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Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights
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Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  363 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

Was the Boston Tea Party the first WTO-style protest against transnational corporations? Did Supreme Court sell out America's citizens in the nineteenth century, with consequences lasting to this day? Is there a way for American citizens to recover democracy of, by, and for the people?

Thom Har
Paperback, 360 pages
Published April 24th 2004 by Rodale Books (first published 2002)
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This is a new one! I have never had a book up and cause me to perform a complete one eight zero on my opinion of it like this one did. Apparently this book is the exception that tells the rule to piss off and not get so full of itself. So I ended up giving this 4 stars. 4 stars despite the fact that for the first half to two-thirds of the book I HATED it…HATED it….HATED it with a Shakespeareanesque passion that would have made Titus Andronicus feel a wee uncomfortable. In fact, I had already pri ...more
Jun 25, 2011 Sparrow rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nadia and Molly, so that we may gossip meanly about it together
Recommended to Sparrow by: Brian
Maybe I should wait to write this review until blood stops pouring out of my eyes, but where’s the fun in that? Skimping on exclamation points never helped anyone. I’m not going to tell you that big corporate conglomerates are the good guys; I’m not even going to tell you that I totally agree with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment during the Lochner era (though the reasoning from those interpretations has resulted in a lot of what I consider good outcomes - like how ...more
Added 20 June 2011

I thought this article by the Washington Post was a nice addendum to my views.

Entitled, “With executive pay, rich pull away from rest of America”, it notes that of the 152,000 people that make up the top 0.1% of American earners (i.e., those that earned at least $1.7 million and $5.6 million in 2008), 41% of these were executives, supervisors and managers:

This graphic, in “(Not) spreading the wealth”, was particularly interesting:

Note that 99% of Americans have seen their pay
Jun 06, 2011 Manny rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People worried about corporate power
Recommended to Manny by: Brian

While I was reading Unequal Protection, I would often hear two voices. In the foreground, there was the Tim Robbins puppet from Team America: World Police:
Let me explain to you how this works: you see, the corporations finance Team America, and then Team America goes out... and the corporations sit there in their... in their corporation buildings, and... and, and see, they're all corporation-y... and they make money.
Much of it does indeed come across as the kind of crude anti-right, anti-corpora
Dec 04, 2013 Werner rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Persons interested in current political and socio-economic issues
Recommended to Werner by: My Goodreads friend Bird Brian
Shelves: other-nonfiction
Thom Hartmann is a liberal (he prefers to avoid the l-word, with "progressive") talk-radio host and writer of popular-level books on current issues. (To his credit, he's also quite active, along with his wife, in philanthropy for children in need, and relief work abroad.) His core subject here is one of the most crucially important and timely ones imaginable: the ongoing drastic deformation of society, the economy, government, and law in America and around the world, at the hands of profit-drive ...more
Feb 27, 2012 Reese rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Reese by: Bird Brian
Why do I read? Because I want to learn. Because I want to laugh. Because I want to escape. Or for more than one of the preceding reasons. Ah, but there are those times when what I read is material that I feel I MUST read. To please a friend. To fulfill an obligation. Getting to the end of UNEQUAL PROTECTION and posting a review of it mean fulfillment of an obligation. I chose to receive a free copy of Thom Hartmann's book from my GR friend Bird Brian; I chose with the knowledge that a string was ...more
Ian Heidin[+]Fisch
Oct 16, 2011 Ian Heidin[+]Fisch marked it as to-read

This is not a review of the book, because I have not (and might never) read it.
This might be unfair to the author.
However, the ideas in the book have been clearly enunciated in reviews by Brian and Whitaker and the supportive comments that their reviews have elicited.
I want to state in one place my arguments that companies in their own right are not the problem.

Attacking the Underlying Behaviour

The real problem is the behavior of the companies that humans make them engage in.
If any b
This may be the most important book you will read in the 21st century.

Thom Hartmann makes a devastatingly powerful case that corporations, mainly through establishing the status of a natural person through the court since the passage of the 14th amendment and subsequent legal cases, are now in the position of subverting democracy and becoming, no...became... the primacy controlling body in the country and the world. Personally, just from observation, I think this is obvious. However Hartmann doe
Reading this book was painful. While it was well researched and well written, it was difficult to see all the blocks stacked together so neatly and so clearly spelling out "Yep, we're fucked." Mr. Hartmann does a very nice job of making what could have been impossibly dry quite interesting as he details the history of coporate personhood and the resulting fallout over the last 100 years.

