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June 17, 2009

Is There a Constitutional Problem with Corporate Personhood?

I remember from my business, government, and society class (MGMT 320) at UW that we discussed how laws in the United States had evolved to count corporations as People, which also gave them the Rights that the Citizens of the United States have.  A thought just crossed my mind that made me wonder if the way corporate personhood is currently structured might violate The Constitution.

Amendment XIII

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Now corporations have "owners" that are its "shareholders", which is where the problem potentially exists.  If

  1. corporations are People and have the same Rights as other People that are outlined in The Constitution,
  2. "slavery" means that a person is owned by one or more other persons or entities, and
  3. slavery is illegal in the United States, then...

isn't it illegal for corporations to have "owners" since most corporations haven't committed a crime to warrant being enslaved or put into involuntary servitude?

It would seem from this predicament that either corporations cannot have owners or that corporations should not be granted full personhood, because of this constitutional problem.  Here's the Wikipedia article for more history on corporate personhood and how it has specifically developed in the United States.


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