperwork.

Anyway, the more the merrier. If youu have ten owners, each is a shareholder, each can get a salary, and none of their finances are exactly the same as the corporation's. This can help them--if the corporation collapses, they only lose their shares and their salary and the value of their stocks (considering they had to buy the stocks, that's not insignificant). But it can also help the corporation. If one of the shareholders goes bankrupt, his creditors can't sieze the corporation and put everyone else out of business (or out of work, since they probably have employees other than the shareholders.

Then there are publicly held corporations, who sell stocks on Wall Street or the NASDAQ. The shareholders are everyone who has stock, although most of them own too small a share to have any influence over the company. The major shareholders own the company, hire the CEO to run it, vote on policy for the company, and get large dividends from the profits, whereas the smaller investors get smaller dividents.

So what being a corporation basically does is allow the individuals to be separate from the business, which lets them have protect their money, and the corporation, and get some interesting tax breaks in the process.

Now, your questions. The shareholders can be held responsible if they do something criminal. If they voted to kill someone, for instance, they could be tried for murder as individuals. It doesn't protect them that way. On the other hand, if they simply vote for a policy that leads to a death, then none of them individually has done anything (provably) wrong, but the corporation has, and it can be held liable (usually only in a civil court, but not always). That can punish the shareholders through fines, and can even break them if the corporation is destroyed. Think of the giant class action suits against tobacco and asbestos, as well as smaller suits against McDonald's for their coffee temperatures. The shareholders can lose money if they are negligent--that's exactly why Republicans want tort reform so badly. Tort reform means a corporation can get away with more and the shareholders aren't responsible.

And again, the shareholders are not exempt from being punished individually. If they do something illegal, they can be punished. If the company is too large, this makes no sense, of course. You can't put everyone who owns Exxon stock in jail for an oil spill, and think of the number of court cases that it would take to do so. But you can fine the corporation collectively, and that costs the shareholders money.

Also, there are rules about corporate responsibility, so there are things a shareholders' convention can't vote to do, and there are things that the people who run the company can't do. If they try, they can be stopped, and if they succeed, they can be punished individually--especially those running the company. This obviously happens more to smaller corporations, but for instance I work for a tire company. If we illegally dump tires, our shareholder and the managers of the company (in this case they are the same people) could go to jail personally for it.

So a corporation status doesn't mean that the individuals are immune from the law. It only helps streamline a lot of things. And the corporation doesn't have all the rights of an individual, even if the corporation is made up of individuals and their rights are protected. If you are limiting a corporation's right to speech, for instance, then the individuals are hampered, but in some cases the restrictions are still valid, because the corporate voice is not identical to the individual's voice. It has to be settled in courts and with legislation.

Also, of course, bad publicity can hurt a corporation, so if they advertise for something unpopular they can lose money, and that's a penalty.

Basically my take on corporations is that they aren't good or bad or indifferent, they just exist, and we have to deal with them as they are. They employ a ton of people, and some make tremendous advances in our quality of life, even our life itself. Where would we be without IBM and Microsoft, for instance (and if not them specifically, at least the industry and the money they invested). But they also have tremendous wealth and power to harm. What we need are more legislators willing to limit THAT power, without necessarily destroying the good parts.

And that's what we don't have. As you point out, courts and legislators are too concerned with giving corporations rights, and not concerned enough with limiting what they can do. Obama talked about limiting banks, for instance, and that's a great step to take. The trend lately has been towards deregulation, and that has caused most of the economic problems we face these days, and corporations, who are by definition only interested in making a profit (aside from non-profits), spend a lot of money preventing those regulations, though, because while they make sense for the economy, they might cost that corporation money.

Anyway, told you I was fuzzy-headed now. That's what corporations are, and that's how they aren't completely exempt from responsibilities, but they are too exempt for this nation's good. Since Reagan, they have been deregulated too much. Clinton had a mixed record--he tightened some of their responsibilities, but loosened others. What we need are more people to regulate.

Keep in mind, too, that a corporation is just a legal structure, and covers anything from an individual store owner to the Fortune 500. If you simply did away with the legal structure, all of those companies would still exist in some form, but they might be harder to regulate. It would probably hurt us far more than help us. So anti-corporate sentiment needs to be about limiting them, not destroying them. :)

Sorry so long. I'll understand if no one reads it. On a better day, I'd edit it massively. :)
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:26 PM
Response to Reply #4
12. Good luck with that....

Bring your asbestos undies.
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Flaneur Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 05:36 PM
Response to Original message
7. But can they be water boarded?
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apnu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 06:27 PM
Response to Original message
13. Its not "IF" they are persons
They can own property, be sued and sue. all they lack is a vote... oh wait they have that don't they?

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