It is Citizens United v. the FEC that galls me the most. Ruling that corporations' 1st Amendment rights preclu
Nick Black
Apr 30, 2011 Nick Black is currently reading it
reading this upon brian's demand and sponsorship. i'm suspicious of rabble-rousing agitprop ever since being taken in by stuff like Ambush at Ruby Ridge and Every Knee Shall Bow when i was 14 or so, culminating in special-ordering and reading The Turner Diaries, which has caused no end of raised eyebrows over the years (though it has had its own uses, as well...). besides, in the words of tool's hooker with a penis:

well I've some sad advice for you, little buddy:
before you point your finger, you
The purpose of this book is to show how Corporations sneakily got themselves the same legal rights as human beings, how they use and abuse this to their advantage and the biggest "first step" to straighten this out is to deny the Corporats their right to personhood.

Most people do not know that Corporations have the right to lie and make false claims and are not criminally liable because since Corporations have legal personhood it is protected by their first amendment right to free speech. They
Jun 19, 2011 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone.
Recommended to Lisa by: Brian's challenge
Our economy over time is like a Monopoly game where everyone starts out with nothing and with a little luck and some money, players pick up some small properties. Gradually all of the properties are bought up and some idiot allows one of the players to gain a monopoly. That lucky player puts everything into his monopoly until each property is loaded with hotels; then he sits back and enjoys each moment he is able to extract huge sums from his unhappy competitors.

OK, maybe that is too simplistic.
For me, the appalling thing about the author's topic was not that corporations are in some cases regulated as if they are individual people. One of the big book club ideas was that problems with monopolies and irresponsible corporate behavior have more to do with lack of regulation and enforcement, and not that because a corporation is legally a person. Rather, it was the shocking and insulting misuse of the 14th amendement (all persons should receive equal protection under the law...). In theor ...more
It's commonly understood that the reason corporations are held to have enforceable rights such as free speech is because they are considered under the law to be "persons" with all the Constitutional protections due any living, breathing human being.

This was not true for the first hundred years of our country's existence; as Hartmann demonstrates, the Founders were deeply suspicious of corporations, and strove to sharply limit their powers. In fact, he argues that the War for Independence was ba
A salutory lesson in the behaviour of people and what happens next. AKA unstructured rant, sorry. I want to get back to my knitting. It was the discussion here that has led to it.

ABE is an umbrella site for booksellers around the world to club together and create a database large enough that book buying customers will notice the existence of the individual bookseller. That was its intent. Its customer was the bookSELLER. It’s reason for being, was to do
David A.
A couple of years ago I asked a friend who works with a progressive evangelical magazine whether they had anything in the hopper about corporate personhood. I had become intrigued by the term and a little wigged out by the concept, and I was looking for something to read (and, frankly, something to write) about it. My friends quickly (and wryly conspiratorially) responded, "No, but that's a good idea. You should write it." I smiled and inwardly leaped with joy over the opening, and then I went h ...more
Todd Martin
Now is a good time to read Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became People and How You Can Fight Back in light of the Occupy Wall Street movement and growing nationwide dissatisfaction with corporations and moneyed interests domination of politics and the public sphere.

In the book, Thom Hartmann documents the sordid history of corporate personhood and how the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution (protecting freedom of speech and equal protection under the law) were perverted b
Mar 29, 2011 Liz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: we, the people
I've listened to his radio show and think he is a very articulate and well-educated man. This is the first book of his I have skimmed through and he writes even more clearly in prose. ( I heavily skimmed it because some of the info I was familiar with having watched the documentary "The Corporation") However, this is one of those must reads for understanding what is happening to our country because it is so well documented. And if you are not shocked by what you read in here, I would be surprise ...more
This is really a 2.5er, given the deeply unengaging writing style that Hartmann employs, but I rounded up given the importance of the topic. The content is surprisingly boring most of the time, and only infrequently great. Highlights are the discussion of the history of the 1886 Santa Clara decision and its implications, the background of how the Founders felt about corporations and the great lengths they went to in order to restrict their power, the chapter on the 2000 election, and the brief d ...more


Cane Toad

What more could you possibly ask of nonfiction?
This book knocked my socks off. In fact, as I was reading, I was thinking: "This is an amazing book; how can I get more people to read it?" So I decided to make an offer... sort of a "put my money where my mouth is" gesture. If I think the book is that great, why don't I buy it for people? Here's what I posted on 28 March:

I will buy a copy of this book for anybo
"Can we reclaim the dream of freedom and individual liberty in the land of its birth?"

