By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND

From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Subject: personhood for corporations as the problem.
To: “Charles”Date: Saturday, June 20, 2009, 12:16 AM
I had an interesting talk with my liberal friend, Jonathan, today.  He believes that the decay of the society has at its center giving personhood to corporations.

—– Original Message —–
From: “Charles”
To: “Thomas Lee Abshier”
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2009 6:16 AM
Subject: Re: personhood for corporations as the problem causing societal decay

Tom, Granting personhood to corporations is a practice that predates our country, and I believe it is a very wholesome one. There have always been two kinds of persons in our law, (1) natural, and (2) legal.  A legal person can include a corporate body of like-minded individuals, such as a church congregation, or the Boy Scouts of America, acting in concert with one another. The legal effect of a corporation in our country (in contrast to a partnership) is that the people acting in concert with one another are only held liable for the activities of the corporate person to the extent that they are participating in it.  That is, their personal freedom and wealth is not at risk beyond whatever they have invested in the corporate enterprise.  This allows people to have reasonable expectations about the risks and rewards of working together and encourages industrious teamwork. Many Americans unthinkingly rail against “corporations” not realizing that they themselves derive their living from a corporation, obtain their favorite consumer items from one, or, in some cases, even own one (I have actually witnessed that).  So, what is the true object of their fear and loathing?

Success.  Successful corporations are wealthy and powerful, so that appropriately makes them targets of both envy and fear, because any wealthy and powerful entity may rightly be suspected of trying to manipulate government in such a way as to create a monopoly for itself.

The appropriate cure for that is a small, limited, constrained and virtuous government that does not easily lend itself to massive corruption, not the restructuring of our society.


From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Subject: personhood for corporations as the problem.
To: “Charles”
Date: Saturday, June 20, 2009,  9:49 AM

Dear Charles,

Good summary of the purpose, risks, and limits of corporations.  To recap:
1) The purpose of corporations is to protect the associations of natural persons from personal liability beyond their investment to facilitate the production of a profit without onerous personal risk.
2) The risk associated with treating corporations as persons is embedded within their charter and purpose to produce product and profit and the limitation of personal liability to those populating the corporation.  This reduced liability and incentive for personal profit can reduce concern about paying the consequences of the invasion of space (property, rights, health, wealth) of other persons.  Driven by profit, and freed of the risk to personal welfare, those internal to the corporation will attempt to push the limit of regulatory restrictions.   If the corporate spirit is only motivated by the maximization of profit, a perpetual struggle will exist between the restrictions of government and the various attempts of the corporation to elude those restrictions and co-opt the government for its own benefit.
3) Given the impersonal nature, and blunted moral accountability of the individual within the corporation, government must be vested with an adequate opposing force to check the unbridled corporate pursuit of profits.  Thus the need for virtuous limited government, for without virtue there is no value in the regulatory power or action of government.

A nation populated with rebellious individuals and corporations will dedicate their actions to pursuing profit and continually seek new methods of gaining ascendancy in the marketplace.  If government attempts to regulate all possible violations, it will be found that an external governmental force is not sufficient to regulate a rogue corporate entity committed to finding ways of circumventing specific laws prohibiting un-relational, non-virtuous, unrighteous behavior.  Rather, the corporation must be composed of righteous men, who are committed to righteous service of the larger society/economy, and that they consider the actions of the corporation to be personal extensions of themselves.  Each man composing the corporate entity should take responsibility for the ethical expression of the corporation.  Such a lofty goal will only be achieved when the general society is composed of men who are capable of judging the ethics of personal and corporate action.  And as always, my solution is a Christian nation, a society saturated with the consideration of loving the standards of God above all else, and then living within that standard and loving neighbor as self.

I will attempt to summarize Jonathan’s expression about the risk and consequence of unrestrained corporate action:
1) The loss of the aesthetic appreciation of relationship, harmony, beauty, ethical
2) The appeal to the base human drives of power, profit, and primal pleasures of the flesh (sex, sugar, drugs, strong vibrations, fear, anger, violence…).  The use of the visceral passions to sell products becomes, “A race to the bottom” in terms of the corporate employment of tactics to appeal to the consumer for patronage.
3) The crass appeal to the senses is difficult to legislate, restrict, and redirect.  The impersonal nature of the corporation, and the population of its leadership and workers with men committed to profit and the stimulation of their own senses with the easily experienced value and thrill of money and power, creates an unholy alliance, a harmonic convergence of the personal and impersonal entity feeding upon the same reinforcement mechanism.
4) The result of the corporation being unregulated by internal mechanisms, instead of being self-governed by the righteous passions and commitment of Godly men, is the loosing of the snake to invade the houses and lives of the victim-public.  The crafty slithering corporate animal, unregulated by conscience other than the force exerted by law, is capable of finding and penetrating the small cracks and weaknesses of the edifice of governmental regulation.  Thus, the comparatively nimble, aggressively self-serving corporate entity can always outmaneuver the lumbering ship of state.

1) Overtly reestablish the system of judges, as authorized by God, and recommended to the Children of Israel in their self-government.
2) We should renew the battle cry of the Revolutionary War, and openly confess “No King but King Jesus” as our heartfelt allegiance by government, corporation, and individual.
3) A limited legislature should codify the generalities of law.
4) The judges should be a class of righteous men capable of judging virtuous behavior as per Holy Scripture and the specifics of the patterns of law.  Lawyers should be the informal judges operating as counselors, respected and admired for their wisdom and knowledge of practicalities and the theory of right behaviors for government, corporations, and individuals.  Note: the judiciary has become the new de facto oligarchy governing our nation.  This tendency of the judiciary to legislate from the bench has its origin in the primal patterns of God’s dictate as to how we should govern ourselves.
5) The executive branch should be composed of men with hearts well trained in the artful sense of harmonious relationship in the administration of justice and implementation of workable solutions.
6) In short, we should be a nation composed of Godly people, guided by the general principles of scripture and a body of law reflecting those Godly principles to guide corporate and individual behavior, counseled by wise men in the daily practice of economy, judged by men in places of authority over issues of contention, whose judgments are enforced by an administration composed of men who are wise and experienced in the implementation and training of men in productive and righteous enterprise and relationship.
Such a societal organization will allow the sense of interpersonal and corporate aesthetics to rise to preeminence.  The ledger sheet must include the intangible costs of appealing to primal drives and the profit of moving individuals and corporate structures in the disciplines of right and Godly character as they are constantly organized around the principles of righteousness.  Such intangibles will never be quantifiable, and as such men must use their minds, hearts, souls, and spirits to divine and debate the cost and benefit of each enterprise and its methods.  Only by overtly considering the social-aesthetic cost of each corporate and individual action will righteousness and its subtle fruit be brought to its rightful place as the guiding force in the social sphere.