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February 8, 2012

Is The USA The Only Nation in the World With Corporate Personhood?

By Rob Kall

There are no nations in the world with a constitution that gives corporations the right of personhood.

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It's not surprising to learn that no nation on earth enshrines in its constitution the right of corporate personhood. 

Mila Versteeg, associate law professor at the University of Virginia,  is probably the only person in the world to have read every constitution that has been written since 1946--  constitutions from 186 nations. She's not only read them, she's quantified them, in terms of the rights that they define. That was part of a project she did while at Oxford. 

That led to the NY Times publishing an article, "We The People" Loses Appeal With People Around the World  based partly on the work of her and her colleague, David Law, professor of Law at Washington University. 

That NY Times article reported on the finding of Versteeg and Law that, while 30 or more years ago, the US Constitution was highly regarded, things have changed. The Times article cited a journal article remark by Law and Versteeg,
"Among the world's democracies," Professors Law and   Versteeg   concluded, "constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall. Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s."
That article inspired me to interview Law and Versteeg on my Bottom Up Radio show

They explained that the US with the oldest constitution, probably has the hardest to change constitution in the world, suggesting that it has become fetishized, with constitutional fundamentalism based on "textualism" and "originalism" which Justices Scalia and Thomas both advocate. 

They explained that, with a constitution so hard, perhaps impossible to revise, the way that adjustments are made is through the opinions and decisions of the Supreme Court, and how that body has become far more powerful than in the early days of the nation. 

It was connivance by a former railroad company president, Bancroft Davis, who, changed jobs to become a Supreme Court Clerk who wrote a headnote that came to be viewed as the key verbiage that led to the setting of precedent on corporate personhood. 

Since then, the US has accepted that corporations have the same rights as persons as defined by the 14th amendment. 

I asked professors Law and Versteeg, " Are there other nations where corporations are given similar rights to people?"

Professor Versteeg replied, "I'm probably the only person in the world who's read all the constitutions and  I don't think it's something that's in the constitutions."

Next, I asked, " So, from what you know, having looked at 186 foreign constitutions, none of them offer corporate personhood rights."

Versteeg replied, " I"m pretty sure that none of them do and also, foreign constitutions tend to be more explicit.   They can be 400 pages long and I haven't seen any of that and I'm pretty sure about it."  

Professor Law added, "It is quite popular in other countries to have some kind of restriction in the constitution on property rights, how property can be used. Property rights have to be consistent with social welfare. You can't use property in such a way that it harms society. If you think of a corporation as a bundle of property rights, those specific clauses provide a basis for regulating corporations.   You don't have that kind of a limitation in the US constitution on property rights. There is more of a constitutional basis for regulation corporations than there is in this country."

Professors Law and Versteeg added the caveat that corporate personhood is not a right that is part of the US constitution and that it could be, like in the US, something that a court in another nation added. But they also pointed out that most nations revise or replace their constitution, on the average, every 19 years. That means that supreme courts have much less influence on the laws of most nations. 

Versteeg and Law also discussed how the US constitution, so rigidly enshrined and "fetishized," has become treated in a Catholic way, like a "sacred document," not to be questioned. 

Currently, there are a number of bills in various stages in congress aimed at ending corporate personhood. Perhaps the sponsors would benefit from looking at the constitutions of other nations-- so language and law ideas on restricting corporate abuse of property, or corporate abuses period, might be adopted. Then again, in the US, the constitution has become a fossilized religious phenomenon that people are afraid to touch, handing the power to change laws over to the supreme court. If that is the reality, perhaps it is time the elected elements of the three parts of the balance of power in government take a hard look at just how important it is to change the constitution. Ironically, Thomas Jefferson literally suggested that the constitution should be re-written every 19 years. It's hard to imagine how he could have conceived of an idea that research statistics now support  has become the exact average number of years that most nations go between revising their constitutions. 


Submitters Bio:

Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Rob Kall's Bottom Up Radio Show: Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes

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Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.

To learn more about Rob and OpEdNews.com, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. 

For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..  and here's an article on the Storycon Summit Meeting he founded and organized for eight years. 

Press coverage in the Wall Street Journal: Party's Left Pushes for a Seat at the Table

Talk Nation Radio interview by David Swanson:  Rob   Kall  on Bottom-Up Governance June, 2017

Here is a one hour radio interview where Rob was a guest- on Envision This, and here is the transcript. 

To watch Rob having a lively conversation with John Conyers, then Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click hereWatch Rob speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

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