Corporations Can Be Good and Generous because Sometimes People Are

And yes, that’s because corporations are people, for better and worse.

Everyone pretends that the phrase “corporations are people” refers to the legal concept of “corporate personhood.” It doesn’t. It simply means that  corporations consist of people acting in cooperation.

That’s why it is important to realize the restricting the “rights of corporations” is really an attack on people. The only way my writing appears on your screen right now is because of some corporations. Those corporations pooled resources, developed technology and software, and then offered services to customers. Without such corporations my “right to free speech” would only carry as far as my voice. Claiming that only people have rights and corporations are something impersonal that can be restrained by law is a rationalization for imposing government censorship on all persons.

And these corporations are not the evil monsters they are often portrayed as being. I’m not saying that they are not ever so evil. But they are sometimes also generous and heroic.

[See also, “Editorial Shows Hatred of Corporations is really Hatred of People.”]

Consider this story at Elliot.org about Southwest Airlines and customer Peggy Uhle: “Southwest takes a passenger under its wing.”

Uhle was flying from Raleigh-Durham to Columbus via Chicago. Everything seemed routine, she recalls.

“With less than an hour between flights and the earliness, I did not turn on my phone to check messages,” she says. “I boarded my flight, the attendants closed the door, and we started to pull away from the gate.”

But then the aircraft returned to the gate. The door opened and a flight attendant asked her to get off the plane.

“I figured I was on the wrong plane,” she says. The gate agent told me to check in at the desk and when I did she told me to call my husband.”

Uhle phoned home and found out that her 24-year-old son was in a coma in Denver.

If you’re flying, then changing your itinerary late in the game can be a festival of fees. Even Southwest’s refund and change policy, which is relatively lenient, is no push0ver. For illness and emergencies, it usually requires extensive documentation.

Not this time.

“The gate attendant already knew the situation and had booked me on a direct flight to Denver that was leaving in the next two hours,” she said.

And they weren’t done.

Uhle added, “They offered a private waiting area, rerouted my luggage, allowed me to board first, and packed a lunch for when I got off the plane in Denver. My luggage was delivered to where I was staying, and I even received a call from Southwest asking how my son was doing.”

That definitely goes way beyond anyone’s job description.

[…]

“Southwest never asked for payment for the Denver flight, luggage delivery or anything else,” she concluded. “The care that I was shown is second to none. We have always liked Southwest Airlines and now we can’t say enough good things about them.”

I’m not arguing that everything Southwest’s corporate governors have ever done is angelic. My point is that, being made up of people, corporations can exhibit the same goodness we see in people as well as the same evil. People can be generous and so can corporations.

But I can easily predict what will encourage corporations to do less good and more evil.

Plunder them and control them. Dictate to them what services they must offer and at what price. Make the government the dictator of corporate decisions—which isn’t slavery because corporations aren’t people, right?

Customers have amazing power over corporations. I remember when Blockbuster and Kinko’s were huge. Then consumers decided to kill them and they died (I know Kinko’s services still exist with Federal Express, but that was a massive reduction). Customers are the lords of corporations.

When the government takes over, that all ends. Once the government starts dictating services and decisions then the customers go from being bosses to enemies and the corporations care more about pleasing politicians and getting their blessing.

When that happens, we are going to see a great deal more exploitation and apathy. People who feel they are struggling to survive against a tyrannical government that continually claims they are evil and must be kept on a leash for the sake of customers are not going to be inclined to sacrifice for the sake of those customers.