The corporate personhood debate refers to the controversy (primarily in the United States) over the question of what subset of rights afforded under the law to natural persons should also be afforded to corporations as legal persons.
As a matter of interpretation of the word "person" in the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. courts have extended certain constitutional protections to corporations. Opponents of corporate personhood seek to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit these rights to those provided by state law and state constitutions.
The relevant Amendment opens this way:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
Are corporations "born"? Are they capable of being "naturalized"?
No, and no. Semantic fancy-dancing aside, a corporation is an artificial legal construct without independent life or purpose. It is a legal fiction that exists to permit actual "persons" to work together toward a common end.**
A quick review of judicial and expert opinion of the "personhood" of corporations and the intent of the Supreme Court at that time to declare corporations as "people" entitled to equal protection under the law--any reading done before the relatively recent and highly militant defense of corporations by the Right--shows that any no such decision was made. The Supreme Court specifically avoided ruling on the question.
Others argue that corporations should have the protection of the U.S. Constitution, pointing out that they are organizations of people, and that these people shouldn't be deprived of their human rights when they join with others to act collectively
A certain cognitive dissonance results if you contemplate this statement in the context of recent rightwing demands to limit the rights of actual people to join with others and act collectively, doesn't it? People acting "collectively" are persons if they're working for someone else's benefit (the CEO, Board of Directors, shareholders, etc.) but evil if they're working for their own good (labor unions).
I'm losing sight of the point of this rant, aren't I?
My point is that corporations are not equal "persons" under the law and should not be treated as such. A corporation does not need and is not entitled to the same rights as a human being. This tendency toward believing otherwise is ominous. It's how citizens become "consumers," even to their elected officials. It's how human beings become "units," and how a society becomes a set of emotionless "demographics" to be measured and manipulated.
What we should have done ("we" as a country, I mean) was to declare that corporations were something other than persons--nothing wrong with the very descriptive and accurate "entities" as an identifier--having only those limited rights specifically granted, those rights not to include political activity, or financial or other support for any primarily political organization.
I'm making stew (Literally, I mean. Chopping veggies and putting them in a pot.) and I've interrupted myself so often that I lost sight of my original point.
I'm pretty sure it had something to do with this country's original interpretation of what kind of "person" was a citizen entitled to full rights and liberties (i.e., white men) being repurposed today to encompass only corporations--the bigger the better (largely run by and for the benefit of white men). Racism reborn as personism or something.***
I foresee a day when the rest of us are relegated to three-fifths status. That's all I'm saying. If you take the broad view of the situation over the last 30 years or so, there's a definite pattern.
* I mean, okay, I didn't do it the first time, but you know what I mean. (I never let reality get in the way of a good post title.)
** Okay, not so much in today's rat-race society, but in theory.
*** Anyone thinking I'm taking this country's history of racial discrimination lightly should think again.