Greenfield, “Corporations Are People Too (And They Should Act Like It)”

Citizens United v. FEC (2008) and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores (2014) were important Supreme Court cases in establishing corporate rights of free speech and religious freedom (the former constitutionally, the latter statutorily). They were and are also loudly criticized for extending these rights of “personhood” to the artificial person of the corporation. Certainly in the religious freedom context, but also in the speech context, the disagreement over corporate rights tracks a more fundamental difference with respect to the fundamental location of the right of religious liberty: the “church” or the individual.

Here is a new book that argues that corporations do have rights under certain Yalecircumstances, but that this imposes on them certain responsibilities–responsibilities which, the author claims, are imposed on individuals as rights-bearers. I’m curious to see just which responsibilities he has in mind. The book is Corporations Are People Too (And They Should Act Like It) (Yale UP) by Kent Greenfield (image only available in the Yale catalogue at present).

Are corporations people? The U.S. Supreme Court launched a heated debate when it ruled in Citizens United that corporations can claim the same free speech rights as humans. Should corporations be able to claim rights of free speech, religious conscience, and due process? Kent Greenfield provides an answer: Sometimes. With an analysis sure to challenge the assumptions of both progressives and conservatives, Greenfield explores corporations’ claims to constitutional rights and the foundational conflicts about their obligations in society. He argues that a blanket opposition to corporate personhood is misguided, since it is consistent with both the purpose of corporations and the Constitution itself that corporations can claim rights at least some of the time. The problem with Citizens United is not that corporations have a right to speak, but for whom they speak. The solution is not to end corporate personhood but to require corporations to act more like citizens.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: