It's never the particulars of the law that trouble me. It's always the various and conflicting guiding principles that trouble me. This is one of many reasons why I would make a terrible lawyer. I simply cannot bear the distraction of the details. Instead, I find myself consumed by the ideologies at work.
Why would anyone wish to grant a corporation the same legal rights that an individual posses? What is to gain? What is to lose? Why would we continue to engage in such ideological foolishness? Well, it is to our advantage. You see, the corporation is a legal entity that exists to protect us from the government's punitive legalities. The corporation may go bankrupt. I don't have to. The corporation might dissolve, but I am whole. This is an interesting set of privileges we can grant ourselves. I see the benefits and I see the dangers.
Of course, many people are now wondering how much more of this thinking we'll see in the near future with the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Hobby Lobby and health care. I understand that the details of the case are numerous, that Hobby Lobby still invests in some of the companies that create and sell the very products they do not cover in their health care policy. I understand that the details "complexify" (one of my favorite made-up words) what is an already complex set of institutional structures where employee benefits are concerned.
My problem is simply that the creation of the notion of "corporation as citizen" leads directly to this tipping point. We have yet to go over it, but we're teetering on the edge. Some satirists have already begun imagining how to convert corporations to their religion. Can we baptize Monsanto? If so, can we excommunicate Monsanto? If Monsanto has a right to uphold its faith, who is it's bishop and can that person discipline Monsanto in some way? How will I, a minister of the Word and Table, administer the sacraments to Monsanto?
It's insane, really, this whole legal notion of corporate selfhood. But there it is. The legal shield of the "corporation" is now a golem shambling through our streets. This is what bothers me. The vitality of the corporate entity will now trump the vitality of the individual. And that is, of course, not all.
If Hobby Lobby is a "Christian corporation," we will witness an even more transparent process of people gathering beneath the corporate entity in the name of ideology. We will organize behind such power. This court decision is another in a long list of events that demonstrate the dissolution of the institutions we have used to name ourselves and gather and how people are experimenting with other means to gather and claim shared identity.
Shopping at Hobby Lobby is an identifying practice just like listening to Christian radio or buying produce locally. And now we more clearly have the legal means to protect our practices from one another.
We are market places. This is who we have become.