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We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights

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We the Corporations chronicles the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known “civil rights movements” in American history. Hardly oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations, too, have fought since the nation’s earliest days to gain equal rights under the Constitution—and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people. Exp We the Corporations chronicles the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known “civil rights movements” in American history. Hardly oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations, too, have fought since the nation’s earliest days to gain equal rights under the Constitution—and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people. Exposing the historical origins of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, Adam Winkler explains how those controversial Supreme Court decisions extending free speech and religious liberty to corporations were the capstone of a centuries-long struggle over corporate personhood and constitutional protections for business. Beginning his account in the colonial era, Winkler reveals the profound influence corporations had on the birth of democracy and on the shape of the Constitution itself. Once the Constitution was ratified, corporations quickly sought to gain the rights it guaranteed. The first Supreme Court case on the rights of corporations was decided in 1809, a half-century before the first comparable cases on the rights of African Americans or women. Ever since corporations have waged a persistent and remarkably fruitful campaign to win an ever-greater share of individual rights. Although corporations never marched on Washington, they employed many of the same strategies of more familiar civil rights struggles: civil disobedience, test cases, and novel legal claims made in a purposeful effort to reshape the law. Indeed, corporations have often been unheralded innovators in constitutional law, and several of the individual rights Americans hold most dear were first secured in lawsuits brought by businesses. Winkler enlivens his narrative with a flair for storytelling and a colorful cast of characters: among others, Daniel Webster, America’s greatest advocate, who argued some of the earliest corporate rights cases on behalf of his business clients; Roger Taney, the reviled Chief Justice, who surprisingly fought to limit protections for corporations—in part to protect slavery; and Roscoe Conkling, a renowned politician who deceived the Supreme Court in a brazen effort to win for corporations the rights added to the Constitution for the freed slaves. Alexander Hamilton, Teddy Roosevelt, Huey Long, Ralph Nader, Louis Brandeis, and even Thurgood Marshall all played starring roles in the story of the corporate rights movement. In this heated political age, nothing can be timelier than Winkler’s tour de force, which shows how America’s most powerful corporations won our most fundamental rights and turned the Constitution into a weapon to impede the regulation of big business.


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We the Corporations chronicles the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known “civil rights movements” in American history. Hardly oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations, too, have fought since the nation’s earliest days to gain equal rights under the Constitution—and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people. Exp We the Corporations chronicles the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known “civil rights movements” in American history. Hardly oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations, too, have fought since the nation’s earliest days to gain equal rights under the Constitution—and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people. Exposing the historical origins of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, Adam Winkler explains how those controversial Supreme Court decisions extending free speech and religious liberty to corporations were the capstone of a centuries-long struggle over corporate personhood and constitutional protections for business. Beginning his account in the colonial era, Winkler reveals the profound influence corporations had on the birth of democracy and on the shape of the Constitution itself. Once the Constitution was ratified, corporations quickly sought to gain the rights it guaranteed. The first Supreme Court case on the rights of corporations was decided in 1809, a half-century before the first comparable cases on the rights of African Americans or women. Ever since corporations have waged a persistent and remarkably fruitful campaign to win an ever-greater share of individual rights. Although corporations never marched on Washington, they employed many of the same strategies of more familiar civil rights struggles: civil disobedience, test cases, and novel legal claims made in a purposeful effort to reshape the law. Indeed, corporations have often been unheralded innovators in constitutional law, and several of the individual rights Americans hold most dear were first secured in lawsuits brought by businesses. Winkler enlivens his narrative with a flair for storytelling and a colorful cast of characters: among others, Daniel Webster, America’s greatest advocate, who argued some of the earliest corporate rights cases on behalf of his business clients; Roger Taney, the reviled Chief Justice, who surprisingly fought to limit protections for corporations—in part to protect slavery; and Roscoe Conkling, a renowned politician who deceived the Supreme Court in a brazen effort to win for corporations the rights added to the Constitution for the freed slaves. Alexander Hamilton, Teddy Roosevelt, Huey Long, Ralph Nader, Louis Brandeis, and even Thurgood Marshall all played starring roles in the story of the corporate rights movement. In this heated political age, nothing can be timelier than Winkler’s tour de force, which shows how America’s most powerful corporations won our most fundamental rights and turned the Constitution into a weapon to impede the regulation of big business.

