No, corporations REALLY ARE people

I’m told there has been some kind of big stir in America because Mitt Romney said “corporations are people”. Take this for example:

The Romney Economy.

In his quick, casual reply—corporations are people—Romney had seemed to give something away, though it wasn’t immediately clear what. The press chose to play the episode as a “gaffe,” as ABC’s Jake Tapper described it, a moment in which the weakness in Romney’s political pitch, the gap between his own privileged experience of the world and that of working-class voters, had been exposed. ­MSNBC, in a spate of giddy incredulity, seemed to keep the clip on loop for a week. But Romney’s own campaign managers did not try to obscure the episode at the state fair, to say he had been misunderstood or to secret it away. Instead they promoted it, as an advertisement of principle, and made the confrontation the centerpiece of a solicitation to supporters. A few days later, Romney’s communication director, Gail Gitcho, told the press that the exchange had raised $25,000 within 24 hours.

The incident, in retrospect, did less to peg Romney as a creature of privilege than it did to reveal something deeper. For Romney, the corporation has long been an object of a certain idealism. It is something he has spent much of his adult life—first as a management-strategy consultant, then as CEO of the private-equity firm Bain Capital—working to perfect, to strip of its inefficiencies until it might function as a perfectly frictionless economic unit.

Of course, everyone missed the point. It seems like the entire US press has overlooked something that any second-year law student could tell you. That is, corporations are people.

Don’t believe me? Here’s something Lord MacNaughten said in Salomon v Salomon [1897] AC 22:

 The company is at law a different person altogether from the subscribers to the memorandum; and, though it may be that after incorporation the business is precisely the same as it was before, and the same persons are managers, and the same hands receive the profits, the company is not in law the agent of the subscribers or trustee for them.

This goes right back to basic principles of what a corporation is – an entity designed to be separate from the people running it. It has its own interests and it is responsible for its own actions. Remember that a “person” is not the same as a “human”.

It is perfectly understandable that a retired priest wouldn’t have a strong grasp of this legal technicality, but the entire US media? For shame.

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. Leave a comment

Have any thoughts on this? Put them here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: