The Reporter (interviewer from a magazine), who wears an old-fashioned journalist’s fedora with a press card tucked into the brim and carries a shoulder satchel clearly labeled “Fifth Estate Magazine,” which holds a notepad and perhaps a tape recorder.
The Corporate Person, a group of people bundled together (perhaps wrapped in red tape or in a costume of a corporate charter with holes cut for the faces of the actors to show) in a way that they do NOT look like a real person. They can be wearing masks (with the mouth free) and be covered with ads, stock market quotes, paper money, etc. Props that various people comprising the Corporate Person could carry and wear include business suits, golf clubs, cigars, cell phones, etc.
Two are non-speaking parts, one wearing a sign saying “We the People” and the other saying “Democracy.” The location is a corporate office or boardroom. The Reporter carries a notepad that can contain the script so no lines need to be memorized. The Corporate Person can read from scripts as well; these could be in folders that are marked “Stock Portfolio”, “World Bank Report”, or something similar. All of the actors in the Corporate Person bundle can speak and alternate lines, or not. Signage could include the Mr. Moneybags character from the game Monopoly (such as the “Get Out of Jail Free” card). A good sound person would help this skit. Throughout skit, music can be used to punctuate. Music and commercial jingles would be fun recordings to have, but not necessary. Cut for length by cutting out questions and their answers. Feel free to improvise. This could also be a radio script.
Reporter: [entering office and looking around] Hello... Hello... Is anyone here? Your secretary sent me in. I have an appointment for an interview with the Corporate Person.
Corporate Person [bundle of actors shuffles in]: Hello. You must be the Reporter from Fifth Estate Magazine.
Rep: [trying to figure out which hand to shake] Yes, that’s me.
CP: It’s always so interesting to meet flesh and blood human beings.
Rep: Thank you. To be honest, we were quite surprised that you chose Fifth Estate for your first “In Person” interview.
CP: Well, I feel any magazine that caters to people who own five estates is the readership I am looking for.
Rep: [sardonically] Actually, the Fifth Estate refers to “The People.”
CP: [oblivious] Estates now have Personhood, too? I’m so happy to hear it. Soon all Property will be recognized with the legal rights of Persons — corporations, estates, cars, swimming pools, yachts. All Property will be equal. Of course some will be more equal than others.
Rep: [eyeing the bundle] You know I’m rather surprised that you can speak.
CP: Why? I’ve had the right of free speech for some time now.
Rep: Yes, I knew that, but I didn’t know you could actually talk, with such a real voice.
CP: Lifelike, isn’t it? I’ve been working on it for many years, but it was in the ’70s that I found my true voice.
Rep: You must be referring to the 1976 Supreme Court case, Buckley vs. Valeo? I…
CP: [interrupting] You’ve heard of it?
Rep: I reviewed it in preparation for this interview.
CP: I’m so flattered!
Rep: That’s the case that ruled that financial contributions to candidates and political parties are equal to speech.
CP: You know how everyone always says “Money Talks”?
CP: Well, Buckley vs. Valeo made that expression true. In another case in the same year, the Supreme Court ruled that Advertizing is Free Speech. And then the following year, the Court overturned annoying state restrictions on corporate spending on political referenda. There was no way to shut us up, and we’ve been yapping our heads off ever since.
Rep: So I’ve heard.
CP: These rulings have helped me and my fellow Corporate Persons really express our true objectives. Ah, yes, the ’70s. Power to the Corporate Person! Power to the Corporate Person!
Rep: Uh, yeah, right on. So you use your money…
CP: [interrupting] Free speech.
Rep: …your free speech…
CP: [interrupting] See how easy it is to make that transition?
Rep: You use your free speech to buy our Representatives and keep us from having clean money elections.
CP: [delighted] You have done your homework!
Rep: So what kind of speech is it that keeps us from having labeling on genetically modified foods?
CP: Oh, that’s the right to remain silent.
Rep: That only applies when you’re arrested.
CP: Well, it’s best to be prepared. Anyway, the Supreme Court wanted to protect our Freedom of Mind so they gave us the right not to speak.
Rep: The corporation needs “Freedom of Mind”? When you exercise your right not to speak, what happens to the people’s right to know?
