Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another Case Where I Am Undecided

      One of the problems with aging is that one can see both sides of many controversies. This is one of those cases.
      In 1969 (it’s hard to believe that was over 40 years ago), at the behest of then Governor Ronald Reagan, radical professor Angela Davis was fired by UCLA Regents because of her membership in the Communist Party. She was later reinstated after legal action was taken.
      At the time she was fired, I was upset because I felt that if someone had radical ideas, those ideas would not survive the court of public opinion. I was, and still am, a believer in the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
      Or am I?
      On January 21st the Supreme Court announced that corporations have the unrestricted right to advertise for or against candidates for public office. Well, not quite unrestricted – along with all such advertisers they must divulge who is behind the ad. Justice Clarence Thomas even disagreed with the restriction – he felt the right should be completely unrestricted. I usually disagree with Justice Thomas, but in this case I am not so sure.
      Are corporations the same type of entities as natural persons? Obviously not – for example, one may love one’s job, but one cannot make love to the corporation. But do they deserve the same considerations as persons?
      In many situations they are treated the same as natural persons, e.g., they can sign contracts, they are subject to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution insofar as they may not abridge the rights and privileges of citizens, nor may their rights be abridged under the same Amendment, etc.
      But I don’t think that a board of directors’ decision to pursue a particular course of action is quite the same thing as a person’s decision to pursue the opposite course. It is David vs. Goliath, except that in this case David is still stuck with a sling while Goliath totes an AK47. Flyweights do not fight heavyweights because it would be an extreme mismatch.
      But I can’t apply that logic in all cases. Suppose Bill Gates or Warren Buffett decided to spend one billion dollars to defeat some particular candidate. Would anyone claim that was unconstitutional? Unfair, yes, but unconstitutional, no. What’s the difference?
      I didn’t have these decision problems when I was younger! But then, this is not the only problem I have now that I didn’t have when I was younger. Ah, youth.

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