This is a fascinating question. The most fascinating thing about it is the way my mind reacts to it. Why, I have to ask myself, am I so annoyed by this question? “Don't you know,” my mind answers as my eyes roll, “that corporations are groups of people and rivers are simply property?” I have this reaction because, as a lawyer, I am particularly indoctrinated into our current system of laws, but there is more to it than a simple legal answer, isn't there? There is pain. Laws protecting the rights of corporations have allowed them to destroy rivers.
But first a little historical context: Simply by being born as a “person” in the United States the Constitution gives you certain fundamental, inalienable civil and political rights. We call them “fundamental” because you get them by virtue of your birth and “inalienable” because you can't sell them. If you are not a “person” under the Constitution you better get yourself a movement to become a “person” (hello abolitionists, hello women's rights movement) or you will not enjoy the protections of these rights.
Unlike rivers, Corporations are granted the significant Constitutional rights of people through the concept of “personhood.” I know what you’re thinking, what the hell is a “personhood.”
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