Let’s treat corporations like people

credit: Berkeley T. Compton via Flickr (cc)

Lots of folks seem upset that corporations are being treated like people. True, America prospered for centuries with tight limits on corporate powers (fine history here), and it might be a good idea to again restrict the privilege of forming and maintaining corporations.  Or maybe to do away with them altogether.

But if, instead, corporations are going to have the same powers as natural persons, let’s go about this systematically.

A corporation can deduct all its expenses before calculating its taxable income.  A natural person should be allowed to do the same, deducting the cost of food, housing, medical treatments, transportation, and everything else.  If the result is a net loss, carry it over to the next year.

A person doesn’t get full legal rights until the age of 18 (or for some rights, 21). Until then, the parents are responsible for most kinds of damage which the person might do. So if a corporation is formed today, the stockholders should for 18 or 21 years be liable for the corporation’s debts and damages. The stockholders would also be responsible for making sure that the corporation is properly cared for and educated.  In serious cases of irresponsible stockholders, the State Department of Children, Family, And Infant Corporation Services would come in and take the corporation away.

How about voting? Should a corporation, having reached the age of majority, be permitted to cast a vote? I’m not sure about this. Under “one corporation one vote” the megacorporations really wouldn’t be very influential. But wealthy people might choose to form many small corporations in order to influence elections. And of course if they can vote, wouldn’t corporations have to be permitted to hold office? Voting is definitely a concern, but since the rich and their corporations control major elections now, I doubt any choice in this matter would make things appreciably worse.