What else could they be? Buildings don’t hire people. Buildings don’t design cars that run on electricity or discover drug therapies to defeat cancer.
A common mantra among the “Occupy” crowd and Democrats is that corporations are not people, with the implication that corporations should not be allowed to influence elections.
REALLY? Let’s start with a Corporation I am very familiar with named Pajamas & Software LLC (Limited Liability Corporation). That’s me! A one man shop! Am I to have no say in how my one man shop is treated by the legislators and the regulators? Am I to just bend over when I see pending legislation that would drive me out of business? (Full disclosure: my Corporation is currently dormant).
What about the small Ma & Pa restaurant down the street, are they unable to protect themselves from some future law/regulation that would require them to build a third rest room to accommodate LGBT customers, a law that may force them out of business? Corporations of all sizes need the protection provided by being able to influence elections and legislations against an all powerful government. When there are abuses, and law breaking then treat them as violations of whatever law applies, but don’t lock out business as if they are a foreign invader, after all, in all likelihood a corporation is putting food on your table.
Now read an excellent argument as to why Corporations are people.
Here’s a new party trick. Want to be accused of being a member of a satanic cult? Like to be called the kind of person who would steal candy from a child, or harm a puppy and start a forest fire—all in the same day? Do you want to be described as evil, heartless and stupid?
Then just do this: Offhandedly mention in public that you agree with Mitt Romney—and that, yeah, you think corporations are people.
Oh, how that notion sets some people right off their rockers! Take, for instance, the scene last month when senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced President Obama at a big fundraiser in Boston:
“Mitt Romney tells us, in his own words, he believes corporations are people. No, Mitt, corporations are NOT people,” she pronounced. “People have hearts. They have kids. They get jobs. They get sick. They love and they cry and they dance. They live and they die. Learn the difference.” The audience went wild.
Of course corporations are people. What else would they be? Buildings don’t hire people. Buildings don’t design cars that run on electricity or discover DNA-based drug therapies that target cancer cells in ways our parents could never imagine.
Buildings don’t show up at a customer’s factory and say, “We won’t leave until we solve your inventory problem.” Buildings don’t encourage their employees to mentor inner-city kids in math and science. Buildings don’t fund homeless shelters in Boston or health clinics in Rwanda. People do.
Corporations are people working together toward a shared goal, just as hospitals, schools, farms, restaurants, ballparks and museums are. Yes, the people who invest in, manage and work for corporations are there to make a profit. And yes, corporations may employ some bureaucrats, jerks, cheapskates and even nefarious criminals.
But most individuals working in corporations are regular people, people just like you and your friends and neighbors. People who want to make a living and want to make a difference.
And while they’re doing that, people in corporations do indeed love and cry and dance. If you don’t know that, you’ve never been part of a team that has pulled together over coffee and late nights and shouting and laughing and created something amazing to hit a deadline. You’ve never been in the room when a longtime client says it’s not working anymore and she’s taking her business to your biggest competitor. You’ve never sat in the lunch room when someone runs in and says the new medical device that no one thought had a chance, the little heart valve or something like it that every engineer in the place has been working on for two years, has just passed its first human clinical trials with flying colors.
In such moments—moments that happen every single day—you can see and hear and feel that corporations are people. That’s all they are.
This fact is so obvious that there can only be one conclusion drawn when we hear the pronouncement, “Corporations aren’t people”—that it’s doublespeak. That is, when people say that corporations aren’t people, what they really want to say is, “Business is evil.”
They want to say what they feel, which is that capitalism doesn’t work, that it’s unfair, and that America needs another system—one that, to quote the president himself, “spreads the wealth around.”
Obviously, we’re not in that camp. We know capitalism isn’t perfect. But free markets are the best system there is to provide opportunity to those with an idea, or simply the motivation to work their butts off to make their lives better. We also know capitalism can spawn bad behavior; greed is part of the human condition and always will be. That’s why regulations and controls exist, as they should.
But this movement afoot that hates on business is craziness. It will destroy America as we know it because very few jobs get created in an environment that’s outright hostile to business. And without jobs, the whole thing falls down. It becomes a welfare state. We become a welfare state.
If that’s what you want, we can’t change your mind. But in your efforts, stop hiding behind words. Corporations are people. If you want to put an end to corporations, at least say what you mean.
Mr. Welch was the CEO of General Electric for 21 years and is the founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University. Mrs. Welch is a writer and a former editor of the Harvard Business Review.