Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The corporate cat and the populist mouse

If you get enough people together, they can challenge a giant. And, according to the old story of David vs. Goliath, sometimes it only takes one person and a well-aimed stone. This time, it looks like a lot of people and a well-aimed initiative will be zapping the giants, at least in Humboldt County, California.

An article by David Cobb in the Progressive Populist describes an effort to pass some legislation that will change the legal definition of a corporation, and the legal rights that a corporation may have. Of course, it will only affect Humboldt County, but it would be a start. Here's an excerpt from his article:
The official ballot language includes a direct challenge to the ridiculous notion that a corporation is a "person" with vested constitutional rights. Specifically, the ordinance provides that "only natural human persons possess civil and political rights, and corporations are creations of state law and possess no legitimate civil or political rights."

There is the additional assertion that "courts have illegitimately defined corporations as 'persons' and this doctrine illegitimately denies the people of Humboldt County the ability to exercise our fundamental political rights." And to add teeth, the initiative provides that "no corporation shall be entitled to claim corporate constitutional rights or protections in an effort to overturn this law."
Somehow, however, I don't think this will be enough. A similar attempt was made in Pennsylvania in 2002, and the state overturned the local regulations (influenced, of course, by the businesses Clarion County, Pa., was fighting). Corporations, as my mother says, think like cats. They're predators, cute and fuzzy when it suits them, and at other times all talons and teeth, likewise when it suits them. But trustworthy? Never.

Still, the People's Sovereignty Movement is alive and kicking. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund says it succinctly: "The idea that communities by right may govern themselves is central to the notion of democracy."

1 comment:

Rob said...

It's shameful that corporations have more civil liberties in this country than whistleblowers. Nice to read there are efforts taking place to address those inequities.