The infamous Citizens’ United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court ushered in the idea that corporations are people, which many actual people find blatantly abhorrent. The case itself wasn’t about anything nearly as serious as you might think — it all revolved around a film about Hillary Clinton — but the fallout has been undeniably devastating to the American democratic process. Both liberals and conservatives have expressed their hatred of the ruling, Bernie Sanders in particular, and it’s unclear just how big of an impact it will have in the long run.
Regardless, the ruling opened up a whole new can of worms, allowing for dark money from wealthy individuals, businesses, and special interest groups to pour funds into the electoral process. This, in the Supreme Court’s eyes, equates to an expression of free speech, a right that every American is guaranteed by the Constitution. That right, in the wake of Citizens’ United ruling, has been extended to groups and businesses as well, hence the ‘corporations are people’ logic.
With that frame of mind, many have said that if corporations are indeed the same as people in the eyes of the law, they should act like it, or face similar consequences. That, of course, hasn’t happened. Just imagine how an individual would be treated if they were found solely responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or for causing the financial crisis in 2008?
At the very least, they’d face a very, very long jail sentence — maybe even the death penalty.
So, what if we extended capital punishment to corporations? If we deem individuals to be worthy of death, why not companies? There are a lot that would probably deserve it, and here’s a short-list that come to mind immediately. Read on to see five companies that would be worthy contenders for execution, if they were held up to the same standard as an individual in the court of law.
1. Dow Chemical
Dow Chemical is behind some of the nastiest stuff the world has ever seen. The chemical giant produced Agent Orange, a defoliant used in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, which poisoned untold numbers of American troops and Vietnamese citizens. Dow also became a large-scale producer of napalm, also known as ‘liquid fire’, which was used to bombard the Vietnamese. Napalm sticks to human skin, and effectively melts it off.
Dow is also now on the hook for the Union Carbide Disaster, after acquiring the Union Carbide Corporation and all of its liabilities. Dow refuses to acknowledge, however, that it’s responsible for the fallout from the chemical leak that killed thousands, and left 150,000 permanently disabled.
Considering how much the average American freaks out whenever they hear the term “chemical weapons,” you’d think Dow Chemical would get a bit more flak.
How can a banana company cause so much trouble? Chiquita — formerly known as the United Fruit Company — has caused more trouble, and has more blood on its hands, than most nation’s militaries. At the company’s request, the Colombian army has mowed down protesters with machine gun fire. Chiquita has also propped up fascist dictators in Central America, and even dabbled in terrorism. It’s quite the rap sheet for a company that sells bananas.
Just two lawsuits from 2011 alleged that Chiquita was responsible for the torture and deaths of 931 people in Colombia — and that’s only a couple suits out of roughly a dozen. Chiquita allegedly paid terrorist paramilitary groups millions to keep workers at the company’s plantations in line as well.
Had an individual been accused of any of these crimes, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in with a prosecutor wouldn’t seek capital punishment.
You know Bayer — it’s the brand-name aspirin you see in almost every medicine cabinet. But what you may not have known is that Bayer has a long and troubled history. One of the more well-known and awful periods from that history is the fact that Bayer worked closely with the Nazis during World War II to produce the deadly gas used in concentration camps. It also worked with Siemens, another multi-national corporation, to construct those chambers.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Bayer also became an exporter of H.I.V., when it found that one of its medications was infecting people with AIDS in the 1980s. Upon this realization, the company shipped the tainted medicines to Asia and Latin America, and continued to sell them. That’s bad, but apparently not bad enough to put Bayer out of business.
Nestlé takes a lot of heat from the public, but it’s mostly justified.
As one of the world’s largest and most-diverse corporations, Nestlé has had a lot of time and room to do damage. For starters, the company has been accused of using child labor on its cocoa plantations, which ultimately led to the human trafficking of child slaves in western Africa. Nestlé has also been known to drain precious resources, namely water, from areas in desperate need.
But perhaps most egregiously, Nestlé convinced mothers in third-world African countries that breastfeeding was inferior to its own less-healthy and more expensive baby formula — leading to the deaths of millions of infants from malnutrition.
5. Philip Morris
It’s hard to stick up for a company like Philip Morris. The company’s products, and legislative efforts to cover up and deflect the true nature of those products, has resulted in the deaths of millions over the years, not to mention incalculable costs to the economy and societal health. In fact, if we were to apply the same standards to cigarettes and tobacco that we apply to other controlled substances — that is, effectively banning or making them illegal because of their dangerous properties — Philip Morris would probably be shuttered tomorrow.
Philip Morris lied for years about the dangerous nature of cigarettes, and the cost to society was enormous. Of course, we know now the dangers of smoking, but that wasn’t always the case. Tobacco companies targeted children, lied and manipulated the truth regarding nicotine, and misled the public regarding the dangers of second-hand smoke and addiction, and it all came to a head in a giant court battle with the Department of Justice in 1999.
Given the amount of death and damage dealt by Philip Morris’ hand, most people probably wouldn’t mind seeing the company permanently put down.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger