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A Puzzlement

Since the Congress of the United States has decided to throw around opinions about this and that, people with an interest in the proper administration of government might want to take the opportunity to ask a few questions.

For example, given the rather clear language in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

How can Congress pass resolutions condemning a newspaper advertisement? Surely such an act is designed to suppress both speech and the press. This isn’t individual members of Congress expressing their views, this is the institution attacking the opinions of a group and the newspaper for printing those views. Isn’t the net effect an abridgment of free speech by the Congress?

6 comments

1 whig { 10.04.07 at 11:16 pm }

I don’t think, quite. It was a nonbinding resolution expressing the opinion of the body, which is arguably under Congress’s first amendment rights as well to speak.

2 whig { 10.04.07 at 11:17 pm }

It was certainly in poor taste and bad strategy.

3 hipparchia { 10.05.07 at 1:08 am }

a ticklish little problem. believers in corporate personhood say that without it, organizations like moveon would not have the right to place such an ad, not as free speech, anyway [protects the newspapers’ free speech too].

corporate personhood has certainly been used to steamroller those of us who are real and individual persons, so by striking out at the corporation that bought the ad, congress is tangentially striking a blow for the rights of real and individual persons over those of fake persons.

otoh, congress is mostly composed of mindless blithering warmongering hypocritical and hypercritical idiots who care naught for the rights of ordinary people, nor do they care one whit about the troops they’re supporting by passing these resolutions.

4 whig { 10.05.07 at 12:01 pm }

Corporations shouldn’t have free speech but people do, and can say whatever they want. Nothing prevents an organization like MoveOn from paying for an ad, nor prohibits someone from expressing the same content as their own speech.

5 Bryan { 10.05.07 at 12:11 pm }

Here’s the thing: when an individual in Congress condemns something they are exercising their right of free speech. If they do it on the floor, it’s “freer speech” because they are immune from a defamation suit. I’ve got no problem with that.

When Congress votes and condemns something, they aren’t rendering a personal opinion, they are stating a government policy. That brings the weight of the government against the individual, and there is no way the individual can respond.

There has never actually been a court decision that explicitly stated corporate personhood. This fiction is based on a tax case and the question of personhood was not an issue in deciding the case, only in the standing to bring the case. It wasn’t even challenged at the time of the case, and was included as a passing remark by one of the judges involved, not as part of the written opinion.

6 Steve Bates { 10.05.07 at 4:43 pm }

I suppose that’s what one of my teachers meant when she said, “Don’t all speak at once!”

The notion of corporate personhood is suspect, if not outright bogus. Can the corporation engage in speech? No, its board can determine that some speech is to the financial advantage of the stockholders (or some analogous concept for nonprofits), and direct employees to engage in speech on its behalf. Another difference is that a corporation, unless it commits major illegal activity, cannot die.

And let’s face it: the phrase “sense-of-the-Senate resolution” is an oxymoron.

So we have one nonentity (“sense-of-the-Senate resolution”) in conflict with another nonentity (“corporate personhood”). Somebody please construct a riddle about the outcome.

I also see a commercial opportunity here, which I hereby place into the public domain. Considering that men’s and women’s business attire usually involves jackets lacking suitable head and neck protection against cold weather, someone should manufacture and market… wait for it…

a Corporate Person Hood.

Oh, wait, there may be a problem with prior art…