Are Corporations People? Book Review of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights
Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2018/19
6 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2019 Last revised: 24 Oct 2020
Date Written: February 1, 2019
This is a review of UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler’s We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights. Among its virtues, the book explains the influence of colonial charters on American constitutional development, turns on its head the conventional wisdom about how “corporate personhood” relates to the granting of constitutional rights to corporations, and explains why the most important expansion of corporate rights was a product of liberal, not conservative, supreme court justices.
The review criticizes the book, on the other hand, for neglecting early religious freedom cases involving corporations, conflating free market arguments with pro-corporation ones, neglecting the importance of the incorporation doctrine in establishing corporate rights, wildly overstating the importance of the Powell memo, failing to reckon with the partisan reasons Democrats and liberals support campaign finance reform, and more generally accepting dubious progressive shibboleths such as the “race to the bottom” as valid.
Keywords: Citizens United, corporations, campaign finance, speech, personhood
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation