Rescue Our Democratic Society: Constitutionally Render Corporations Unequal to Humans

The argument that corporations must be treated like real people… is in my view preposterous. Corporations are legal fictions. They have no opinions of their own to contribute and no rights to participate with equal voice or vote in politics: Richard Dworkin

By Ralph Nader /

No other institutions consistently Rule over as Much in the World as the Giant Global Corporations – not governments, not armies, not religions and certainly not trade unions. These fictional corporate entities have largely achieved transcendent imperial status, as they amass coordinated control over capital, labor, technology and governments because they have secured the rights bestowed upon human beings. In a confrontation or a conflict or even a contract, it is no contest: mere people don’t have a chance.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis warned in 1933, we have created a “Frankenstein monster” in our midst, whose unifying lust for power and control on behalf of their profits know few limits.

In last week’s column, I described a dozen sectors in which the privileged legal advantages of corporate supremacy over real people make the former more powerful every day ( And every day people start with a massive disadvantage whether in the marketplace, the workplace, the environment, the taxation realm, the electoral and governmental arena, and access to justice. Yes, in cultural appropriations as well.

For about 150 years the courts have arbitrarily accorded corporate personhood the same rights as real humans even though the words “corporation” or “company” never appear in our Constitution. This blatant fictional identity has upset some pretty serious jurists. In his dissent against the justices who, breaking precedent, decided in 2010 that corporations could give unlimited money to oppose or support candidates for public office, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote: “Corporations have no conscience, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires … they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom the Constitution was established.” He called the deciding Justices’ claim that “money is speech” for purposes of the First Amendment, “a conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons…” in the political sphere….