Corporate Persons

A recent article in the LA Times carping about the unfair influence of corporations regarding elections because of funds available to corporations verses the funds available to individuals reminded me of the corporate person controversy. The issue is whether corporations are or should be considered as “persons” in the eyes of the law. The Fourteenth Amendment has been interpreted in the affirmative.

The concept that a corporation is a “person” is the legal core of corporate power. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned New Hampshire’s attempt to turn Dartmouth College into a public institution (Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. Reports 518 [1819]), the Court subordinated a state legislature to an “artificial being”: the college corporation. The Court held that a charter from the British Crown creating the college was a contract protected from legislative impairment by the federal constitution. The Court said that the college corporation provided for the maintenance of property rights by “a perpetual succession of individuals… capable of acting… like one immortal being.” The Court’s comment that “[i]ts immortality no more confers on it political power… than immortality would confer such power… on a natural person” denied human experience as it postulated an artificial world of legal “being.” …

[*110] It has also been argued that an economistic, commodity definition of freedom undermines human community in general, and not only the community of those who have been specifically oppressed: “this kind of economics [market exchange] has the greatest difficulty in reflecting the reality of human community and the value of communal institutions. Its necessary tendency seems to be to destroy the idea of public action, indeed the idea of community itself” (White 1986, 191).

—from Corporate Personality and Human Commodification, by Peter d’Errico.

It is a serious issue because it concerns the nature and character of personhood or human identity, which impacts every area of social and economic crises of our newly unfolding 21st Century — drugs, human sexuality, gay marriage, corporate corruption, political crisis, economic crisis and the crisis of the Christian church(es). All stem from a faulty understanding of human identity.

And it is my contention in several of my books (Arsy Varsy — Reclaiming the Gospel in First Corinthans, Varsy Arsy — Proclaiming the Gospel in Second Corinthians, Colossians — Christos Singularitas (forthcoming) that Jesus Christ and His church are at the center of this problem of human identity that has unfolded over many thousands of years in various cultures,  and is (or will ultimately be) resolved by the doctrine of the Trinity. It is admittedly a complex argument because it is a complex problem.

The perspective I share issues directly out of Scripture, which is a large, complex book, written over thousands of years, and is  about this very thing — who we are as human beings. When the problem of human identity is properly framed, which means properly understood from the historic (and continuously developing), reformed (which includes the corrections brought about through the Protestant Reformation), orthodox (or correctly articulated) biblical perspective, it can be seen and addressed in the fullness of its complexity, or at least as much as we are able to do so individually.

This is the general subject of most of my books, which simply exposit Scripture, and it is the central subject of the Bible. My goal in writing as I do is to express what is an ordinary, common sense and biblically faithful perspective, to cut through the academics, invective, ignorance and hyperbole that so often cover up the Christian (and therefore trinitarian) message of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our time. It is not a simple message, but it is true.

“What is truth?” Pilate asked (John 18:38). He asked but didn’t really want to know because he was content to believe that he already knew. He didn’t need some country hick who couldn’t even get along with his own people to instruct him. Just who did He think He was?

“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.” —Elbert Hubbard

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