30 review for We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    In 1916 Henry Ford doubled his workers' wages and declined to raise dividends, declaring stockholders were earning enough. Regardless of his true motives, when the Dodge Brothers sued him for neglecting his fiduciary obligation to maximize profits, the supreme court of Michigan agreed with them (Dodge Bros. v. Ford Motor Co.). Boston College law professor Kent Greenfield dramatically cites this decision as “corporate law's original sin.” (p.248) The decision appears to legitimize the pursuit of In 1916 Henry Ford doubled his workers' wages and declined to raise dividends, declaring stockholders were earning enough. Regardless of his true motives, when the Dodge Brothers sued him for neglecting his fiduciary obligation to maximize profits, the supreme court of Michigan agreed with them (Dodge Bros. v. Ford Motor Co.). Boston College law professor Kent Greenfield dramatically cites this decision as “corporate law's original sin.” (p.248) The decision appears to legitimize the pursuit of naked self-interest. It reverberates in Milton Friedman's free market theory. It was the keystone to Lewis Powell's 1971 Memorandum, Attack on American Free Enterprise System, a paper that villified left wing extremists like Ralph Nader and ignited the organized political activism of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is the original sin to be paid for by future generations left to deal with the social and environmental consequences of unbridled profit maximization. In a mere 400 pages Winkler traces over 200 years of legal argument about the rights of corporations. This historical context opens a window into the thinking of leading jurists from Blackstone's 18th century Commentaries to Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court Leo Strine's 2015 lecture at Yale University. Winkler maintains that over two centuries, a tool called “piercing the corporate veil,” has enabled courts to grant corporations Constitutional civil rights. This tool considers the corporation as a collective of like-minded owners and shareholders whose individual rights must be considered under the umbrella of the corporation. This is in contrast to thinking of corporate personhood as a convenient construct designed to permit government oversight over commercial activity and to shield investors' personal assets from debts incurred by the corporation. Winkler's narrative follows two threads. He recites a chronological litany of cases and demonstrates how each decision permitted the corporation to accumulate more rights, beginning with the Bank of the U.S. v. Devereauz (1809). By the 1880's 14th Amendment protections were being sought by railroads in their fight against discriminatory tax treatment in California. Treatment of employer-employee relations as private contracts struck down minimum wage and hour restrictions (Lochner v. NY, 1905) Ironically, the issue of free speech protection came about in a decision that struck down barriers to pharmaceutical advertising in order to extend the rights of consumers (Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 1976). All of these cases formed the foundation for decisions in Citizens United and Hobby Lobby. Fortunately, Winkler provides a chronology of corporate rights cases in a succinct appendix. Winkler's second thread is more colorful. He profiles the positions of Daniel Webster, Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Field, Louis Brandeis, Charles Evans Hughes, Benjamin Cardozo, Lewis Powell, Samuel Alito and Jim Bopp. It was Alito who asked a critical question about the expansiveness of censorship in Citizens United. The section on Powell was also informative. One of his most influential acts occurred before he was appointed to the Supreme Court, when he wrote a widely dispersed memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a sort of business manifesto. Anyone tracking legislative issues today will notice immediately the lengthy comments issued by U.S. Chamber of Commerce legal staff. They speak of "burdensome" regulations, but after reading this book it is apparent that ALL regulations on business are to be considered "burdensome." This is a book that should appeal both to law students and to the layperson. The debate over corporate rights can be viewed as warfare employing the creative application of rhetoric as escalating arms of ever increasing sophistication. Pro-consumer arguments are easily re-purposed as pro-business arguments. The process by which this has occurred is fascinating. Winkler's book is a wake-up call in an age when the meaning of words is constantly being devalued. NOTES: Winkler gives a succinct summary of his viewpoint https://www.bu.edu/bulawreview/bulron...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    If you're interested in understanding how we got to the point where corporations have more say in our democracy than The People, look no further. Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA, has written a corker. I might be biased as a history nerd/major and a lawyer, but I found this history--essentially of the idea of corporate personhood--to be fascinating and methodical. Winkler starts by explaining an alien if not absurd concept to the modern, unenlightened reader: corporations--which were des If you're interested in understanding how we got to the point where corporations have more say in our democracy than The People, look no further. Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA, has written a corker. I might be biased as a history nerd/major and a lawyer, but I found this history--essentially of the idea of corporate personhood--to be fascinating and methodical. Winkler starts by explaining an alien if not absurd concept to the modern, unenlightened reader: corporations--which were designed to pool the resources and liabilities of many different people to accomplish very specific ends--were very rare at Common Law, required government permission to exist, and needed to have a function that was salutary to the commonweal to justify their exceptional rarity and special rights. Examples included funds to build canals, aqueducts, bridges, and universities. These corporations--including still extant institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth--existed at the pleasure of the state, and could have their charters revoked at any time for a number of reasons, at least under the British system. But, when in the early Nineteenth Century the state of New Hampshire tried to take control of a university within its borders to which its predecessor colony had granted a charter (through the British Crown), the Supreme Court issued a fateful decision. SCOTUS did not extend the British Crown's ability to disestablish a corporate charter to the successor state of New Hampshire, with the [i]ultra vires[/i] reasoning being that the state owed some deference to the people and property comprising the corporation, in this case Dartmouth College. Fatefully, corporate personhood gained a toehold in America, and through it--the world. Although corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution and there is reason to believe that the Founding Fathers were suspicious of their influence upon democracy, the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, sadly and ironically, was used to buoy the case for corporate personhood. Arguably the most important of all the amendments, the Fourteenth Amendment provides for many things--incorporation of many of the Bill of Rights amendments, citizenship for emancipated slaves, and equal protection under the laws of the country. It was a Reconstruction Amendment, and it's impossible to argue in good faith that its main object was not the extension of citizenship to all men (though, of course: the usual disclaimers about women and other groups not being ushered in as citizens after the Civil War). Intentions be damned, Winkler walks us through the shameful failure of the courts to actually protect Freedmen, juxtaposed by their zeal for using the Amendment to fashion newfound rights for corporations. This was aided by the outright lies of folks like Roscoe Conkling, who traded on his reputation and his role in drafting the Fourteenth Amendment (shrewdly, after all his fellow drafters were dead) to falsely state that among its main purposes was the protection of corporations. Well, the rest is history, and it's interesting history at that. There's no doubt that with a conservative lock on the Supreme Court and lower judiciaries over the next few decades, corporations will be empowered even more. Their speech rights are ascendant, and those of non-corporate individuals (also known as "people") are in decline. It's a sad state of affairs, but it's your duty as a citizen to know it and to rail against it if you find it unjust. So go out and read this book!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maynard Handley

    I expected an uninteresting rant about the plutocracy in America --- valid but nothing we haven't heard a thousand times before. But this book is a lot more interesting than that. It's a legal history describing the cases and arguments that led to the way American law conceptualizes corporations; and like the best such histories it's full of cases that, while decided in what you might feel was the "right way", result in "problematic" long term consequences... The inflammatory subtitle is clickbai I expected an uninteresting rant about the plutocracy in America --- valid but nothing we haven't heard a thousand times before. But this book is a lot more interesting than that. It's a legal history describing the cases and arguments that led to the way American law conceptualizes corporations; and like the best such histories it's full of cases that, while decided in what you might feel was the "right way", result in "problematic" long term consequences... The inflammatory subtitle is clickbait, and if that's what you want from the book, you'll probably be disappointed by its subtlety and unwillingness to engage in blanket condemnation. My one complaint is that the author (like most) certainly loves his words, and his editor did not step up to deal with this. The book is at least 50% longer than it needs to be, and ideas, explanations, even exact phrases, are frequently repeated.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    It's hard to write a 400 year history, but this was very well done and admirably focused. At times I wished for more analysis and less of a play by play, but the story that emerges is pretty clear. What I found fascinating is the early American history--We, the people of America, were created by corporations and the early state charters resembled corporate charters more than constitutions. Yet we have not had a comfortable relationship with corporate personhood and it's been a push and pull and It's hard to write a 400 year history, but this was very well done and admirably focused. At times I wished for more analysis and less of a play by play, but the story that emerges is pretty clear. What I found fascinating is the early American history--We, the people of America, were created by corporations and the early state charters resembled corporate charters more than constitutions. Yet we have not had a comfortable relationship with corporate personhood and it's been a push and pull and I think we're probably at a nadir at this point in corporate power. The most devastating part was the use (perversion) of the 14th Amendment by corporate lawyers. Not only did the 14th and 15th Amendment and the courts that administered them NOT protect the freed slaves, but they were recast as always having been about corporate rights. Starting with the Slaughterhouse cases but throughout history, they were used as a sword by corporations against public-protecting regulations.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rahul Adusumilli

