We the Corporations
We the Corporations chronicles the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known “civil rights movements” in American history. Hardly oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations, too, have fought since the nation’s earliest days to gain equal rights under the Constitution—and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people.Exposing the historical origins of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, Adam Winkler explains how those controversial Supreme Court decisions extending free speech and religious liberty to corporations were the capstone of a centuries-long struggle over corporate personhood and constitutional protections for business. Beginning his account in the colonial era, Winkler reveals the profound influence corporations had on the birth of democracy and on the shape of the Constitution itself. Once the Constitution was ratified, corporations quickly sought to gain the rights it guaranteed. The first Supreme Court case on the rights of corporations was decided in 1809, a half-century before the first comparable cases on the rights of African Americans or women. Ever since, corporations have waged a persistent and remarkably fruitful campaign to win an ever-greater share of individual rights.Although corporations never marched on Washington, they employed many of the same strategies of more familiar civil rights struggles: civil disobedience, test cases, and novel legal claims made in a purposeful effort to reshape the law. Indeed, corporations have often been unheralded innovators in constitutional law, and several of the individual rights Americans hold most dear were first secured in lawsuits brought by businesses.Winkler enlivens his narrative with a flair for storytelling and a colorful cast of characters: among others, Daniel Webster, America’s greatest advocate, who argued some of the earliest corporate rights cases on behalf of his business clients; Roger Taney, the reviled Chief Justice, who surprisingly fought to limit protections for corporations—in part to protect slavery; and Roscoe Conkling, a renowned politician who deceived the Supreme Court in a brazen effort to win for corporations the rights added to the Constitution for the freed slaves. Alexander Hamilton, Teddy Roosevelt, Huey Long, Ralph Nader, Louis Brandeis, and even Thurgood Marshall all played starring roles in the story of the corporate rights movement.In this heated political age, nothing can be timelier than Winkler’s tour de force, which shows how America’s most powerful corporations won our most fundamental rights and turned the Constitution into a weapon to impede the regulation of big business.

We the Corporations Details

TitleWe the Corporations
Author
ReleaseFeb 27th, 2018
PublisherLiveright
ISBN-139780871407122
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Business, History, Law, Politics

