You’re wrong Mitt Romney, corporations are NOT people

This morning’s New York Times quote of the day makes me want to throw furniture:

“Corporations are people, my friend.” said Mitt Romney, responding to a heckler in Iowa who wants higher corporate taxes.

If corporations are indeed people then let’s subject them to the same laws that we apply to individuals, and let’s restrict their freedom to do what they want when they’re in clear violation of those laws.

If a company is found guilty of something - anticompetitive practices, incorrect use of pension funds, falsifying accounts, damaging the environment - do we treat these actions as the corporate equivalents of antisocial behaviour, theft and assault? No. We rarely if ever do anything to prevent a company going about its business, no matter how badly it behaves.  The most that usually happens is a token fine, and maybe the CEO gets fired.

Imagine someone shoots and kills another person in broad daylight with a hundred witnesses.  If the accused were to say “it wasn’t me, it was my trigger finger”, would we consider that a reasonable defence?  And would we in response remove the offending finger, replace it with another, and send the now-reformed murderer on his way?  Of course not.

You can’t have it both ways Romney: either treat companies as people in every respect, or treat them as manmade constructs subject to a completely different set of rules.  Arguing that taxes levied on companies should in any way reflect those levied on individuals is just stupid.