Corporate Personhood: A No Brainer

Notwithstanding the fact that I am a strong supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I believe that two of the ideas embraced by many of its adherents, corporate personhood and political campaign finance reform, are complete no brainers which will lead the movement nowhere.

Corporate personhood refers to the fact that over the past half century or so corporations have managed, in the eyes of the law, to acquire for themselves many of the rights heretofore associated only with humans.  The veracity of this statement is unassailable, but so what?

To curb the power of megacorporations those concerned about corporate personhood have proposed a series of constitutional amendments and changes in the law aimed at making it easier to control their behavior.  These same political activists also advocate political campaign finance reform as a complementary tool for reining in large corporations.  There is only one problem with these Pollyannaish proposals.  Our government is owned, operated, and controlled by Corporate America and Wall Street, who like things just the way they are.  There will be no constitutional amendments or legal changes limiting the rights of corporations.  Meaningful campaign finance reform is utter fantasy.

Unfortunately, all too few of the Occupy Wall Street supporters have come to terms with the fact that the U.S. Government is fundamentally unfixable.  They fail to realize that because of its sheer size, the United States is unsustainable, ungovernable, and, therefore, unfixable.  Just as it was impossible to manage 280 million people in the Soviet Union from one central bureau in Moscow, so too is it impossible to manage 310 million people from Washington.  The United States is simply too big to manage.

Given the lack of feasibility of political reform, that leaves us with only two options – rebellion or peaceful dissolution, otherwise known as secession.  In the words of Kirkpatrick Sale,

So far the level of dissent with the U.S. has not reached the point of rebellion or secession–thanks both to the increasing repression of dissent and escalation of fear in the name of  “homeland security” and to the success of our modern version of bread and circuses, a unique combination of entertainment, sports, television, internet sex and games, consumption, drugs, liquor, and religion that effectively deadens the general public into stupor.


Just as armed rebellion gave birth to the United States in 1776, so too could some combination of stock market meltdown, economic depression, crippling unemployment, monetary crisis, skyrocketing crude oil prices, double-digit inflation and interest rates, soaring federal deficits and trade imbalances, curtailment of social services, repeated terrorist attacks, return of the military draft or environmental catastrophe precipitate a violent twenty-first century revolution against Wall Street, Corporate America, and the U.S. Government.  However, we also reject this option, because we are opposed to all forms of violence.

There is, then, just one viable option:  peaceful dissolution, which might plausibly be initiated by the secession of states like Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, or Vermont.  Secession represents the only morally defensible response to the American Empire.

The Occupy Wall Street movement just might create a window of opportunity for a new world disorder – a disorder that rejects cant and dogma; a disorder that fosters creativity, possibility, and seething human enterprise; a disorder, most importantly, that promotes the decentralization of governance.  The term we use to describe this new world disorder is, genteel revolution.

The sooner the Occupy Wall Streeters figure out that the Empire is not fixable, the better off we will all be.

Thomas H. Naylor

October 27, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.

www.vermontrepublic.org.