We the Corporations Review

  • David Wineberg
    January 1, 1970
    It is endlessly entertaining to examine Supreme Court decisions, to follow the logic and often the prejudice and corruption they comprise. We The Corporations selectively follows the tribulations of the 14th amendment, designed specifically to prevent discrimination among the newly freed slaves following the Civil War. Corporations immediately overtook it, claiming it was meant for them. The results have been dispiriting to say the least. Between 1868 and 1912, of 604 14th amendment cases, only It is endlessly entertaining to examine Supreme Court decisions, to follow the logic and often the prejudice and corruption they comprise. We The Corporations selectively follows the tribulations of the 14th amendment, designed specifically to prevent discrimination among the newly freed slaves following the Civil War. Corporations immediately overtook it, claiming it was meant for them. The results have been dispiriting to say the least. Between 1868 and 1912, of 604 14th amendment cases, only 28 were on behalf of blacks, and most of them lost. Corporations on the other hand, began an endless winning streak, culminating in the execrable Citizens United decision that has allowed companies to buy election issues, and of course, candidates.The evidence shows that corporate constitutional rights as persons is a lie. Corporations have pummeled the courts with suits claiming natural person rights, and have won enough victories to make it law. Along the way, corrupt and incompetent justices have attributed rights to them that do not exist, while corporate lawyers have interpreted the constitution to make it seem the founders had always intended to put corporations on an equal footing with people. It is not so, says Adam Winkler in this engrossing book. Corporations successfully argue that they have no race or religion when it suits them, and also that stockholders’ race or religion exempts the firms from laws they don’t like. Piercing the corporate veil to claim the stockholders control in cases where it is beneficial, while claiming the corporation is an artificial construct of law where no humans control (for example when prison beckons). That corporations have the sole goal of making money for stockholders, but also that corporations have unlimited funds for political races without regard to stockholders.The Roscoe Conkling case is particularly instructive. Conkling was on the committee that drafted the 14th amendment. Later, representing Southern Pacific Railroad, and after all the other drafting committee members had died, Conkling told the Supreme Court he had the official notes of the committee’s deliberations, and they said the intent was always to extend person rights to companies. Without anyone to refute these claims, and apparently without anyone ever examining the notes, the Supreme Court bought it – hook, line and sinker. Later examination showed the notes intimated no such thing, and neither did the wording of the amendment, nor any of the deliberations across the country at the time of debate, hearings and passage. But the law of the land changed to accommodate this lie. Conkling’s professional descendants in the US Chamber of Commerce claim to win 70% of the corporate rights cases they bring to the Supreme Court.It all leads sadly to Citizens United, in which corporations got not just 14th amendment rights, but first amendment rights – everything but the vote itself. The Roberts court shamed itself and in particular Chief Justice Roberts himself. Roberts had promised to be a minimalist, delivering narrow, incremental decisions that didn’t overreach. But in Citizens United, he expanded the minor claim that a film with a small corporate contribution could be shown during the election – to broadly encompass unfettered corporate free speech, unlimited cash contributions, plus the overturning of previous precedents, none of which were sought in the matter. The country cried Shame, with 80% disagreeing that corporations should be totally free to spend on politics at will. Winkler says Citizens United was not a product of the Roberts court so much as the culmination of “a two hundred year struggle” by business to have it all ways.What is striking is that mere mortals can easily see where the Supreme Court went off the rails, yet the decisions stand. In lieu of common sense, politics prevails. Personal prejudices and agendas beat the constitution. Contradictions allow for any kind of interpretation that favors corporations. And lawyers and judges continue to cite case law incorrectly. The insiders know it is all wrong. Winkler quotes Delaware (with the most lenient corporate laws in the country) Chancery Judge Leo Strine that a corporation “is a distinct entity that is legally separated from its stockholders, managers and creditors. That is the whole point of corporate law, after all.” Unless you’re a Supreme Court justice, it seems.David Wineberg
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (Hardcover) by Adam Winkler from the libraryheard au on 1A ( https://the1a.org/) on NPR Feb 26 2018from the library computer:Introduction : Are corporations people? -- Part one. Corporate origins -- In the beginning, America was a corporation -- Part two. The birth of corporate rights -- The first corporate rights case -- The corporation's lawyer -- Part three. Property rights, not liberty rights -- The conspiracy for corporate We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (Hardcover) by Adam Winkler from the libraryheard au on 1A ( https://the1a.org/) on NPR Feb 26 2018from the library computer:Introduction : Are corporations people? -- Part one. Corporate origins -- In the beginning, America was a corporation -- Part two. The birth of corporate rights -- The first corporate rights case -- The corporation's lawyer -- Part three. Property rights, not liberty rights -- The conspiracy for corporate rights -- The corporate criminal -- Property, not politics -- Part four. the rise of liberty rights for corporations -- Discrete and insular corporations -- Corporations, race, and civil rights -- The corporation's justice -- The triumph of corporate rights -- Conclusion : Corporate rights and wrongs.
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  • Maggie Holmes
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the books I always wanted to write (along with Anne Bogel's Reading People book.) I've known that the history of corporation rights began early in our country's history. I just didn't know how early. We the Corporations is an important book about an important topic. Corporations are really in charge in our country and Winkler explains how they got there. From the beginnings of corporations in Roman law through Blackstone in England and the colonization of America, corporations hav This is one of the books I always wanted to write (along with Anne Bogel's Reading People book.) I've known that the history of corporation rights began early in our country's history. I just didn't know how early. We the Corporations is an important book about an important topic. Corporations are really in charge in our country and Winkler explains how they got there. From the beginnings of corporations in Roman law through Blackstone in England and the colonization of America, corporations have been legal entities. While they are not mentioned in the constitution, the courts have slowly given corporations the rights of individuals through many, many cases. Winkler spells all of this out as he presents the cases and describes the colorful lawyers and justices that have paved the way to Citizens United. The final chapter includes some insights into what arguments could be made in a battle to amend the Constitution. This book would be the foundation of a fascinating course. I'm going to purchase this book for my family and for a friend.Thank you Edelweiss+ for the advance reader's copy.
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