What kind of person is YOUR corporation?

September 22, 2009: 10:39 AM ET

ballmerThe New York Times comes out strongly today for limiting the Constitutional rights of corporations. "What constitutional rights should corporations have?" the editors ask, and then, as editors will, they answer their own question: "To us, as well as many legal scholars, former justices and, indeed, drafters of the Constitution, the answer is that their rights should be quite limited — far less than those of people."

I think this is kind of unfair. Yes, extending the rights of corporate entities to encompass all that we possess as Americans would probably further engorge the status and coffers of the entities for which we labor. But isn't your corporation a lot like somebody you know?

When I was younger, I worked for a corporation that was a very old man with liver spots. He was grouchy and, like Chronos, often ate some of his children.

Later on, my corporation was a younger, bullet-headed sales dude from the midwest, obsessed with excellence, with very short hair and a serious drinking problem.

I won't comment on the personality and appearance of the corporate body I work for now. It might get mad.

The Times makes a lot of good points. And certainly, in the case of Merrill and BOA, the question of whether corporations, like people, have the right to legal privilege is not a trivial one. At the same time, the idea that a corporation is NOT a person seems, well... kind of wrong, doesn't it?

Isn't Microsoft (MSFT) a person that looks and acts a lot like Steve Ballmer?

Don't you know a lot of people who use Macs who sort of look a lot like them?

How about the people you know who work for, say, Bank of America (BAC)? Haven't most of them incorporated the physical and personal aspects of their corporation?

How about you? What person is your corporation? Don't you think of him/her/it that way? What's he/she like? Are his/her feelings hurt that the Supreme Court may decide to limit his/her rights? Or is he/she excited about the possibility that the conservative judges may vote to grant her/him true personhood?

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