More Lies At Patterico

Aaron Worthing again, making things up as he goes along, writes:

And the founders clearly always contemplated corporations and similar business organizations having an outsized say in the political process.

Whaaaa?!?  This is demonstrably untrue.

First, let’s state the obvious. In the Constitution, it says “We the people…”, not “We the corporations…”. The founding fathers never addressed corporations in the Constitution. And why not? Because it never occurred to them that corporations would be perceived as people. And why would they have? Corporations don’t eat, they don’t breathe, they don’t vote, they don’t fight battles in wars. If the founders wanted corporations to have an outsized say in the political process, then why didn’t they just come out and SAY so?

In fact, the founders were wary of any institution (government or corporations) having unchecked power over individual rights. Like many in the Occupy Wall Street movement of today, the founders were concerned about collusion between government and business.

The most notable example? The Boston Tea Party. That historical protest emanated from the laws passed by the Parliament designed to aid and prop up one specific corporation, the East India Tea Company. (Basically, it cut taxes on tea in England, so that people would drink it more, and made up for the lost revenue by taxing the American colonists).

The very idea that the founders were corporatists is just laughable.

Even after the Revolution, our founders sought to limit the influence and power of corporations. Corporations were only permitted to exist 20 or 30 years. They could only deal in one commodity. They could not hold stock in other companies. Their property holdings were limited to what they needed to accomplish their business goals.

And most importantly, corporations could not make any political or charitable contributions nor spend money to influence law-making. In fact, it was a criminal offense in most states.

This went on for over 100 years. Corporation didn’t get “personhood” status until 1886, with Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, and even then, the “personhood” status came about as a clerical error. (The court did not make a ruling on the question of “corporate personhood,” but thanks to misleading notes of a clerk, the decision subsequently was used as precedent to hold that a corporation was a “natural person.”)

Need more proof? Here’s what some founding fathers said of the major corporations of the time, i.e., the banks:

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1802

“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1816

“Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.” – John Adams

Mistrust of corporations continued right up the Industrial Revolution. Even Lincoln famously said:

“The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. They denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw light upon their crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.”

You can’t change facts.

UPDATE:  Aaron the Ankle-biter responds in the comments with a couple of non-responses.  Both here and on in his original Patterico post, he doesn't refute the many objections to his bald, unsupported assertion that "the founders clearly always contemplated corporations and similar business organizations having an outsized say in the political process", save one — he doesn't trust "biased" sources which assert, contra his point, that the founders were actually wary of corporations and sought to limit their power and influence in the social and political arena.  (He also engages in some rather non-sensical line of thought that when the founders protected "freedom of the press", they really were thinking about the speech rights of non-media corporations).

It's easier, I imagine, for the history-challenged Worthing to make things up, and that's his perogative.  But I'll leave it to the reader to find the anser for his or herself, and in doing so, I give this advice to both the reader and Worthing (not his real name): Google is your friend.  Did the founders always contemplate that corporations and similar business organizations having an outsized say in the political process?  The answer is easily discoverable.  Start here.  And Aaron, stop digging.

  4 comments for “More Lies At Patterico

  1. Bill
    November 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks! Bookmarked for future reference.

  2. Aaron Worthing
    November 23, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    All of these objections were adequately addressed in the comments. And yet even after I demonstrated that this commenter was deliberately misconstruing what I had said, by taking me out of context, you decided to mimick him. So if anyone is lying…

  3. Aaron Worthing
    November 28, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    And funny, you don’t even address my comment here, but you did every other post i just addressed in the “trifecta” post.

  4. Ken Hirsch
    December 1, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    The first “Jefferson” quote is actually from the 1930s.

    Lincoln never said any of that quote. Part of it is actually from William Jennings Bryan, with slightly altered wording. I’ve never been able to find where the “two great enemies” quote comes from, but it’s not Lincoln. It doesn’t appear until well into the 20th century.

    The part about the 1886 corporate personhood decision is partly right, but there’s no doubt that the Supreme Court meant it. It reasserted the point several times. And corporations were persons in other contexts (besides the 14th Amendment), a legal principle that was well established before 1886.

What do you think?