Are corporations people? No. While businesses can be compared to living entities existing in an environment: the market, they are not people. They do not have the same form of rights that humans have. Yet, they do have rights, in a sense.
While corporations do not have true rights, they do have virtual rights. These rights stem from the fact that restricting what corporations can do, in turn, restricts what its owners can do. In other words, virtual rights protect the true rights of those behind the corporation.
First Amendment Rights
There’s certainly a firestorm going around since the Supreme Court ruled that the contraceptive mandate is unconstitutional. Why is it unconstitutional? Because the constitution protects the religious freedom of individuals. The government cannot force an individual to support something that is in opposition to his or her religion. But that’s individuals, what about corporations? Corporations are created and run by people. If the government forces the corporation to provide contraceptive care, it turns all the work, which those involved in the corporation have done, into support for something that opposes those individuals’ religion.
While free speech and religious expression for corporations may not hold so much weight in the minds of the average consumer, due process is certainly something that would, if the consumer understood how much of a threat to their own rights limiting due process for corporations could entail. Let’s take Facebook as the perfect example. As of January 2014, Facebook had roughly 1.23 billion monthly active users. That’s a lot of people using Facebook. Most of the information about our personal live’s are stored on Facebook’s servers.
Now, imagine if Facebook did not have the right to due process, and all of the information on its servers could be seized without a warrant. Those servers contain our life history. It would mean that the government could look into our personal lives without getting a warrant against us.
Don’t use Facebook? You’re still not safe. Have you ever performed a Google search? Do you use their email services? No? You’re still not safe. Your ISP stores records as well, and while they don’t always have the best practices, the ability to access those records without any warrant, simply would make every web service a treasure trove of information for law enforcement and investigative agencies.
This is another obvious one. If corporations do not have rights, even virtual rights, then they do not have a right to their property. Since the corporation and not the shareholders own the property, this means that the government would be able to take any and all property without restraint. They would be able to do so without the normal restrictions on eminent domain. However, since corporate wealth is a result of shareholder investment, restrictions on corporate property rights would be a restriction on individual property rights.
In addition, individuals may pool their resources to buy property that they normally could not afford. A good example would be conservation efforts. An individual person couldn’t purchase 1,000 acres of land to set up a nature preserve, but pool cash from 1,000 people, and it’s not all that hard. In this case, restricting what a corporation could buy would also restrict what those individuals, working together, could buy.