The corporation, we are told, and the Supreme Court confirms, is entitled to the same rights as the individual person. And if those rights are abridged, by an individual or by another organization, the corporation is entitled to sue, and to collect damages when warranted. This is, I suppose, more or less sensible — it would be endlessly complicated to create a separate Bill of Rights for corporations, and people clamoring for such a bill are seemingly lined up none deep at the seats of power — but this particular form of equity, by its very existence, creates an inequity of its own, and a serious one.

Except for a handful of alleged aberrations reported in Scripture, our species, typical of those on this planet, has a death rate of one hundred percent: each and every birth is followed inexorably by a death. This pattern, we are told, and most industrial-strength religions confirm, is The Way Things Ought To Be. However, it does not apply to our corporate brethren. While some corporations die from their own stupidity or bad luck, and others are swallowed whole and never heard from again, the default lifespan of the corporation (barring catastrophes on an apocalyptic scale) is well-nigh eternal. Should a rogue corporation commit atrocities, its management and directorate may be punished, but the corporation itself sails on only slightly bloodied. The corporation is as hard to kill as kudzu, and just about as ubiquitous.

It is, I suspect, impossible to redress this particular imbalance. We certainly aren't going to achieve immortality for ourselves, and no corporation is going to support any sort of legislation to curb its very existence, nor are the legislators it has bought and paid for likely to introduce any such measure. The corporation is forever, Karl Marx and friends notwithstanding. We still, however, can retain a smidgen of control, by calling attention to corporate attempts to sidestep them, and the efforts of its lackeys to enact those attempts into law — and by remembering that the laws of economics are even more inexorable than those of Congress. The corporation is most assuredly entitled to turn a buck, but I'm equally entitled to spend my buck somewhere else.

The Vent

25 May 1998

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 Copyright © 1998 by Charles G. Hill