To the Editor:

Before the Civil War, Americans controlled corporations. Corporations were chartered for limited purposes (e.g., building a toll road or canal), and for limited periods of time.

Today, corporations can call money “free speech,” but it didn’t start there.

Early Americans saw corporations as threats to democracy and freedom. They feared the owners would amass great wealth, control jobs and production, buy the newspapers, dominate the courts and control elections (one dollar = one vote).

After the Civil War, corporations pressed relentlessly to expand their powers, and the courts gave them what they wanted. The most important change occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court granted corporations the full constitutional protections (14th Amendment) of individual citizens on May 10, 1886 (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad.

By the early 20th century, courts limited shareholders’ liability, corporations were immortal, and the capital they controlled was infinite. Natural rights were bestowed to unnatural creatures; amoral beasts were created to serve selfish men.

Corporations had life and liberty, but no morals: the fears of early Americans came true.

Corporations are autonomous technical structures (machines. Machines ingest living, natural systems (including people) in one end, and excrete dead garbage and waste (including worn-out people) out the other. Machines with no morals seduce our politicians, subvert our democratic processes, or lie to maximize profit. Laws rarely control them, because these same machines control our lawmakers. Today we live under the de facto plutocracy of corporate machines (one dollar, one vote).

Corporate machines have destroyed American democracy and now destroy the very basis of our lives – both physically and morally. They are leaving our children to face an ugly future of fighting each other over unprofitable leftovers.

As the anniversary of that fateful decision approaches, please join the movement to amend our Constitution to insure that only humans are “people” – not corporations. See movetoamend.org.

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