Citizens United, BP and the Deepwater Horizon, Monsanto and the Death Penalty

Posted: April 20, 2012 in Humanity, My Whirled
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Years ago I was sitting in a Philosophy class at CU- Boulder getting my mind blown. The professor was talking about a legal ruling that decided that corporations were “people” and deserving of essentially the same rights as us biological entities. I was stunned, but at the time, figured “No way in hell will this stand up for long”. I am now calling for the Death Penalty. Capital … Capitol … damn you mental thesaurus ….punishment. I’ll get there in a bit.

I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong. The Supreme Court eventually ruled on a case from a political group “Citizens United” and upheld the idea that corporations were people, and that because of this, they could spend as much money as they wanted to purchase airtime/print media ads, etc and for any reason. Most of what you hear about today on this issue is regarding political advertising and Super PACs.  But it also means that pharmaceutical companies can advertise anything they wish so long a some fast talker reads off side effects at the end, that ag-business such as Monsanto can do it and claim their GMO foods are perfectly safe while they threaten to sue states who want them to label their frankenfood, oil companies like BP can do it and show us “pristine” beaches while a mile down the road oil is killing marshland.  And if they lie, they can’t really be punished. You can fine them, for sure, but for the most part, those fines will be a pittance compared to the money they have in the bank and the money that rolls in every day. You can’t put them in jail for fraud. Can’t stop them from doing it again, and again, and again. All they have to do is throw more money at fines. OK in some extreme cases public outrage will rise up and cause some change, but this is rare.

So a few days ago, something occurred to me. That there IS a way to fight this.  There is a way to imprison them for crimes, or even apply the Death Penalty when it is particularly heinous. Like killing eleven people and poisoning a coastline. Like forcing farmers to use genetically modified seeds and selling pesticides tailor made for these crops, poisons that are sickening untold numbers of real humans and ravaging our ecosystem.

I’ve used the term “follow the money” in past blogs, and it dawned on me that this is the answer here as well.

Hit their money.  ALL OF IT…or rather, all of a certain part of it. If a corporation commits a crime that would land a human in jail, that corporation’s profits for that jail time become public funds, used for the good of everyone. Don’t shut them down, per se, not fair to make the employees who are not responsible lose their jobs, but punish the shareholders whose board of directors allowed the crimes to occur/or who decided to commit crimes under the guise of a faceless company.

If a corporation commits murder, and get’s a life sentence,  it’s done. Becomes publicly owned for the “life sentence”, it’s profits public, it’s board fired and or jailed. If it commits murder so heinous that a death penalty is warranted, this public ownership becomes permanent and we publicly elect a board/CEO.

Help me reason through this, it just sorta came to me.

Think about it.


UPDATE: Shareholder dividends, and executive bonuses/board contract salary /severance package or any other bonus payment would also be included, along with profits are public in the case of regular crimes. Murder would get board members barred from employment in the industry for life in addition to jail time.


And from a reader:

Apr 24, 10:35 pm

If a corporation is to be declared to be a person then that corporation should be able to do jail time, or frozen asset time, for the length of the sentence. Assets frozen for 7-10 years for manslaughter.

  1. Sahm Ataine King says:

    You know what? I like this. That’s a great idea! I mean, corporations are counted as “people”. They should be held liable for their crimes. While I’m more for executing the lot of them (forgive me as I may be a Son of March), this is a responsible punishment that would benefit, not just the people they’ve hurt, but the country as a whole.

    Only problem I can see, though, is the government setting corporations up and perhaps accusing them of crimes they may not necessarily have committed or be responsible for… Yeah, I know, a stretch, but I think the government can be that dirty… Still, awesome idea.

  2. Eli Cabelly says:

    If a corporation is to be declared to be a person then that corporation should be able to do jail time, or frozen asset time, for the length of the sentence. Assets frozen for 7-10 years for manslaughter.

  3. is suicide and option? maybe euthanasia? how would these translate into corporations being people?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Your idea appears to have some merit (beyond the difficulty of implemntation in the current political climate.) But I have a better, more direct idae. Corporate executives are to be held legally responsible for the actions of their companies.They can be fined and imprisoned because, as executives, they are the actual causative agents of the crime.

    If nothing else, it forces them to consider what they are willing to do for the millions of dollars they are overpad annually…

  5. tom sutherland says:

    corporation are not humans. what the supreme court did was insane. the problem with prosecuting humans under the umbrella of a corporation is that they too have their individual rights. It all goes back to one thing. Corporations are not humans. The supreme court had to have a major payoff to pass such legislation? It is just insane.

    • philebersole says:

      I think your idea has merit. The problem with it is that, in fact, corporations are not persons. It is not the corporation that should be punished for crimes and misdeeds. It is the individual executives within the corporation, who may be long gone by the time the corporation is held accountable. Or they may leave with a golden parachute.

      Under the present structure of corporate governance, individual stockholders have less responsibility for the crimes or corporate executives than I as an individual American citizen have for the crimes of the Bush and Obama administrations. Many of the stockholders of BP are pension funds in the United Kingdom; I don’t see any justice in punishing these retirees.

      The problem with corporate personhood is that it allows actual people to shield themselves from legal liability by assigning it to a fictitious person, the corporation. A corporate executive has only one legal responsibility, to maximize shareholder value. If at the same time corporate personhood shields executives from legal and financial responsibility for their actions, then the incentive is to behave as executives of BP, Monsanto and other corporations have done.

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