    I knew law could be arbitrary but I didn't know law could be fun. The author likes to repeat, a good 100 pages could easily have been shaved off. The historical research is on fleek, to borrow a phrase from the kids.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    It is endlessly entertaining to examine Supreme Court decisions, to follow the logic and often the prejudice and corruption they comprise. We The Corporations selectively follows the tribulations of the 14th amendment, designed specifically to prevent discrimination among the newly freed slaves following the Civil War. Corporations immediately overtook it, claiming it was meant for them. The results have been dispiriting to say the least. Between 1868 and 1912, of 604 14th amendment cases, only It is endlessly entertaining to examine Supreme Court decisions, to follow the logic and often the prejudice and corruption they comprise. We The Corporations selectively follows the tribulations of the 14th amendment, designed specifically to prevent discrimination among the newly freed slaves following the Civil War. Corporations immediately overtook it, claiming it was meant for them. The results have been dispiriting to say the least. Between 1868 and 1912, of 604 14th amendment cases, only 28 were on behalf of blacks, and most of them lost. Corporations on the other hand, began an endless winning streak, culminating in the execrable Citizens United decision that has allowed companies to buy election issues, and of course, candidates. The evidence shows that corporate constitutional rights as persons is a lie. Corporations have pummeled the courts with suits claiming natural person rights, and have won enough victories to make it law. Along the way, corrupt and incompetent justices have attributed rights to them that do not exist, while corporate lawyers have interpreted the constitution to make it seem the founders had always intended to put corporations on an equal footing with people. It is not so, says Adam Winkler in this engrossing book. Corporations successfully argue that they have no race or religion when it suits them, and also that stockholders’ race or religion exempts the firms from laws they don’t like. Piercing the corporate veil to claim the stockholders control in cases where it is beneficial, while claiming the corporation is an artificial construct of law where no humans control (for example when prison beckons). That corporations have the sole goal of making money for stockholders, but also that corporations have unlimited funds for political races without regard to stockholders. The Roscoe Conkling case is particularly instructive. Conkling was on the committee that drafted the 14th amendment. Later, representing Southern Pacific Railroad, and after all the other drafting committee members had died, Conkling told the Supreme Court he had the official notes of the committee’s deliberations, and they said the intent was always to extend person rights to companies. Without anyone to refute these claims, and apparently without anyone ever examining the notes, the Supreme Court bought it – hook, line and sinker. Later examination showed the notes intimated no such thing, and neither did the wording of the amendment, nor any of the deliberations across the country at the time of debate, hearings and passage. But the law of the land changed to accommodate this lie. Conkling’s professional descendants in the US Chamber of Commerce claim to win 70% of the corporate rights cases they bring to the Supreme Court. It all leads sadly to Citizens United, in which corporations got not just 14th amendment rights, but first amendment rights – everything but the vote itself. The Roberts court shamed itself and in particular Chief Justice Roberts himself. Roberts had promised to be a minimalist, delivering narrow, incremental decisions that didn’t overreach. But in Citizens United, he expanded the minor claim that a film with a small corporate contribution could be shown during the election – to broadly encompass unfettered corporate free speech, unlimited cash contributions, plus the overturning of previous precedents, none of which were sought in the matter. The country cried Shame, with 80% disagreeing that corporations should be totally free to spend on politics at will. Winkler says Citizens United was not a product of the Roberts court so much as the culmination of “a two hundred year struggle” by business to have it all ways. What is striking is that mere mortals can easily see where the Supreme Court went off the rails, yet the decisions stand. In lieu of common sense, politics prevails. Personal prejudices and agendas beat the constitution. Contradictions allow for any kind of interpretation that favors corporations. And lawyers and judges continue to cite case law incorrectly. The insiders know it is all wrong. Winkler quotes Delaware (with the most lenient corporate laws in the country) Chancery Judge Leo Strine that a corporation “is a distinct entity that is legally separated from its stockholders, managers and creditors. That is the whole point of corporate law, after all.” Unless you’re a Supreme Court justice, it seems. David Wineberg

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Gustavo

    The content is excellent and informative, but the writing is a little dry and repetitive. It presents the history of corporate law, and the expansion of corporate rights from the founding of the colonies up to Citizens United and Hobby Lobby — including how the courts swing between treating corporations as people and piercing the corporate veil, mostly settling on whichever grants more rights to corporations. Well worth a read, but more of a book that you will remember things from rather than a b The content is excellent and informative, but the writing is a little dry and repetitive. It presents the history of corporate law, and the expansion of corporate rights from the founding of the colonies up to Citizens United and Hobby Lobby — including how the courts swing between treating corporations as people and piercing the corporate veil, mostly settling on whichever grants more rights to corporations. Well worth a read, but more of a book that you will remember things from rather than a book that you will remember.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sher

