Regarding the referendum on corporate personhood

[This is an email I wrote to the Boulder City Council on July 12, explaining to them why I hope they will vote in favor of putting a referendum on corporate personhood on Boulder’s fall ballot.]

Dear Mrs. Osborne, Mrs. Becker, Ms. Ageton, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Applebaum,

I am writing you all to voice my support for the referendum on corporate personhood, as I have not seen that you have taken a public stand on the issue. Perhaps you are waiting to hear from the public before making up your mind; I hope this email will help you to realize what broad public support I believe this measure will have.

I’d like to believe I possess some qualifications and credentials to address this issue. I am the primary organizer for the Boulder chapter of Move To Amend (see our website here) I’ve been following socio-economic and environmental problems all of my adult life. In college, I was inspired by the teachings of Buckminster Fuller, attending his last World Game Workshop at the University of Pennsylvania in the summer of 1975. This ironically foreshadowed my later attending graduate school there, graduating with a master’s in Regional Science in 1981. This is a specialized field of economics, focused on the location of economic activity, and with providing policy makers with analytical tools to solve practical economic problems. Problem solving, then, has always been my bent; and undoing corporate power in our political process will be a tough nut to crack.

Most of my professional career has been spent as an analyst of some type, first in economics, then later in programming, solving analytical problems for companies or institutions. I tried teaching micro and macro economics at Front Range Community College (FRCC) from 1988 to 1992, but gave it up because I had become cynical over the direction of global economic change, and the power of the global corporate state; so I gave up on economics, and became a self-taught programmer. Since 1999, I have worked at two different research centers at CU Boulder, first at the Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems (CADSWES), and currently at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics (IBG). The academic environment agrees with me. Along the way, I earned a second masters in telecommunitions at CU Boulder, while working part-time, graduating in 2002.

However, I returned to teaching economics part-time at FRCC in 2009 (and still teach there); but only environmental economics. I am as deeply concerned over the environmental impact that our economy is having on the world, as I am distressed over its overtly unfair treatment of individuals, communities and the disadvantaged. But I was inspired to return to teaching environmental economics because I had learned about ecological economics, which is an entirely different beast. If you are not aware of this field, I highly recommend it to your attention; I am convinced it deserves to become the economics of the 21st century, as it has answers for the tough environmental and social problems that the neo-classical paradigm has created, and will only make worse, if this new paradigm is not allowed to displace it.

I am doing my best to try and advance this new paradigm. It’s foremost lesson is that basing economic policy purely on unlimited growth is insane; worse than insane, it is environmental suicide. I’m sure you are aware of this, and of the host of lucid analyses of various researchers about the dangers of the economics of business-as-usual, such as David Korten, Paul Hawken, Riane Eisler, and Annie Leonard, among many others.

And if there is one thing all these authors agree on is that the most prominent, common and overbearing theme of these web of intertwined problems is the role that corporate power plays behind the scenes in creating them. Of all these authors, I most recommend David Korten’s book, The Great Turning, not only for its brilliant and penetrating analysis of the history of the corporate model and the devastating aspects of its influence on society, but because Korten offers real suggestions for real solutions. And the conclusion of all this research points to a common culprit: the domination of our political and financial system by Wall Street, multinational corporations and the aristocratic, disdainful, attitude of the super-rich.

But how will we, the people, ever hope to begin to change this situation? It cannot be done at the national level, not with the vast resources of the controlling powers that be. Change will have to come from below; it is useless to think that change will come from above. And change will come — this is inevitable. But will come by design or by default? If by default, as a result of the unsustainable path that the corporations are attempting to force us, I think we’ll agree the danger in that path, which is leading us over the looming cliff of global climate change and the final phase of peak oil.

Or will we attempt to have change by design? By taking a stand for positive change, for rational change, for change that calls out for humanity to regain its common sense, and its heart? We must take that stand — and Boulder has a real opportunity to help in boosting this awareness, and giving others real hope for real change, by taking this stand.

When I learned about the actual legal origins of corporate personhood, which is lucidly laid out in Thom Hartmann’s Unequal Protection, I was outraged. Corporate personhood has only been established by court precedent, by corporate lawyers (or by Supreme Court clerks, spinning the headnotes) pushing the limits, little by little, bit by bit, over the past 125 years, culminating in the Kafkaesque logic of the SCOTUS’s Citizen’s United ruling. The American revolution was fought, to a large degree, to resist corporate domination and control of our economy. It is now time to take up this fight again, as corporate control is not only ruling our economy, dominating our judiciary and legislatures, it is destroying the very environment in which we all live, besides poisoning our environmental resources, our bodies and the food we eat.

And the beginning of that fight needs to be an amendment to the United States Constitution which states, once and for all, that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights, and that money is not free speech. Similar resolutions passed in Madison, WI this April by 84 per cent, and in Dane County by 78 per cent. This was a direct result of an intense campaign run there by Move To Amend starting the previous fall.

I do hope the Council will also take a stand on this issue, and let the community of Boulder vote on this as well.

Rick Casey
Lafayette, CO

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