When we say that the corporation is treated legally as if it were a single person, we are making a statement that affects the nature of our democracy. A citizen is allowed to have freedom of speech and to participate fully in the political life of our country. Should we extend the same liberties to corporations? Certainly, corporations are greatly affected by political actions. Therefore, would it not follow that they should be offered the opportunity to participate in the political life of the nation in the same manner as individual citizens? But when they are allowed to fully participate, are they just like any other voter and political voice? Do they have characteristics that differentiate them from those of regular human citizens? Suppose that Drill Baby Drill Oil Company, a Saudi Arabian-owned oil company incorporated in Delaware, wishes to spend $1 billion to elect the Republican candidate for president. Furthermore, suppose that this corporation has assets that exceed the gross national product of all but 12 nations.

 1. As it spent money for political purposes to influence elections, would Drill Baby Drill, which is required by law to pursue profits, be likely to use its money to elect politicians who had the long-run health of the nation uppermost in their minds? Clue: Think about the ambiguity contained in the phrase “long-term health of the nation.” Does that idea focus on the quality of our national environment? Or is it measured primarily in terms of how low our unemployment rate is? Or does it refer to some other quality or characteristic? Why would the answer matter?

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2. Why does the extent to which the answer to the first question is “yes” influence the extent to which we might treat a corporation as just another citizen for purposes of the law? Clue: Suppose that the firm is a multinational corporation. How does that status, coupled with the firm’s focus on profits, alter our understanding of what it means to be a citizen of a nation?

 3. What are the inadequacies in seeing the corporation as identical to a person for political purposes? Clue: What evidence about corporate behavior in elections would shape your perception of whether a corporation is just another person?


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