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(18,530 posts)
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 10:30 AM Sep 2012

Is how you spend money really freedom of speech?

I believe the courts have ruled so. However, why do non-citizens, such as corporations, have this right?

If our rights extend to non-citizens, shouldn't freedom of speech also extend to people in other countries? Certainly violence shouldn't, but that's not what I'm suggesting.

If non-citizens are not entitled to our Constitutional rights, what separates corporations from other non-citizens, giving them Constitutional rights other non-citizens do not enjoy?




(18,530 posts)
1. P.S. Corporate interests are execising their "freedom of speech" in determining the outcome of...
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 10:41 AM
Sep 2012

...the Chicago teachers' strike, our nation's foreign policy and our Presidential election right now.


(34,575 posts)
3. Rights end with jurisdiction.
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:33 PM
Sep 2012

We may say or even believe that all rights are natural rights, but being allowed to enjoy the exercise of those rights varies. This view of natural rights arose under autocracy, after all.

The US government is to permit the free exercise of those rights. It can only do this on US soil. Off US soil the US government has trouble forcing other governments to permit the free exercise of those rights. We like to think that it's a good thing to send in mercenaries and the CIA to topple governments and to invade in the name of freedom. At least when it makes us and ours look good.

The natural rights viewpoint says that everybody has the same set of natural rights. Their governments don't allow the free exercise of many of them. What's left is to sit and say, "Yup" or to say "Attack!"

Rights enjoyed by US citizens on US soil, by legal immigrants, legal visitors, and illegal visitors vary in nature. Some are extended and protected. Other rights, like the right to vote, not so much. There's a part of civil life open to all comers; there's a part of civil life that's reserved for American citizens.

Foreign persons have a slightly different status when they act on behalf of foreign governments or can be seen to be acting on behalf of foreign governments. It's not a matter of just civil rights; it's also a matter of the sovereignty of a free people. The free exercise of nearly any right can be curtailed when the stakes are sufficiently large.

Corporations are a thorny issue. They are legally persons for a lot of purposes. They pay taxes. They own property. They have standing to file suits in civil court and to be arraigned in civil and criminal court. They have a right to defend themselves. They have various other rights. In the end, this is probably a good thing. Do they have free speech rights? Do they have the *same* free speech rights as natural born persons? There's the rub. For the most part they're just assemblies of natural born persons engaged in collective action on their own behalf or on behalf of other natural-born persons who own shares in the company. Usually the two "behalfs" would lead to similar actions. That rather says that since corporations can defend themselves in court, since they're essentially groups of people acting as a collective, and since they will be subject to whatever laws are made and whatever attacks are issued in the public sphere against them that they, too, should have some freedom of speech. Still, should it be the *same*? Dunno.

Note that our perceptions are sharply skewed to notice the handful of threats that lurk in a savannah filled with life and fairly neutral things. We talk as though all corporations were billion-dollar multinationals. 95% or more aren't. Most US corporations are composed of Americans.

Note also that Greenpeace and the like are corporations. Again, groups of people self-organizing for a collective purpose under a group identity with rights akin to those of a person.

Is money freedom of speech? Look at the current campaign. We're besieged for money from politicians because they need to get their word out. There's no getting the word out, apart from the news, without cash. We hear an ad we don't like, we want them to shut up. We hear an ad we do like, we say we like what's said. "Shutting up" and "saying" involve the exercise of free speech. The campaign funding requests are put in terms of speech. We never hear, "Donate now! We won't spend it but need it desperatedly. Having a lot of money in the bank is a potent sign of support, and the campaign with the most cash on hand on election day usually wins."

It's a different matter whether all that expensive free speech makes much of a difference most of the time.



(18,530 posts)
7. Good answer. Should corporations be legally treated as persons, though,...
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 02:11 PM
Sep 2012

...if they cannot be held accountable and responsible under the law as a citizen would? If an American kills two people, they may end up in prison for life or even face the death penalty. If a corporation kills two thousand people, they pay off the families, rebrand, close a factory or two and give themselves raises. Is that fair, necessary or a good idea?

If there are good reasons for "corporate personhood," and, as you suggest, corporate rights may be different from those of natural citizens, shouldn't we just create a separate set of rights for them (a corporate Bill of Rights)?

Good stuff. Thank you.


(10,693 posts)
4. Sure - then the more money you have, the more freedom
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:40 PM
Sep 2012

and one guy with lots of money can drown out the voices of millions.

Once some people thought we were all created equal...



(18,530 posts)
8. Good point. Do the rich deserve more freedom of speech than the poor?
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 02:14 PM
Sep 2012

As-is, it appears to be the case. What would be the best way to level the field? The optional donation at tax time doesn't seem to be working very well. Eliminate "corporate personhood?" Something else?



(10,960 posts)
5. Speech Rights extend to corporations only insofar as
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:44 PM
Sep 2012

they represent the combined effort of individuals. If a corporation were formed by horses or bricks it would have no speech rights.

Your are posting on Democratic Underground, LLC, so this ought to be easy to get.

Many public advocacy groups are corporations.



(18,530 posts)
9. More good points.
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 02:18 PM
Sep 2012

So, the corporation itself is not necessarily the problem; it can be a tool or a weapon, depending on who is running it. In an earlier example, I mentioned that a citizen who kills people goes to prison for murder while a corporation that kills people simply rebrands and pays people off. How do we do a better job of making corporate behavior fair?

Thank you.



(20,729 posts)
6. Money = freedom of speech means the 1% have a bigger megaphone than the 99%. Which
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 12:50 PM
Sep 2012

means the 'freedom' of the 99% is entirely illusory.

But I take your point, & it's entirely logical.



(18,530 posts)
10. Good point. Look at the current Presidential campaign fundraising data...
Sat Sep 15, 2012, 02:27 PM
Sep 2012

...where an insane amount of republican money is supplied by a handful of people. If we say spending money is a form of freedom of speech, it is definitely not one all American can exercise equally. Should our 1st Amendment rights be equally expressable by all citizens? How does this affect citizens who choose not to express themselves at all? What about corporations, which aren't really people, but enjoy some of the legal rights of citizens? What is a better way for us to handle this?

Thank you.

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