by Jim Hightower
One of the silliest claims made
by those who run Corporate America is that the paper entity called
"a corporation" must be treated as human beings, entitled
to the same constitutional rights that we living, breathing U.S. citizens
have including the human right to freedom of speech.
Of course, a corporation is a thing, not a person, and
to see how absurd it is for corporate executives to claim that their
entities should have democratic rights, just sneak a peek at how they
treat the free-speech rights of shareholders, the actual people who
own the corporations. In theory, shareholders are the ultimate boss
of any corporation, supreme over the executives who're the hired hands
doing day-to-day management. In practice, however, the relationship
is turned on its head, with the executives bossing the owners.
The annual shareholder meeting is when owners supposedly
get to grill their hirelings and set corporate policy. But these meetings
have become a sad farce. For example, at this year's gathering of
the shareholders of Weyerhaeuser, the executives imperiously decreed
that the owners would no longer be able to go to an open microphone
on the floor and ask whatever they wanted. Instead of free speech,
questions for the Weyerhaeuser CEO had to be submitted in writing,
and only 15 minutes were devoted to answering the owners' questions.
Of the 30 questions submitted, management deigned to
respond only to 12 of them. And even then Weyerhaeuser's autocratic
executives cut short the 15-minute Q and A period. One rebellious
shareholder had the temerity to rise and ask why. He was summarily
ejected from the meeting by a burly security guard (a guard hired
by management and paid with the shareholders' own money). It was a
crude and rude move that New York Times business columnist Gretchen
Morgenson termed "Kremlinesque."
Why would we extend free-speech rights to totalitarian entities that deny the most basic rights to their own owners?
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Lets Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com.
© 2005 Discovery
Publications, Inc. 104 E. 5th St., Ste. 201, Kansas City, MO 64106
contents of eKC are the property of Discovery Publications, Inc.,
and protected under Copyright.