CP: Everyone knows that corporate rights trump people’s rights. Have you been living up a tree for the last hundred years, or what?
Rep: So is Corporate Personhood the reason that OSHA can’t have surprise inspections to check on working conditions, and why the EPA can’t drop in to see if you are polluting?
CP: You’re catching on! Yes, if we didn’t have the protection of the Fourth Amendment we would have those pesky inspectors looking over our shoulders all the time. Now they have to make an appointment or get a warrant. It gives us a chance to clean things up.
Rep: That’s like the cops having to fax a thief the schedule of when and where they’re planning to catch him.
CP: Apt metaphor.
Rep: And does Personhood also allow you to build giant chain stores wherever you want, and put up cell towers all over the place?
CP: I’m a Person, and you cannot discriminate against me. I have Civil Rights protection, just like everyone else. Of course, small towns want to protect their character and try to prevent Walmart from moving in, but that’s just like having a whites-only neighborhood. We’re Persons too, and must have protection from discrimination.
Rep: You know, I think our readers would be interested in how you became a Person... in your own words.
CP: Why sure, this is a great story! Remember that Civil War you all had back 150 years ago? Well, we Corporations were a very important part of that. We may not get much credit in the textbooks, but we were right there, totally involved on both sides, supplying uniforms, rifles, wagons, food, you name it, and growing bigger and stronger every day. And then came the era of the Railroad Corporations... they were really strong!
Rep: You mean really corrupt.
CP: Corrupt, strong, same thing. Anyway, after the Civil War ended, the Government started getting generous and began handing out rights to the former male slaves. First it was Freedom, then Equal Protection under the Law and Protection from Discrimination. Then the Vote.
Rep: That would be the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. [getting agitated] But they weren’t just handed out by a generous government — they were won after enormous struggle!
CP: [soothing voice] Whatever, calm down. The point is that if they were passing out rights, what about us? We helped win the war. Or lose it, depending on what side you were on. Why were we neglected? We Corporations felt that we deserved these rights every bit as much as any former slave. And we began to fight for our rights. So, we got our lawyers on board and they started working to get us these rights. It took 18 years of hard struggle, but we finally won the right to be called a Person under the 14th Amendment.
Rep: During the same time, women tried to get the right to be called a Person under the 14th Amendment, but they were told, “No, it’s only for black males.” Why did all the Supreme Court judges suddenly decide that the same word, Person, in the same Amendment did mean Corporations?
CP: Oh, gee, why do you think? [tosses Monopoly money in the air]
CP: Money always helps. So do connections. The judges were former Railroad lawyers. And they believed in the same things we Corporations do. They wanted to keep things from getting too... [searches for word]
CP: Well, yes, you could put it that way. You know, there is a danger in too much Democracy.
CP: Yes. It’s not good for business.
Rep: So the Supreme Court said you Corporations were “Persons,” but then you had to get actual rights. How did you do it?
CP: Well, pretty much the same way. Friendly judges. We put our lawyers on it. Little by little we got almost all of the rights of people.
Rep: What are you missing?
CP: We don’t have the right to vote, but who cares. It’s not worth anything anyway.
Rep: That’s not true! Voting chooses who is to be in the Congress and who is President. They make the laws!
CP: Who told you that? You humans will believe anything! Listen, it’s the Supreme Court that makes the really important laws. They’re not called “Supreme” because they have soul! And as for Congress and the President? Well, Money Talks! And they’re all fluent in the language of cash. I suppose that if the Congress wanted to pass an Amendment saying that Corporations were not to be considered Persons deserving rights under the Constitution, they could reverse all we have gained, but what do you think the chances of that are?
Rep: OK, I’ll admit that it will take a lot of education and work. But the Supreme Court has overturned decisions in the past, and Congress sometimes passes new amendments.
CP: And Casinos sometimes pay out a Jackpot. But in the end, the Casino always wins. They only pay out enough to keep you all believing that it’s possible to win. And remember, those Casinos in Vegas are all Corporate Persons. Look, it’s been over a century. Get used to it, we’re Persons!
Rep: But why do you want to be Persons? You have money, power, immortality. Why do you need to be treated like people, too?
CP: Well, of course, we don’t need to be people. We were plenty powerful before we became Persons. But before the Santa Clara ruling in 1886...
