Corporate personhood is the concept that a company or business has legal recognition by the court; it simply means that the corporation has the power or ability to enter into contracts, to hire and fire its employees, to sue and to be sued, to make speeches freely and to hold property just like any other individual (Diamond, 2012). Corporate personhood was recognized first in the year 1886 by the Supreme Court of the United States in a ruling during a case between the Santa Clara County and Southern Pacific Railroad. The main reason that they were targeting then was to give corporations the legal rights of people in order to maintain minority rule and to avoid democracy. In this essay we get to discuss the challenges that have come with corporate personhood, its impact on other businesses and the community at large. We also get to look at the current affairs and state of corporate personhood.
In comparison, of the two articles which are, The endangered public company and the Occupy Santa Clara Corporate personhood recognized, we get to see some of the points in which the two articles concur and those that they differ. We are also going to look at the Strength and Weaknesses of their decision or arguments. The title endangered public company comes into use because the corporations are being targeted for closure, some people are of the mind that corporations have been given too much power and they end up ruling us instead of us controlling them (The Economist, 19 May 2012). Corporations are doing a lot of damages and injustices to other small businesses and due to the fact that it cannot be punished or fined. It avoids justice which many people think or feel is not fair for the community.
Everyone should be answerable for the mistakes they commit and no one is above the law. In one of the articles that critics are challenging corporate personhood, they are against it and would wish for it to be made illegal and all the issues regarding the corporation be directed to a particular individual, but the railroad barons and lawyers get away with their mischief’s by giving corporations personhood, we also get to see that people are accusing Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook directly, ignoring the fact that he is not Facebook as Facebook is now a separate entity that can sue and be sued. Although, Zuckerberg acts on behalf of Facebook; he cannot be held accountable for the deeds done under the umbrella of Facebook. (The Economist, 21 May 2012)
In both of the articles, corporate personhood ends up being recognized as legal though some critics don’t like it. It is however, important that we get to see the strengths and weaknesses of a corporation personhood. Some of the benefits that a business or the individuals owners of the business may get from being in a corporate are. The ability of the corporation to carry all its liabilities incases of any calamity; in case of bankruptcy or any other unfortunate occurrence, the corporation will be responsible for the damages and not the individual owners. The railroad barons can now sit in comfort for the blames will not be put to them but directed to the corporation, Zuckerberg can also relax for the actions taken by face book are not answerable by him (The Economist, 21 May 2012).
The ability of the corporation to sue and be sued; the corporation can take any person to court if aggrieved in any way and it can also be taken to court just like it is with Facebook, individuals have taken it to court for the treatment they have received in the social media, it is also clearly seen I the article of Occupy Santa Clara Personhood reconsidered that a number of corporation have been taken to court for one reason or the other, it is evident that most of the corporations always go scot free immediately their lawyers quote the decision made by the supreme court in the case of Santa Clara County Vs. Southern Pacific Railroad.
This is because the court have to always uphold previous decisions or judgments’ made especially if it were made by a court that is of a higher authority that the one currently in question. A corporation can live forever, in case of death of any of the owners it just continues operating, a simple process of change of ownership is all that is required, and although the founders of the South Pacific Railroad are long gone their corporation is still functioning. Despite the fact that a corporation can be sued, an individual cannot take it to jail, this is because it’s just an abstraction, and this is seen clearly in the issue involving the railroad barons. (Diamonds, 2012) Despite a corporation being of enormous advantages and benefits, they also carry with them their disadvantages, Some of the weaknesses that can be viewed include the fact that the legal formalities of establishing the corporation are quite many and tedious, an organization will have to adhere to more state and federal rules and regulation.
The fact that a corporation is expensive to form also gives it a negative touch, not every individual can just come and decide to form a corporation. The other issue is that since a corporation can be sued and taken to court, if found guilty of the charges levied against it the repercussion might be severe if the shareholders had not prepared themselves well for the consequences, the corporation might be rendered bankrupt or may be put under receivership which may not ogre well with the shareholders. Corporation personhood is an issue of great concern and many people in the current generation are trying to find a way to overrule the decision of the Santa Clara case that haunts many legal suits, they are of the opinion that the 126 years that corporation have been terrorizing people is enough.
Historian Morton Horwitz is among the individuals who have been trying their level best to overturn the ruling of the supreme court of the year 1886, (Meyers, 2002) though it is evident that the court ruling at that time was aimed at protecting the interest of a big business and protecting the barons it will still be hard to overturn it because its benefits have been seen in the long run. So many countries have adopted the same and they have ripped the fruits of corporate personhood. It may have its side effects but for the record, corporate personhood is one of the best things that has ever happened for the benefits it has brought with it far much outweighs the negative aspects of it. People may magnify the negative aspects but it is evident that without corporate personhood there are a lot of things that would not have been achieved, starting with the railroad.
Meyers, W., (2002). The Santa Clara Blues, Corporate Personhood versus Democracy. Retrieved from http://www.iiipublishing.com/afd/santaclara.html Diamond, S. F., (2012, April 12). Occupy Santa Clara! Corporate Personhood Reconsidered. Dissent Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/occupy-santa-clara-corporate-p
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