By a 5-4 vote the US Supreme court ruled today that corporations are free to spend as much as they want on getting their favorite candidates elected to public office. Yesterday, corporations had restrictions on using their profits to influence elections through broadcast media. Today, they are free to spend as much as they want, whenever they want. The Supreme Court majority emphasized that corporations are legally people, and therefore the 14th amendment of the Constitution [All persons born or naturalized in the US and subject to her laws are citizens] gives corporations the same rights as any other individual US citizen, including the first amendment right to free speech.
The law was never meant to go this way. When the 14th amendment became law in 1866, it was meant to protect newly freed slaves from arbitrary Southern state laws that legally continued to deny them their rights. Justice Hugo Black [nominated by FDR] wrote "…the people were told that its [14th amendment] purpose was to protect weak and helpless human beings and were not told that it was intended to remove corporations in any fashion from the control of state governments." How corporations managed to abuse the law to make themselves ordinary citizen is 1866 is another story. But people fought back since then and slowly patched this disasterous leak in the democracy boat with campaign finance rules. Today’s ruling tears the patches open and democracy in America begins to sink again.
Lessons for Iran: Democracy is an unstable state of affairs. Perhaps just as unstable as a Velayt e Faghih or an absolute monarchy. The difference is that when a Vali e Fagih or a Shah is overthrown everybody knows it, whereas when a democracy is overthrown the new regime is sometimes still called a democracy. How should we write our new Iranian constitution to avoid the same disasters befalling Americans? The answer is in the American joke about porcupines: how do joojeh teeghee mate? very carefully!
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