To a modern right-winger, everything is a person. An embryo is a person. A corporation is a person. The coffee mug on my desk could be a person to them for all I know. In their view, the difference between an embryo and a corporation is that eventually the embryo will emerge from the womb and need health care, food, and shelter. At this point, the embryo becomes a moocher, a leech, a drain upon society and can go fuck off for all they care.
Corporations never need anything from the government, except for subsidies, tax breaks, and deregulation. For these things, they pay handsomely in the form of dark money donations to political SuperPACs. In exchange for these bribes, I mean donations, the personhood status of corporations is treated as sacrosanct.
This legal fiction demands that the human mind take a permanent vacation from sound logic. The differences between a person and a corporation are almost too numerous to list. A corporation isn’t born. It doesn’t go to school. It can’t get the chicken pox. Corporations don’t fall in love. They don’t get married. A corporation can’t get cancer. It also isn’t eligible to vote or run for office (although I’ll bet there’s a model constitutional amendment to that effect on some lobbyist’s desk). Corporations don’t get old and they don’t die.
Thanks to the Supreme Court decision known as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, it is now established precedent that a corporation has the First Amendment right to dictate what kind of health care its employees can access based on the religious beliefs of the people in charge of that corporation. In short, a corporation now has the same freedom of religion as a human being.
The theological implications of this decision are staggering. If a corporation can have religious beliefs, does that mean that corporations also have an immortal soul? Can a corporation go to heaven after it files for Chapter Seven bankruptcy? I’m sure in the Church of Our Lady of the Holy Oligarchy, all corporations go to heaven as long as they make a large donation to St. Peter’s SuperPAC.
I wonder if the CEO of Hobby Lobby has a bumper sticker that reads, “God knew me before they filed my paperwork.”
Dispensing with the well-deserved sarcasm, I’d like to point out the most fundamental difference between a person and a corporation and why corporate personhood is an affront to logic, reason, and human decency.
A human being exists without the need for legislation to define what it is.
That is fundamentally it. Humans pre-existed the concept of government, and therefore the existence of laws, the existence of this government, and the existence of the specific laws which allow corporations to exist. There had to be humans before someone could have the idea for corporations, but we didn’t need corporations to have the original idea for humans.
Also, corporations exist for one primary purpose, to do business without exposing the assets of the individual owner or owners to possible liability for the actions of said corporation. In other words, the whole reason we have corporations is that they aren’t people. A corporation can own property and have assets, but that is the only place where the Venn Diagram of a corporation and a person overlaps.
Another key difference is that as humans, through our government, we could change the laws that define what corporations are and take some privileges away from corporations or even legislate a whole class of corporations out of existence, and we could do that without it being a crime against humanity. Try doing that with people and you have Germany in the 1930s.
To sum up, a person is, by definition, utterly distinct from a corporation, which is a legal entity lacking any of the essential traits of a human being. The United States Constitution does not begin with the words “We the people (and other legal entities).”