Implicit in my post yesterday warning that America is at danger from a corporate takeover was that this is a bad thing; to anyone who thinks that it's a neutral or even good thing, the whole post would have read like a Michael Mooreian rant. My post was predicated largely on one prediction and one axiom: the prediction was that corporations would drown out individual humans in the public discourse, and the axiom was that humans are more important than corporations.
The problem with axioms is that they're the dead ends of arguments. You can debate a prediction or a logical connection, but an axiom is more or less the end of discussion. This is often times lethal to policy. For instance, many Americans, and particularly the GOP, have an axiomatic belief that the free market is always the best mechanism for allocating resources. Empirical evidence shows that this isn't always the case — health care is a great example — but no amount of empirical evidence can trump an axiom. That's what makes it an axiom.
The only thing you can do with an axiom is to explore its implications (as I'll do in just a bit) to see whether they really match your intuition, and to see if the axiom really deserves being one. The fewer axioms we have, the more discussion we can have (since we have fewer dead ends) — so if we can demote an axiom to a hypothesis, we should.
Back to my axiomatic belief that corporations are lesser than individuals. Some people would say this is because corporations are just an artificial construction of our legal system; but I don't buy that. Every legal entity is an artificial abstraction of a (hopefully) real thing, and corporations are real things. Banding together in groups in order to co-operate is human instinct.
But I would argue that while injustices against humans are wrong in themselves (malum in se, if I may quote Elle Woods), an injustice against a corporation is only wrong insofar as it harms humans. If a government kills someone for no reason, that's horrible in and of itself; but if a government dissolves a corporation, that's only horrible because it threatens the livelihood of its employees and their families (and because by setting that precedent, it puts at risk employees at every other business, too). I challenge the commenters to come up with an injustice against a business that is bad for reasons other than the harms it inflicts on people.
I am not at all advocating that businesses should have no rights. What I am advocating is that they have a different set of rights, and that those rights explicitly make businesses secondary to humans.