My new column is up at Forbes, and discusses the proposal by a number of Congressmen for a Constitutional Amendment to strip corporations of speech and other rights. The post is hard to excerpt but here is just a bit:
This is why this proposed Amendment is so absurd. In effect, it would mean that we all enjoy the full range of Constitutional rights, except when we agree to assemble and cooperate -- then we lose them all. If I as an individual bake bread in my kitchen for resale, I could still petition the state to modify regulations relevant to my activity. If I then join together with my neighbor in a cooperative venture to bake and resell bread, does it really make sense that I would then lose my right to petition the government?
Worse, the proposed Amendment does not limit its scope to just the First Amendment. It means that individuals, when on corporate property, might have no protection from unreasonable searches and seizures; corporations would have no guarantee of due process or of a jury trial in civil suits; corporate assets would no longer be protected from eminent domain seizure without compensation. Under this provision, the Federal government could seize Apple Computer if it so desired (or even quarter troops in the Apple offices!). This all sounds like a stalking horse for Socialism, which might seem overwrought until one realizes that Bernie Sanders is the sponsor of a similar proposal in the Senate....
Of all the possible approaches to reducing the ability of private citizens to manipulate government policy to their personal benefit, this is in fact likely the worst. As mentioned above, there are many different avenues to exercising influence and power, of which election spending and advertising is just one. But election spending is the most transparent of all of these approaches. This proposed amendment would in effect substitute highly visible advertising and electioneering with backroom deals and political patronage that is far more hidden from the public eye. A cynical person might argue that this is exactly the goal.