Listening to yet another pundit on yet another soapbox about corporate personhood today, I found myself talking back to the television. “The real issue isn’t that corporations are people,” I told the guy on the screen. “It’s that sometimes they are really crappy people.”
The words startled me as they left my mouth. And they led me to wonder, “If a corporation were to actually be a person, what kind of person would I want it to be?”
The more I considered it, the more reasonable the question became. Unlike we “natural people,” corporations are inventions of our human desires. That means we could program corporations to have whatever traits we would want them to have!
I began to imagine those corporate “persons” living as my neighbors, right there on my street. What kind of people would I want those neighbors to be?
At the very least, I would want my corporate-person-neighbors to be considerate. Clearly I would want them to be responsible, honest, respectful. Ideally I would want them to understand my boundaries, but I would also want them to be generous if I run out of milk or need to borrow their ladder. And I would absolutely want them to share their gardening secrets.
If those corporate-neighbor-persons were going to be around my kids a lot, I would want them to think first of what’s best for my children, before they would think about what’s good for themselves. The same would hold true for my 88 year old mom.
And that is when the next question struck me:
If that’s the kind of people I wish corporations would be, am I being that myself?
Am I being considerate, honest, respectful? Am I being a generous neighbor, a thoughtful and listening leader? If these are the behaviors I want to see in others – corporate or flesh-and-blood human – am I walking that talk? Am I being that myself?
I confess I have trouble accepting the whole issue of corporate personhood. Yet, while the general public becomes more aware of the dangers of this concept wrought large – as we talk with legislators and sign petitions for a constitutional “personhood” amendment – perhaps the more powerful thing each of us can do right now, to create the world we want, is to remember that we humans can choose, every day, to be the kind of people we wish those corporations would be.
Which led me to one last question. In every interaction with my colleagues and with my employees, with my kids and with my mom, with my neighbors and with the guy at the convenience store… what will I do to be the kind of person I wish everyone else would be, whatever kind of “person” they are?
Image Credit: Image via the Story of Stuff Project Story of Citizens United v FEC