Friday, January 20, 2012

Discorporation: A Modest Proposal

Discorporation: A Modest Proposal

This post addresses one of the strangest injustices in American law; the doctrine of corporate personhood. It is a legalistic fiction, a way for real people (such as boards of directors and CEOs) to evade responsibility for their crimes.

To call a corporation a person is of course a fantasy; and part of the
fun of fantasy fiction is working out the bizarre implications of the
ridiculous premise. One of them is that corporations are persons owning hundreds of billions of dollars. Another is that Mitt Romney, as a corporate raider, was by this definition a serial killer.

Another cute consequence has gone viral:

“I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.”

This protest placard form Occupy Wall Street hit Facebook, and is now known in red state and blue. I regard Occupy as more “revelationary” than “revolutionary”; their role is not to make political demands, but to speak unspoken political truths.

For I believe that the joke is in fact valid. If corporations are people, and people can be executed for capital crimes, then so can corporations.

I call it "Discorporation". I realize that voiding a corporation's licenses and contracts would suffice to destroy it, but I propose a more vivid, theatrical and emotionally satisfying ritual. Namely; after the trial and the verdict and the sentence, the condemned corporation is not just delicensed and its legal standing nullified; in addition, a hollow ceramic copy of the corporation's logo is publicly smashed to small flinders by the government's sledgehammer-wielding executioner. The ceremony is broadcast live on TV and the Web. The idea is to not just intellectually "cancel" the corporation; it is to be physically "killed". Execution by iconoclasm; a demise befitting an idol.

Discorporation must be kept strictly separate from the execution of any real humans. This partly because I don't trust the State when it kills real people; and partly because I really, really do not trust a Board of Directors, or a CEO, under threat of their lives. If the State tells them "we will take your property" then they'll fight dirty; but if the State tells them "we will take your lives" then they'll fight deadly. Too much trouble, and it probably won’t work.

This does not prevent capital conspiracy charges for BoD and CEO, but that should be a separate charge, tried separately. But this will probably only work if they got sloppy.

I also see issues with third parties; workers pensions, stockholders, etc. I envision massive confrontations at stockholder’s meetings. Who gets the blame?

If Discorporation were ever to become law, then it would probably have to have amnesty for previous corporate capital crimes, and a one-year phase-in period for the corporations to hastily change their evil ways.

No comments:

Post a Comment