“Corporations Are People”

Republicans are a business friendly lot. While there will always be a quid pro quo between organizations and politicians, the GOP prioritization of business over people is largely an honest position. Businesses are the engine of our economy and their thinking is that regulations and taxation only encumber their ability to drive the country forward. Lower corporate taxes and deregulation are a hard sell, especially when the actions of business provide regular reminders to suggest otherwise. These include collapsed mines, exploding gulf coast platforms, profit hoarding, and irresponsible investments that require massive bailouts in order to prevent a second great depression.

Republicans are very good at distilling simple phrases in order to promote their agenda. “Corporations are people” is one such talking point. Let’s take these words at face value and ignore the vast resources unavailable to people that enable corporations to operate, market, and lobby in multiple countries simultaneously. For argument sake, corporations are people.

With people, republicans are largely behaviorists. They see society as a collection people with self interests and motive for personal gain. As such, behaviorists believe the best way to improve society is to affect the behavior of its people through a variety of carrots and sticks. For example they oppose the progressive income tax and endorse harsh sentencing for convicts. They believe the former discourages gumption and hard work while the latter acts as a criminal deterrent (because crime is always a choice perpetrators make only after rationally weighing the pros and cons.)

Republicans also see corporations as entities with self interest and motive for personal gain. With corporations, however, republicans only apply half of the behaviorist equation. They are always eager to incentivize companies with deregulation and lower taxes but almost never endorse strong penalties for bad behavior even though large corporate misconduct has a much greater impact on society than that of the individual. Not only do bad companies go unscathed, their leaders also escape republican ire and criticism.

Why is this? If corporations are people, why do republicans treat them differently? Because they don’t actually see corporations as people, but as economic drivers that are vastly more important than the people they serve.