    One of my top 2018 reads. _We the Corporations _ traces the history of corporate rights in America, and clearly shows what led up to the landmark decision Citizens United. Apparently, based on research cited in this book- there is nonpartisan disapproval across the board regarding Citizens United. So, this book will be on interest to democratic, independent, and republican readers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I picked up this book originally because a friend told me how upset she was that the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which allows almost unlimited campaign spending by corporations, was based on the bizarre notion that the corporation is a person under the law. Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Southern California, educated me about that and so much more I didn't know before. While it is true that corporations are considered "people" in some sense of the w I picked up this book originally because a friend told me how upset she was that the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which allows almost unlimited campaign spending by corporations, was based on the bizarre notion that the corporation is a person under the law. Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Southern California, educated me about that and so much more I didn't know before. While it is true that corporations are considered "people" in some sense of the word, it is NOT true that this was the basis for the Citizens United ruling. In fact, the Supreme Court actually viewed corporate rights in an opposite way in that case. It looked beyond the corporation's identity to the identities of its shareholders and employees, and argued that their free speech rights were being abridged if they weren't allowed to spend their money on political speech in any way they wished. In other cases over the decades, the Supreme Court has defined the corporation as a person, but most of the time when it has done that, it has used that notion to limit corporate rights. As Winkler puts it toward the end of his book, "Over the course of American history, corporate personhood has not led to expansive constitutional protections. In fact, when the Supreme Court has broken from its usual pattern and treated a corporation as a truly separate legal person with distinct rights of its own, the result has usually been more limited rights for business. Under Chief Justice Roger Taney, the court viewed the corporation as a legal person separate from its members but nonetheless scaled back corporate constitutional protections, much to the displeasure of Daniel Webster. In the Lochner era, the courts vacillated but often did treat the corporation as a person—and cabined the ability of corporations to claim the protections of the right against self-incrimination, the freedom of association, and the freedom of speech. The court held that corporations have a Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, yet the scope of that protection was less than it was for individuals. Because those judges did not confound the rights of the corporation with the rights of the corporation’s members, they properly asked which rights corporations, as such, should have and then tailored those rights to the particular circumstances of the corporate form. Corporations were legal persons but they were not necessarily the same as human beings and, as a result of those distinctions, were afforded fewer and more circumscribed constitutional rights." One of the key flaws in the Supreme Court majority's 5-4 ruling in Citizens United, he writes, is Justice Antonin Scalia's argument that a law limiting corporate campaign spending wasn't needed because shareholders could always force their boards to stop that practice or, if they were dissatisfied, could just sell their shares. That flies in the face of how most people invest these days, another corporate law expert said. Most investors have stock through pension funds or mutual funds and thus have very little control over where their money is invested or whether to sell particular shares. The other profound contribution of this brilliant book is to show that corporations -- which are mentioned nowhere in the constitution -- have been going to the Supreme Court and other courts almost since the nation's founding to expand their rights and acquire more and more of the constitutional protections originally designed for individuals, including the equal protection of the law in the 14th amendment. In some cases, the expansion of corporate rights has benefited causes or issues that progressive would favor, such as the Supreme Court decision that said the NAACP's members had a constitutional freedom of association and therefore did not have to give the names of members to Southern legislators who wanted to attack the civil rights group. I don't want to overload this review with examples. Just trust me when I say this was a sadly overlooked area of American constitutional law that has been ignored for too long, and is remedied by this vivid and accessible book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is a book by a law professor at UCLA detailing the history of how US corporate bodies came to increasingly be viewed as legal persons with a widening array of property and liberty rights comparable to those we normally consider as being possessed by individual human beings. The story is a long incremental one beginning with John Marshall and the Bank of the US and culminating in the Citizen’s United case establishing freedom of speech and political participation for corporations and union o This is a book by a law professor at UCLA detailing the history of how US corporate bodies came to increasingly be viewed as legal persons with a widening array of property and liberty rights comparable to those we normally consider as being possessed by individual human beings. The story is a long incremental one beginning with John Marshall and the Bank of the US and culminating in the Citizen’s United case establishing freedom of speech and political participation for corporations and union organizations. This is a book about the development of constitutional law and so focuses on the dynamics within the courts and the legal profession that may strike observers as arcane and counter to common sense. This is a strength of the book - if there was not some logic and order to legal processes, think how chaotic our history would be. The picture that Winkler presents is a steady evolution of corporate rights that has been as successful as it has been obscure to public view. Corporations have made much more progress in gaining rights than have other disadvantaged groups and they did so generally well in advance of those other groups. Given partisan rancor about money in politics and dark money, one is tempted to feel disturbed about the developments that Professor Winkler describes. He certainly seems less than sanguine about them during the book and is critical of the Citizen’s United case, the case around which the arc of the book is focused. The concluding chapter with comments by Leo Strine is particularly enlightening regarding where the book ends up on the evolution of corporate rights. But it is not that simple, is it? Whatever one thinks about the American standard of living and the evolution of the country, that evolution has taken place in a national context filled with large active corporate actors who produce goods and services, employ people and pay salaries and provide benefits, and play a continuing role within society. An America without large corporate actors would not be the country that developed into the late 19th and then the 20th centuries. Corporate actors, who need to be able to function, are part of the deal in America warts and all. That the US legal regime has adapted to their presence and facilitated there activities is not an unabashed bad but a part of the world we live in. I had recognized parts of the story but had not tied it together. Some of the more interesting parts of the book address how developments in corporate rights have influenced how other actors can pursue their own rights. Various corporate actions have influenced US society and governance since colonial times and have provided tools for all sorts of people and associations, unions, and other collectivities to use. This history is much less about good guys versus bad guys than the popular rhetoric would suggest. A particular emphasis of the book that I enjoyed by the distinction between deciding about corporations as distinct actors versus deciding about them by “piercing the corporate veil”. One of Professor Winkler’s themes throughout the book is that decisions about corporation and business rights have often been made by looking past the corporate veil and focusing on the individuals making up the corporation. When this logic has been followed, the result has been to expand the rights of corporations and businesses in ways that parallel those of individuals. The paradox is that the rights of corporate actors are expanded by not looking at the corporate actor on its own terms but instead at the individuals making up the actors. Conversely, when the corporate actor has been viewed as distinct from its constituent members, the result has been decisions that highlight the artificiality of the corporate actor and lead to much more limited sets of rights. So the long process that Winkler chronicles has been driven by a focus on individuals rather than on corporate actors, even thought the value of a corporate actor - for example in limiting liability - would suggest that the distinction between the actor and its constituent members is worth maintaining. This book is very readable and could have been far more technical than it was. Given the importance of these issues in recent politics and national elections, Professor Winkler has done a service to readers by making this story accessible to a wide audience and by giving readers much to consider.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I had next to zero prior understanding of any of the legal cases or terminology described in the book, and honestly very little background on any Supreme Court justice (other than watching the RBG documentary). This was a fascinating, well-woven, dense, but understandable overview of the US Constitution and its relationship to corporations. For the most part, the author does a great job at writing for people who might have zero legal background (that's me!). I took informal notes for my own leis I had next to zero prior understanding of any of the legal cases or terminology described in the book, and honestly very little background on any Supreme Court justice (other than watching the RBG documentary). This was a fascinating, well-woven, dense, but understandable overview of the US Constitution and its relationship to corporations. For the most part, the author does a great job at writing for people who might have zero legal background (that's me!). I took informal notes for my own leisure just because there are SO many cases and individuals brought up, it helped me connect all the dots. The author gives just the right amount of supporting detail so there's some color to the story and not just dry facts. It feels like a fairly unbiased view. It showcases the ingenuity, creativity and often strategy that the average person is likely unaware of. Great informational read

