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Magna Carta Said No Man Is Above the Law, but What About Corporations?

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Reprinted from The Nation


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Magna Carta reminds us that no man is above the law.

And it should be celebrated for that.

But it should not be imagined that Magna Carta established democracy, or anything akin to it.

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The great British parliamentarian Tony Benn put it well several years ago when he noted, as this 800th anniversary of Magna Carta approached, that we still do not have democracy.

"Don't look at historic documents but treat them as part of the language and words that help us understand what we have to do," said Benn, who died in 2014 at age 88.

As queens and presidents celebrate today's anniversary of Magna Carta, with all their pomp and circumstance, we the people should be focused on what we have to do.

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If we respect the notion that the rule of law must apply to all -- the most generous interpretation of the premises handed down across the centuries from those who on June 15, 1215, forced "the Great Charter of the Liberties" upon King John of England at Runnymede -- then surely it must apply to corporations.

And, surely, the best celebration of those premises in the United States must be the extension of the movement to amend the US Constitution to declare that corporations are not people, money is not speech, and citizens and their elected representatives have the authority to organize elections -- and systems of governance -- where our votes matter more than their dollars.

Millions of Americans have already engaged with the movement to amend the Constitution to overturn not just the Supreme Court's noxious 2010 decision in the case of Citizens United v. FEC but a host of other decisions that have permitted billionaires and corporate CEOs to define our politics and policies. Sixteen states have formally urged Congress to move an amendment, as have more than 600 communities. Democratic and Republican members of Congress are supportive. One presidential candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has penned an amendment proposal, while others, including Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, say they are open to the prospect.

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