Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Increasingly Impersonal Nature Of Being A Person

Other than house-elves, politicians are about the only ones you'll ever hear refer to themselves in the third person. It's an annoying but fairly uncommon habit, even among the political class. There's even a word for it - illeism - but it's hardly a must-have in one's vocabulary.

More common in political-speak is the majestic plural. Nearly every politician nowadays is guilty of this one. Individual persons turning themselves into groups is weird, but that weirdness takes on greater currency now that there's renewed attention being paid to the U.S. Supreme Court's created-out-of-thin-air doctrine that corporations are people.

With the Supremes now seriously thinking of taking this pseudolegal dogma to ridiculous new extremes by letting corporations spend freely in elections, the New York Times asked today in an editorial where the judicial invention of corporate personhood will end. Will they get the right to vote? To hold office? To bear arms?

Good questions. But the sign to really watch for is when they start speaking of themselves in the first person.

2 comments:

MaryRW said...

Pretty sure corporations would turn down the opportunity to vote because one little ol' measly vote wouldn't be enough for them....

So what do you think will happen if the Supreme Court rules in favor of corporate personhood in the Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission case? I think the outlook is pretty grim myself. The ramifications are so frightening that I'm having trouble trying to figure out what might actually happen. Does it mean we lose all hope of any campaign finance reform? Will General Electric run for office in 2010?

Mike McCabe said...

There are more questions than answers at this point in time. But at least one thing is certain.... The availability of public financing for candidates for federal, state and local office will no longer just be desirable, it will be imperative if corporations are allowed to spend freely. Publicly financed elections have been tested legally and have repeatedly passed constitutional muster. If restrictions on corporate political activity are swept away, public financing will be one of the few remaining clean-election policies citizens can rely on.