Rep: [interrupting] You remember the year?
CP: Of course I do, it’s my birthday! Before 1886, Corporations were a subset of Government. We were chartered by the Government and had to be subservient to the will of “The People.” We were sort of like slaves.
Rep: I would hardly say that! You were running things already. I wouldn’t call that slavery.
CP: Sure it is! I mean, our money kept us going, as did our limited liability, and immortality, not to mention our many friends in the Government. But some of those pesky State Legislatures were determined to control every aspect of our lives. The Constitution defines rights for “We the People” and duties for the Government, and since Corporations were still considered part of Government, that meant we Corporations had duties. We didn’t want duties, we wanted rights. It’s only fair! So when the Government outlawed slavery, we wanted to throw off our chains of oppression, too.
Rep: You know, listening to you just now, I realized something. Slavery is the legal fiction that a Person is Property. Right? Well, Corporate Personhood is the legal fiction that Property is a Person! They are both legal fictions. They are both constructions of the law and nothing else. Slavery was wrong and was abolished by Congress. Corporate Personhood is also wrong and should be abolished in the same way.
CP: Why do you think that? Why do you want to take away my rights? Why would you want to take away the rights of any Person?
Rep: But you are not a Person. You are not a living, breathing human being. You are not a creature of Nature, you are a creature of Law. You have no soul, no conscience; your only reason for existence is to maximize profits for your shareholders.
Rep: I would rather see animals with rights, or even trees. At least they are alive.
CP: Yeah, but do they know about making a buck?
Rep: I don’t think Corporations deserve any rights at all. If it was up to me I would vote to take away your Personhood!
CP: You can’t do that. You can’t vote to take away the rights of a PERSON. You can’t discriminate against me. You would be taking away my Civil Rights!
Rep: Civil Rights! Discrimination! Corporations should have privileges instead of rights. Like driver’s licenses. Bad drivers get their license taken away.
CP: If you take away my rights, how will I do business?
Rep: You were doing just fine before you got Personhood rights. You will do fine without them again. The real people of this country need to get back in control. That’s what democracy means... People rule.
CP: Boy, you’re opinionated. And I thought reporters were supposed to be objective.
Rep: We’re supposed to tell the truth.
CP: [exasperated] This is what they mean by the liberal press. Sending you here to attack me, a model Corporate Citizen.
Rep: Actually, there is no such thing as a Corporate Citizen. You are only an agreement made between a group of investors. A chartered agreement that is licensed by the state government — that is all a Corporation is.
CP: Wait a minute! A Corporation is a group of people, so it only makes sense that a Corporation is a Person.
Rep: Your employees, investors, and officers are Persons. They don’t need Corporate Personhood in order to have all the rights that people have struggled for centuries to get. Why would any person want to share these precious rights with artificial Persons? It just reduces who we are as human beings to hand them over to every chartered fiction that comes along.
CP: Hey! Don’t be condescending to me! You have no idea how much power I have!
Rep: You’re right; you do have a lot of power. But it’s nothing compared to the Power of the People. Look, I have to tell you: once this article is published and all the People find out about Corporate Personhood, they will use their power to take it away from you.
CP: Big deal. You have people. We have Lawyers!
Rep: Don’t say I didn’t warn you. [folds arms across chest and takes a step back]
[Two actors enter, one labelled “We the People” and the other “Democracy.” Each carries a large pair of scissors and they begin to cut the Corporate Person apart.]
CP: [struggling against the scissors; various voices] Stop! Wait! You can’t do that! You have no authority here! The economy will collapse! You’ll lose your jobs! Etc.
[As the bundle comes apart, actors argue some among themselves and then start to shed their masks and other Corporate Person props.]
CP: [various voices] Hey! I can breathe again! Gee, there are all kinds of business opportunities in a real democracy! This isn’t so bad! Etc.
Rep: [now wearing a gray wig, using a cane, or somehow indicate that s/he has aged and that some time has passed] See? Democracy means the People rule. There’s no room for artificial persons here. But we still need your business skills. What are you going to do now?
CP: [They look at each other, smile, and say in unison] We’re going to form a CO-OP!
The End [good place for the Personhood Song]