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    While the opinion of Adam Winkler's book is not difficult to figure out (he generally is not a fan of 'Corporate Personhood'—even if considering the title alone—he has written an outstandingly thorough, intellectually honest, nuanced, and readable (but quite dense) 'secret history' of corporations and their legal evolution. For what this book is, it is hard to imagine it any better unless one were to slash its' substance or even-handed tone. And the latter of which is shockingly substantial: this While the opinion of Adam Winkler's book is not difficult to figure out (he generally is not a fan of 'Corporate Personhood'—even if considering the title alone—he has written an outstandingly thorough, intellectually honest, nuanced, and readable (but quite dense) 'secret history' of corporations and their legal evolution. For what this book is, it is hard to imagine it any better unless one were to slash its' substance or even-handed tone. And the latter of which is shockingly substantial: this title very much feels like predictable click-bait. And it basically is, but it does not truly reflect just how academic and noble an effort Winkler has contributed towards a subject that is rife with ultra-hardcore propaganda on both sides. But Winkler cuts through the noise and writes perhaps the only book on the history of corporate 'civil rights' (as he calls them) you'll ever need. If you want to learn about this subject, and would like to graduate above the propaganda and absurdly loaded language of this ongoing, heated debate, you will reap great returns for the work it will take to soldier through this book. (NOTE: not an easy or purely pleasurable read at all.) But regardless of your position on the issue, it will likely be a comfort to know Winkler has provided nearly every piece of the picture you'll need to have a full understanding of the history of corporate rights, and what you need to form your own conclusion about what you think its' legal status should be in the future.

  13. 4 out of 5

    yoav

    An interesting and compelling read about the history of corporations and their legal efforts to achieve constitutional rights, a fight that in some cases was built upon the fight for civil rights and sometimes led the way to civil rights expansion. In some parts the tendency to go through a case and then exploring a side story related to the topic, can get a little bit tiresome in other cases it works. However it seems that the hole book is actually exploring the history that led to the famous “ An interesting and compelling read about the history of corporations and their legal efforts to achieve constitutional rights, a fight that in some cases was built upon the fight for civil rights and sometimes led the way to civil rights expansion. In some parts the tendency to go through a case and then exploring a side story related to the topic, can get a little bit tiresome in other cases it works. However it seems that the hole book is actually exploring the history that led to the famous “Citizen United” supreme court case, which is of course OK, but while in the beginning of the book the focus is on the change in the corporation world leading to change in their legal status, later on the focus is on the legal battles. Every case also reviles the history of the parties, lawyers and Judges - so it is kind of Biography of the legal system. The book is full of interesting anecdotes (such as who was Yale and Duke, the fight between the Dodge brothers and Henry Ford etc…). The last few chapters were especially interesting and thoughtful. Highly Recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Here Winkler makes the argument that the Citizens United ruling is not at all surprising considering American history. Indeed, he argues that America and our constitution was founded on corporate ideals and interests, and tracks the development of corporate civil rights throughout history through specific supreme court decisions. I found the first part of this to be fascinating, particularly the focus on the revolutionary war and the first corporate case in 1809. However, in the second half Wink Here Winkler makes the argument that the Citizens United ruling is not at all surprising considering American history. Indeed, he argues that America and our constitution was founded on corporate ideals and interests, and tracks the development of corporate civil rights throughout history through specific supreme court decisions. I found the first part of this to be fascinating, particularly the focus on the revolutionary war and the first corporate case in 1809. However, in the second half Winkler spends a lot of time on the minutia of specific court decisions which slowed reading down considerably. That is until the recent Citizens United and Hobby Lobby decisions. This is definitely the kind of nonfiction I felt like I truly learned something from, I just wish it wasn't so slow and tedious in the middle.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Very interesting. Not a quick read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kira Simion

    I do not normally read things that bring me back into the world that I did not want to be in, but this was a gift from my mother, and it sounds interesting.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yousef M

