The Story of Democraczy: Chapter Fourteen: Morphosis of a Citizen

by Martin Gantman

Morphosis of a Citizen    1,819 AD

Freedom of . . .             1,791 AD

Revolution                     1,775 AD

Enlightenment                1,700 AD

and Romanticism

Very Early Modern         1,500 AD

Late Middle Ages            1,300 AD

High Middle Ages            1,000 AD

Early Middle Ages              400 AD

Pericles:                            450 BC

Ephialtes:                           465 BC

Cleisthenes:                       500 BC

Solon:                               600 BC

Hammurabi:                    1,800 BC

Ur Nammu:                     2,000 BC

Gilgamesh:                      2,500 BC

Sumeria:                          5,300 BC

Lascaux:                        30,000 BC

Religious activity:          100,000 BC

Homo sapiens:               130,000 BC

Homo erectus:            1,500,000 BC

Homo habilis:              2,500,000 BC

Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society.- Michel Foucault

Chronology of Court Rulings Toward Corporate Citizenship

Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)
Corporate charters are ruled to have constitutional protection.

Munn v. State of Illinois (1876)
Property cannot be used to unduly expropriate wealth from a community (later reversed).

Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886)
The substance of this case (a tax dispute) is of little significance, but this fateful case subsequently was cited as precedent for granting corporations constitutional rights. Several articles linked above detail how this happened.

Noble v. Union River Logging Railroad Company (1893)
A corporation first successfully claims Bill of Rights protection (5th Amendment)

Lochner v. New York (1905)
States cannot interfere with “private contracts” between workers and corporation — marks the ascension of “substantive due process” (later mitigated after President Roosevelt threatend to add Justices to the Court).

Liggett v. Lee (1933)
Chain store taxes prohibited as violation of corporations’ “due process” rights.

Ross v. Bernhard (1970)
7th Amendment right (jury trial) granted to corporations.

U.S. v. Martin Linen Supply (1976)
A corporation successfully claims 5th Amendment protection against double jeopardy.

Marshall v. Barlow (1978)
The Court creates 4th Amendment protection for corporations — federal inspectors must obtain a search warrant for a safety inspection on corporate property.

First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978)
Struck down a Massachusetts law that banned corporate spending to influence state ballot initiatives, even spending by corporate political action committees. Spending money to influence politics is now a corporate “right.” Justice Rehnquist’s dissent is a recommended read.
Related articles: * Ballot Initiatives Hijacked   *   Behind the Powell Memo

Central Hudson Gas v. Public Service Comm. of NY (1980)
This oft-cited decision concerns a state ban on ads promoting electricity consumption.

Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990)
Upheld limits on corporate spending in elections.

Thompson v. Western States Medical Center (2002)

Nike v Kasky (2002)
Nike claims California cannot require factual accuracy of the corporation in its PR campaigns. California’s Supreme Court disagreed. The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case on appeal, then issued a non-ruling in 2003. See our comprehensive archive on this case.

Randall v Sorrell (2006) While this case dealt with the legality of Vermont’s contribution limits, not corporations directly, it carried important implications for corporate political influence, as Daniel Greenwood detailed in our amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010). In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Austin and a century of federal legislative precedent to proclaim broad electioneering rights for corporations.

I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.- James Madison, Federalist Papers