Monday, September 7, 2015

Why Do Corporations Have Speech Rights? They Don't.

Their members do.
Loads of people have been freaking about about recent Supreme Court cases regarding free speech, which is culminating into a move to repeal the speech protections of the First Amendment. A major pillar of the campaign is that "Corporations aren't people." Except that ignores a basic fact of corporations: they are organizing structures so that people can co-operate. Corporations are nothing but people.

So, let's take a group of people:

All of these people have independent rights to speak, to protest, to create media and distribute it, and to have rallies and meetings. Nobody challenges that (yet).

But a group of people all have different skills and abilities, so a group may decide to do a specific thing, like a video, and work together to accomplish it, using their complementary skills and abilities.

But then, assume they want to start a BIG project and to raise money. If they all just raised money on their own individually, or as an ad-hoc group, there'd be no way to make sure the money actually went to the project, or that it would go to actual work. To alleviate these concerns and get the group organized, they form a corporation.

So now we have a corporation, which is made up of people who have the right to speak, which includes producing videos. The "right" of the corporation to speak is simply the right of the people involved in the corporation to speak together.

So what about large corporations that have other agendas too, especially business corporations?

Well, being a member of the corporation is voluntary, especially for stockholders. If they object, they can simply sell the stock at their discretion. It's harder for an employee to quit than it is to sell stock, but it's still voluntary. If someone disagrees with the direction of any organization, it is their obligation to quit the organization if necessary.

But even that does not justify curtailing the freedom of speech of everyone else involved in the organization. Because when you curtail the speech of an organization, you curtail the speech of everyone in that organization, because that's where the "right" of the corporation comes from: the right of the people in the organization.
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  1. Great post, but I reckon "using their complimentary skills" should read "using their complEmentary skills."