    Topic: The author's thesis is that the pursuit of greater economic and political rights by U.S. corporations over the last 400 years is closely intertwined with how many cherished individual civil rights and liberties, particularly for women and religious and political minorities, were won in the courtroom. The motivation for this book was making sense of the Supreme Court's much-criticized 2010 Citizens United decision, which rolled back many restrictions on corporate contributions to political Topic: The author's thesis is that the pursuit of greater economic and political rights by U.S. corporations over the last 400 years is closely intertwined with how many cherished individual civil rights and liberties, particularly for women and religious and political minorities, were won in the courtroom. The motivation for this book was making sense of the Supreme Court's much-criticized 2010 Citizens United decision, which rolled back many restrictions on corporate contributions to political campaigns. Style: Winkler is a UCLA law professor. Most scholars would have organized this book by legal issues affecting corporations. Instead, the author has created an ambitious (and fairly readable) historical narrative from colonial America to the present day. While the book focuses primarily on the Supreme Court’s corporate jurisprudence (particularly the First and Fourteenth Amendments), this reads more like an American history non-fiction book with many profiles and stories of pivotal figures underlying important "corporate right" cases, including: • Supreme Court justices, such as the anticorporate populists Hughes and Brandeis, who ironically helped expand corporate rights to include liberty rights in decisions protecting freedom of the press for dissenting newspapers; • politicians, such as “Dollar” Mark Hanna’s innovative fundraising using corporate money to win elections for McKinley at the turn of the 20th century; • lawyers, such as Roscoe Conkling, a former US Senator who co-authored the 14th amendment guaranteeing equal protection to U.S. citizens and lied to the Supreme Court about the law’s scope to benefit railroads seeking a way around state taxes; • businessmen, such as Wall street financiers Samuel Perkins and JP Morgan, who gave large corporate contributions to Teddy Roosevelt’s 1904 election, only to face public backlash leading to the Tillman Act, the first of many campaign finance laws which prohibited corporations from making money contributions to elections; and • reformers, such as Ralph Nader, whose consumer protection advocacy group Public Citizen’s fight against state laws prohibiting publication of pharmacy prices gave credibility to a “listener’s right” legal theory of the First Amendment which corporations used to their benefit in Citizens United. Organization: The best way to understand the book’s organization is its ending, which recounts how a legal dispute over non-profit Citizen United’s “general treasury” corporate expenditures on an anti-Hillary movie transformed into a constitutional question of whether campaign finance laws violate free speech under the First Amendment. To answer how the Court reached its decision, the remainder of the book does a sweeping overview, starting with the origins of corporations as colonial charters and how the role and purpose of corporations have changed through important socio-economic eras such as the Jefferson and Jackson presidencies, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age of railroads, the rise of trusts, the civil rights movement, and the Reagan Era. As becomes apparent, each era provides a key (and very often unexpected) contribution to how modern business corporations have achieved economic and liberty rights under the U.S. Constitution. Takeaway: This book, which was a 2018 National Book Award finalist, was profiled in the NYTimes and piqued my interest. Excellent read, particularly if you (1) are lawyer/law student (it will make you want to pick up that Constitutional Law casebook collecting dust on your bookshelf) (2) enjoy reading U.S. political or economic history, or (3) are interested in how corporate money has influenced politics over the last 140 years. At first glance, I was skeptical about the author’s argument that the legal victories for women, racial minorities, and political dissent may owe a kind of “debt” to the legal battles fought by corporations (non-profit and business) which sought greater economic and political rights against taxation, censorship, and harassment. For example, it was laughable to hear Winkler early on refer to the refusal to pay taxes by 19th century banks chartered by the U.S. government as akin to “civil disobedience” (Thoreau would be rolling in his grave). Notwithstanding such instances of hyperbole, this book certainly changed by mind, though this isn’t to suggest that there is a “debt” to corporations so much as understanding their influence on the how the law developed. For example, one tidbit that was surprising was how, after the end of the Civil War and passage of the 14th Amendment which was meant to protect former slaves against state discrimination, more than half of all legal challenges brought under the 14th amendment between 1868 and 1912 involved corporations seeking relief (usually against protectionist state taxes ), most of which were won by corporations; in contrast, less than 10% of 14th amendment cases actually involved African Americans, whom the law was intended to protect but didn’t (e.g., Plessy v. Ferguson, which ruled “separate but equal” institutions were constitutional). The irony is that, as Winkler connects the legal dots in the early- to mid-20th century, the organizations that often sought (and won) greater constitutional protection included the NAACP and newspapers, which were organized as corporations and argued for their freedoms as corporations, not as individuals or shareholders. If there’s one legal question that has constantly popped up about how to treat corporations over the last 200 years, it is the issue of "corporate personhood," whether, for constitutional purposes, corporations are separate legal actors under the law or, instead, not really separate entities and simply reducible to their members (“association of citizens”). The Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in on this question very clearly over time and has oscillated on its approach quite a bit (especially depending on the provision being interpreted). It’s important to note that, more often than not, the recognition of corporations as "persons" that are separate legal actors with rights (albeit limited compared to citizens) was the usual way for populist anti-corporation justices such as Taney to rule against them while courts "looking through" the corporation to find corporate rights as co-extensive with its members was usually adopted by justices such as Powell to expand the rights of corporations (the latter approach can be seen in the Citizens United decision, which characterized them as equivalent to “association of citizens”). Another key line of cases that were influential in how Citizens United was decided was the “listener’s rights” legal theory of the First Amendment. This began with Ralph Nader’s consumer protection advocacy group Public Citizen helping strike down laws in the 1970s and 1980s that restricted the publication of pharmacy prices in Virginia. The Supreme Court, for the first time, recognized a “right to know” under the First Amendment and that, despite it being pharmacies (not consumers) who had their commercial (not political) speech restricted, the First Amendment could be infringed upon regardless of the identity of the speaker if the speech itself was a valuable expression. Over the next two decades, this approach to the First Amendment was used by business corporations to challenge restrictions on advertising and was eventually recognized as against the interest of consumers to the point that Public Citizen asked the Supreme Court to throw out this entire line of case law. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how this novel view of the First Amendment that was first used to protect citizens manifested itself in the Citizens United decision: “Political speech is indispensable to decision-making in a democracy and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation rather than an individual.” One thing that struck me as odd was that, even before Citizens United, under existing legal precedent and campaign finance laws (including the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 challenged in Citizens United), corporations and unions were not barred from forming PACs and allowing individual members to contribute to such PACs for spending on election ads with no limit on expenditures. The line drawn by McCain-Feingold (that Citizens United was crossing) was the use of general corporate/union treasury funds for such activities, which the Supreme Court ruled violated the First Amendment's protection of free speech. Certainly this was a big line to cross (independent watchdog groups calculated that over $1 billion of new campaign contributions just at the federal level for the 2012 election cycle were attributable to the Citizens United decision), but what was permissible before 2011 didn’t strike me as that much preferable. The audiobook was easy to listen to. If there’s one shortcoming of this book, it’s that it is overly ambitious in creating a unified historical narrative that touches on so many issues of law and history with interesting personalities that you could easily get engrossed in any given era’s developments and lose sight of the fact that this book is really about giving context to a single court decision.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This is a treasure trove of fascinating facts about the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. The book could have been a good deal shorter without losing anything. Also, I feel that there was not enough attention paid to the concept of revoking corporate charters, i.e. if corporations are grossly irresponsible (e.g. tobacco) then they don't have an inalienable right to exist (because they are not people!). They are legal entities created by the government, and thus with some consideration for the p This is a treasure trove of fascinating facts about the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. The book could have been a good deal shorter without losing anything. Also, I feel that there was not enough attention paid to the concept of revoking corporate charters, i.e. if corporations are grossly irresponsible (e.g. tobacco) then they don't have an inalienable right to exist (because they are not people!). They are legal entities created by the government, and thus with some consideration for the public good in a democracy. A bumper sticker says "I'll believe corporations are people when they send one to jail." The author explains why the issue is not really about whether corporations are people--okay fine--but if the correction is that corporations are made up of people behind a "veil" then that still doesn't explain why these people pretty much never go to jail even for horrendous crimes like abetting terrorists.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Holmes

