05 July 2018

Corporations shouldn’t have “free speech” for this one weird reason

They can’t go to jail. The government can fine them, but the government cannot take away their physical liberty.

Nor do corporations vote; a corporation is not and cannot be a citizen.

A for-profit corporation is a tool of commerce, like a butcher’s scale, a credit card, an accounts book, and an advertisement. That a corporation is more than an commercial device is a lie, a lie born out of deceit.

Because the corporation is inherently a tool of commerce, corporations should be regulated like any other commercial device. Government reasonably demands that butcher’s scales show true weight, that credit cards are charged fairly, that accounts are accurate, the banks faithfully hold their customers’ deposits and report those deposits accurately. When a business cheats with these ordinary tools of commerce, consumers rightfully expect government to prosecute the people running that business. Corporations are creatures of the market place, not of politics, and the market place must be well-regulated.

Now, companies already freely say bald-faced lies: cigarettes are good for you, coal is clean, global warming is a scam, that pollution isn’t from our plant, that pollution won’t hurt you, and the doozy “Corporations are people, too, my friend.”

If government allows corporations “free speech” on the basis of the First Amendment, then what is to stop corporations from claiming the right to say anything at the butcher scale with how much meat you are buying, with the credit card in how much you owe, and the accounts book in how much money you have on deposit? If a bank has the right to free speech to tell you whatever they want to say, then they can tell you that your bank balance is whatever they want to tell you it is. We should be surprised and offended if the butcher’s scale showed a different weight depending on the customer’s politics, or sexuality, or religion. These examples are (hopefully) obviously absurd.

Government should treat corporate lies in exactly the same way as it does a dishonest butcher’s scale. Government must require corporations to speak the truth, and to stay out of politics, for the same reason that a butcher’s scale should tell the truth and should stay out of politics. If you go into business, then you should treat everyone equally, and honestly, even if you dislike their politics, sexuality, or religion. And if you, in the course of your business, do not treat everyone equally and honestly, you should be prosecuted.

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