I have a large backlog of book reviews from this year. Since my completed book shelf is now full, I’ve decided to quickly type them instead of clearing another shelf. There’s nothing like a bad solution to a problem.
Anyway, over Thanksgiving break I was traveling a bit, which called for lighter reading than normal. I chose the latest John Grisham legal thriller in Mass Market Paperback, The Appeal. The story begins with the verdict of a trial, where a clearly guilty corporation is actually convicted of dumping toxic chemicals and causing cancer. By a preponderance of the evidence. Not even unanimously, 10-2. Still, this leads to an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, in this world a relatively pro-business organization. The problem is that it’s not friendly enough to the Corporation. The head of the losing corporation embarks on a campaign to replace a relatively liberal judge with an unknown conservative, a good family man. He will oppose trial lawyers and protect Kapitalism. It shouldn’t surprise you that the Corporation plays lots of dirty tricks throughout, including in the campaign.
While there are some twists and turns, and I appreciate the audacity of the ending, the characters are rarely fully developed. It reads more like a movie script than a thorough character study. I suspect the movie will be good. As a book, though, it’s just average, and earns a 2 out of 5.
The disheartening thing, though, is that this scenario is very close to non-fiction. I would not be surprised if a Corporation has conducted such a campaign, to ensure the free flow of Kapitalism. For some reason, the entities can do that. As stated previously, I am of the firm belief that corporations do not have the rights reserved to people in the US Constitution. In the Corporate Personhood Debate, I stand with those that make a difference between a legal person and a flesh-and-blood person. Here’s my argument. As a human, in the United States I receive rights and have responsibilities; my punishment for violations can include fines, prison, and (in most states) death. Because a mechanism exists to enforce responsibilities, with severe punishments, I can be trusted with substantial rights and privileges.
Corporations, on the other hand, cannot be imprisoned. At least theoretically, they can be killed by revoking their charter, but this happens even less than killing a person. Besides, in America Corporations are chartered by each state; a Corporation can just transfer all its assets to another Corporation in another state before death. Combine that with the ability to bribe legislators and judges (excuse me, “campaign contributions”), and all the states will never kill a Corporation. Because the government has fewer ways to enforce the responsibilities of the Corporation, I hold that these legal entities are entitled to fewer rights.
Unfortunately, the opposite is now true. A book review is not the place to get into a long discussion on this; maybe I’ll do it later. For now, I’ll just promote the small movement with a smart idea: get Pennsylvania townships to pass local ordinances that state what I consider logical fact. “Corporations shall not be considered to be ‘persons’ protected by the Constitution of the United States.” I’m proud of people in my childhood state for this, yet it’s not enough. Until the big shift occurs, stories like The Appeal will be far too close to real life.