    This is one of the books I always wanted to write (along with Anne Bogel's Reading People book.) I've known that the history of corporation rights began early in our country's history. I just didn't know how early. We the Corporations is an important book about an important topic. Corporations are really in charge in our country and Winkler explains how they got there. From the beginnings of corporations in Roman law through Blackstone in England and the colonization of America, corporations hav This is one of the books I always wanted to write (along with Anne Bogel's Reading People book.) I've known that the history of corporation rights began early in our country's history. I just didn't know how early. We the Corporations is an important book about an important topic. Corporations are really in charge in our country and Winkler explains how they got there. From the beginnings of corporations in Roman law through Blackstone in England and the colonization of America, corporations have been legal entities. While they are not mentioned in the constitution, the courts have slowly given corporations the rights of individuals through many, many cases. Winkler spells all of this out as he presents the cases and describes the colorful lawyers and justices that have paved the way to Citizens United. The final chapter includes some insights into what arguments could be made in a battle to amend the Constitution. This book would be the foundation of a fascinating course. I'm going to purchase this book for my family and for a friend. Thank you Edelweiss+ for the advance reader's copy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    A fascinating, and highly accessible story of the development of rights for corporations. In spite of the overwhelming public opposition to the SCOTUS decision in "Citizens United" that opened the floodgates for money in politics, Winkler demonstrates that that decision sits on a scaffolding of many other cases going back to the early days of the Republic arguing for the expansion of corporate rights. While internal SCOTUS machinations in the Citizens United decision raise questions about politi A fascinating, and highly accessible story of the development of rights for corporations. In spite of the overwhelming public opposition to the SCOTUS decision in "Citizens United" that opened the floodgates for money in politics, Winkler demonstrates that that decision sits on a scaffolding of many other cases going back to the early days of the Republic arguing for the expansion of corporate rights. While internal SCOTUS machinations in the Citizens United decision raise questions about politicization on the part of the court, the prospects for overturning the precedent going forward are not very good unless a huge turnover in personnel (of the right kind) occurs.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This is a must read for everyone if you want to understand the power and privileges enjoyed by American corporations. I am not a lawyer or judge but some of this thinking is very challenging. Even on the part of the Supreme Court thru the years. Maybe the Hobby Lobby decision will enable persons to sue the owners when corporations fail!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    This is an excellent overview of the history of corporate rights in the US, and it made me extremely angry.

  23. 5 out of 5

    John Gustafson

    A terrific and fastidious history of corporate “civil rights” in America. Among the most valuable dimensions of this book is a careful consideration of what corporate “personhood” has classically meant, and how the idea has gotten sloppy and widely misunderstood by Americans, some of them enshrining those misapprehensions into binding Supreme Court precedent. At the same time, this is anything but an anti-corporate book, and Winkler also shows how corporations have been necessary and often posit A terrific and fastidious history of corporate “civil rights” in America. Among the most valuable dimensions of this book is a careful consideration of what corporate “personhood” has classically meant, and how the idea has gotten sloppy and widely misunderstood by Americans, some of them enshrining those misapprehensions into binding Supreme Court precedent. At the same time, this is anything but an anti-corporate book, and Winkler also shows how corporations have been necessary and often positive drivers of our political culture. He finds, for example, corporate roots in such things as the structure of the Constitution and the innovation of representative, proportional voting. The centuries-long story that eventually led to decisions like Citizens United and Hobby Lobby is occasionally a grim one, but thanks to Winkler, it at least makes a lot more sense to me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Roberts

    A very worthwhile read, but not an easy one. America has struggled with the personhood of corporations for more than two hundred years, and yet the recent Citizens United and Hobby Lobby decisions are, according to bipartisan agreement, among the worst ever made. I was fascinated but shocked at the ignorance, mediocrity, and inconsistency of Supreme Court decisions. Corinthian columns, black robes, and red curtains don't count for much.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sean Wanderer

    A timely and well-researched book that takes a historic look at how corporations have fought for, and won, civil rights that were probably intended to me limited to real people. Winkler gives many excellent examples of the court cases and legal history from the earliest days of the United States. These have been the milestones on this centuries-old battle for corporate personhood and reduces corporate regulation.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chrystal

    A must-read for anyone concerned about the erosion of citizens’ rights. Never would I have thought that learning the history of U.S. Supreme Court rulings on corporate rights would be so absorbing and fascinating!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I liked this much more than I expected to. For some reason I did not read the jacket summary and was expecting this to cover just the past forty or fifty years, but it started way back in the colonial era and covered a bunch of cases that I was not familiar with. Definitely recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    200 plus years of lawyers and jurists interpreting, perverting, and writing the laws of the corporation, determining just how closely a corporation could be cast as a human, or a citizen. The author tells these legal case stories with relish, mixing the historic record with profiles of major players in this realm, from descriptions of Daniel Webster’s piercing black eyes to Samuel Alito’s brashness. Not dry, quite interesting.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    wait, there's no Kindle edition??

