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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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May 28, 2004

Depersonalizing corporations

Last week I was on a road trip. Around lunchtime I drove into Arcata, on California’s north coast. I immediately noticed the dreadlocks, natural-food restaurants and other marks of the university town that I later found out had been dubbed “Berkeley north.” Arcata is the home of Humboldt State University and various campaigns against logging. In the paper was the story that the city council had finally passed a municipal ordinance depersonalizing corporations. It was an idea I’ve heard from David Korten and the Seattle left.

The way they state it is that rights belong to human beings, not corporations. Therefore, corporations should not have, for example, a constitutionally protected freedom of speech. Here is an old article explaining the ideology of it, another on the recent campaign and another on the final victory.

The problem with this idea is that corporations are organizations of people -- as are clubs, associations, unions, partnerships, cooperatives, and, indeed, city councils. To say that certain types of organizations don’t have freedom of speech is to say that some people may speak freely and some cannot, and further, that the decision will be made by political authority.

Here is a frightening face of the left. It wants to speak and be heard, and it wants its enemies to be silenced.

Perhaps I am biased -- in fact, I know I am. As I write this blog, I am exercising the right of freedom of the press, which in this case is not my right, because it is not my blog, but the right of the Seattle Times Co.

A corporation.

By the way, "depersonalizing corporations" is also an item on the new political platform of the King County Democrats, available here.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at May 28, 2004 05:06 PM



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