That's the question Hartmann poses in the final chapter of this book. The rest of the volume is a description of one of the main problems to individual liberty in our current era: the massive power imbalance that exists between corporations and human persons and their communities. The corporate concentration of wealth, combined with the legal advantages currently enjoyed by corporations, has made genuine self-r
I have been remiss in submitting my review for this outstanding book by Thom Hartmann. First of all, I want to thank my Goodreads friend Brian for sending me a copy of it. Without his interest and dedication, I would not have picked up this book to read.

This is a book right up my alley, as it deals with the ways in which corporations have assumed control over much of our lives. It is a particularly chilling book to read in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the Roberts Supreme Court. A
Pat Shackleford
May 14, 2012 Pat Shackleford rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Pat by: Bird Brian
Shelves: law
This books tells the story about how one note by a court reporter, abused by corporate lawyers was abused to change constitutional rights to make them apply to corporations.

To give constitutional rights to artificial beings like corporations making them equal to people is disastrous for society. That way cooperations are allowed to do things as misrepresenting facts ( aka Lying ) without it being a crime.

Corporations will do everything to have as many as rights as possible without willing to h
Richard Etzel
Mar 30, 2011 Richard Etzel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: friend Pete
Shelves: political
Corporations have been using "personhood" as a right for over 130 years. Accordingly they have continued to grow with all sorts of government protection and little oversight. Thom Hartmann has done extensive research into this developing the history of this "mistake" in the past and how corporations have gradually squezzed out small businesses, reduced the middle class to near distinction, and developed huge profits. One can examine the content page and see how this mistake has created unequal p ...more
An overview of how corporations came to be the force they are today. When the 14th Amendment was passed soon after the end of the Civil War (1868), the clear intent was to protect (however inadequately) the rights of newly freed slaves. Following a mistaken headnote in 1886 claiming the Supreme Court had declared corporations to be persons, over the next 24 years 307 14th amendment cases were brought before the Supreme Court. Of those, only 19 dealt with the rights of African Americans. The rest ...more
Rereading… …written in 2002, still timely and relevant, considering recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission SCOTUS ruling. Author summarizes research on corporation in American history and rise of corporate "citizenship". With chapters specifically focused on the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad 1886 SCOTUS ruling where it has been assumed that corporate personhood was codified. That the notion that the 14th amendment applied to corporations was put into the case "he ...more
May 15, 2011 Peter added it
Having recently had troubles with the East India Company, the founders intended to set up a system in which corporations would be subject to control by both individuals and government. Through a clerical-type error in a Supreme Court case in 1886, however, corporations were given equal rights as "natural people", beginning the era of their dominance. Through such organizations as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, corporations have extended this dominance worldwide, taking advantag ...more
Mary Mycio
When it struck my fancy last year that the zombies in popular culture might symbolize corporations, whose personhood, "brands" and ubiquity don't ever die, I ordered Unequal Protection in the hopes of learning more about the origins of corporate personhood. On that, and on the suspicion of many Founders towards corporations like the East India Company, the book delivers admirably. But it is way too long. A slender volume could have a much better impact My copy has been dog-eared for more than a ...more
Amanda Roy
Reads like a textbook, but contains some interesting information.
Monte Dutton
This historical tome tells the story of how corporations, over time, received the rights of individuals, which the Founders never intended. Hartmann points out that this gradual, in his mind insidious, change occurred by subterfuge and accident. He further expounds on the price paid in terms of individual rights. Is Hartmann's a lost cause? Almost surely. We should at least be mindful of a significant process that occurred in a democratic society without the approval of the governed.
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Thom Hartmann is a progressive radio talk show host, author, and retired businessman who was born and grew up in Michigan.

His daily progressive radio talk show is syndicated and distributed to radio and television stations nationwide and in Europe and Africa.

Thom has spent much of his life working with and for the International Salem relief organization. In 1979 Hartmann and his wife Louise founde
More about Thom Hartmann...
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It's Too Late Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return to Democracy The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America--and What We Can Do to Stop It The Prophet's Way: A Guide to Living in the Now

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“June 2011 article in the Financial Times titled “Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Bankers’ ” noted, “The characteristics that make for good traders and investment bankers are pretty much the same as those that define psychopaths.”107” 1 likes
“The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” 0 likes
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