  30. 5 out of 5

    Humza Hussain

    "Lawyers and historians have extensively studied the civil rights movements for racial minorities, women, and the others, making those stories central to our understanding of the Constitution and of America itself. Corporations too, have had a civil rights movement of sorts. Although Citizens United and the Hobby Lobby brought new public attention and scrutiny to corporate rights, long before those controversial cases were decided corporations had already taken their place among We the People. So "Lawyers and historians have extensively studied the civil rights movements for racial minorities, women, and the others, making those stories central to our understanding of the Constitution and of America itself. Corporations too, have had a civil rights movement of sorts. Although Citizens United and the Hobby Lobby brought new public attention and scrutiny to corporate rights, long before those controversial cases were decided corporations had already taken their place among We the People. Some have argued that teh Founders were strongly opposed to corporations. According to one scholar, the Founders believed corporations were "dangerous organizations that, if not heavily regulated, would threaten the very freedom of their fledging nation." There is surely a kernel of truth in this: the Founders worried about all sorts of concentrations of power, includingthe concentration of wealth. Thomas Jefferson condemned "the aritocracy of our monied corporrations which date already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." Madison, too worried that "the indefinite accumulation of property" was "an evil which ought to be guarded against" and that the "power of all corporations, ought ot be limited in this respect." Democracy and constitutionalism were intimiately tied up with the corporation from the beginning. AMerica was founded by the Virginia Company, fundamentally shaped by the colonists' experience with the Massachusetts Bay Company, and inspired to Independence by the East India Company. Although the founders at teh Constitutional Convention never considered whether corporations should be afforded individual rights under the Constitution, the idea of the corporation nonetheless influenced the constitutional system they established. Once the Constitution was ratified, it would not be long before corporations would invoke it to secure their own rights in an effort to win greater freedom from business regulation. In a harbinger of what was to come, the first corporate rights case was brought to the Supreme Court by what was then the nation's most politically powerful corporation, the Bank of the United States. One of the Supreme Court's most glaring errors, in Strine's view, was piercing the corporate viel. As he wrote in a law review article published the same year as his lecture at Yale, such an approach was "at odds with historical understandings of the corporation and the reality of diverse stockholder ownership." From the perspective of corporate law, "it was not credible to equate the view of the corporation to those of its diverse and changing stockholders." Perhaps it might have made sense for the court to treat a corporation as an association back in the day of Horace Binney and Daniel Webster, when corporations typically were make up of small groups of local investors and had only a handful of employees. Today, however, a corporation seeking to spend on politics could be a multinational enterpise with tens of thousands of employees and an equally large number of stockholders. Many of those stockholders likely do not even know the names of the companies they are invested in because they invest in mutual funds. Given the reality of modern day stockholding, Strine said it was hard to believe that General Electric, Wal-Mart, McDonalds etc. exit because their stockholders wish to come together and have those corporations, through their managers, speak on behlaf of the stockholders on matters of electoral politics. Mora County Commission had taken aim at more formidable quarry. Not only were they targeting the wealthy oil and gas companies that owned mineral leases to more than 30,000 acres of land in the county, they were also seeking to overturn Citizens United and indeed the entire two-hundred-year line of Supreme Court cases establishing constitutional rights for corporations. "For well over a century now, corporations have used those 'rights' to stop efforts, like ours from harmful corporate activities," said Olivas. Citing recent lawsuits brought by businesses to challenge laws requiring the labeling of dairy products and regulating the siting of cell phone towers, Olivas insisted that "our lawmking authority as 'we the people' has been largely eliminated." With a populist tone that harkened all the way back to Thomas Jefferson and Roger Taney, Olivas warned that private corporations have been granted increasing power to dictate the future of our communities." Olivas' ordinance, titled, "Mora Community Water Rights and Self-Governance Act," declared that the oil and gas companies who wanted to frack in the county had no constitutional rights. "Corporations in violation of prohibitions enacted by this ordinance, or seeking to engage in activities prohibited by this ordinance [such as fracking] shall not have the rights of 'persons' afforded by the United States and New Mexico Constitutions, not shall those corporations be afforded rights under the 1st or 15th amendments to the United States Constitution, nor shall those corporations be afforded the protections of the commerce or contracts clause within the United States Constitution or corresponding sections of the New Mexico Constitution. Instead the ordinance endorsed a different set of "right to water," "right a sustainable energy future," and "right to self-government." ... In light of this clear line of precedent, Browning had little choice but to invalidate the ordinance. "It is well established that corporations have constitutional rights to find support for the long history of corporate constitutional rights, the court needs to look no further than" Mora County's own briefs, which listed "numerous cases in the Supreme Court recognized" such protetctions. "The Defendants' argument that corporations should not be granted constitutional rights, or that should be subservient to people's rights, are argument that are best made before the Supreme Court - the only court that can overrule Supreme Court precedent - rather than a district court." Corporate constitutional rights were a product of Supreme Court decisions and so, absent a constitutional amendment like the one proposed by Occupy Wall Street, only the justices could declare an end to them." ANOTHER REVIEWER: Winkler starts by explaining that corporations were designed to pool the resources and liabilities of many different people to accomplish very specific ends--were very rare at Common Law, required government permission to exist, and needed to have a function that was salutary to the commonweal to justify their exceptional rarity and special rights. Examples included funds to build canals, aqueducts, bridges, and universities. These corporations--including still extant institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth--existed at the pleasure of the state, and could have their charters revoked at any time for a number of reasons. But, when in the early 19th Century the state of New Hampshire tried to take control of a university within its borders, the Supreme Court issued a fateful decision, giving corporate personhood gained a toehold in America, and through it--the world. Although corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution and there is reason to believe that the Founding Fathers were suspicious of their influence upon democracy, the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, sadly and ironically, was used to buoy the case for corporate personhood. Arguably the most important of all the amendments, the Fourteenth Amendment provides for many things--incorporation of many of the Bill of Rights amendments, citizenship for emancipated slaves, and equal protection under the laws of the country. It was a Reconstruction Amendment, and it's impossible to argue in good faith that its main object was not the extension of citizenship to all men (though, of course: the usual disclaimers about women and other groups not being ushered in as citizens after the Civil War). Intentions be damned, Winkler walks us through the shameful failure of the courts to actually protect Freedmen, juxtaposed by their zeal for using the Amendment to fashion newfound rights for corporations. This was aided by the outright lies of folks like Roscoe Conkling, who traded on his reputation and his role in drafting the Fourteenth Amendment (shrewdly, after all his fellow drafters were dead) to falsely state that among its main purposes was the protection of corporations.

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