Todd Martin's Reviews > Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

Unequal Protection by Thom Hartmann
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's review
Nov 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: culture-politics, business
Read in November, 2011

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 by the Supreme Court to apply to corporations. Hartmann also documents how this interpretation conflicted with the founders original intent.

For those that don’t know, the 14th Amendment was written to give freed slaves equal protection under the law. While the US founders issued charters to corporations under the condition that they served a public good, intending strict governmental control over their power and influence.

As “people” under the law, corporations are now free to spend unlimited sums of money influence politicians, purchase media time to advertise their policies, file lawsuits against people and institutions who lack the financial resources to fight back, enact legislation, and distort public perception of issues all is ways that serve their needs, often in ways antithetical to public well being and the proper functioning of a democratic society. This makes itself felt in many of the most severe problems facing the country today:
· Rising income disparity
· Environmental degradation, including a failure to enact legislation to combat global warming
· Media consolidation, which limits dissenting and alternative viewpoints
· Shifting of the tax burden from corporations and the rich to the lower and middle classes
· A suppression of entrepreneurs as large corporations erect barriers to entry for small businesses
· A subversion of the democratic process (most the time the candidate who spends the most money wins)
· And others

Near the end of the book Hartmann discusses actions that can be taken to help restore the balance of power to actual (as opposed to artificial) people. We can certainly expect an uphill battle to overturn more than 100 years of legal decisions based on the interpretation that the supreme court declared corporations to be people in 1886. The Occupy Wall Street movement and the fact that a majority of US citizens agree with their message is certainly a hopeful sign that the country is ready to take steps in this direction.

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