Voters in Madison, Wisconsin recently approved a measure asserting that corporations do not have constitutional rights.
The measure correctly asserts that only individuals have rights. But then it proceeds to state that corporations do not. This is collectivism at its finest. A corporation doesn’t act. People act. Although the “corporation” doesn’t have rights as an entity, each and every owner of the corporation does. The owners exercise those rights by having agents (the management) act on their behalf. When we speak of a corporation acting, this is merely an abstraction from the individuals involved. As Stephan Kinsella has explained, corporations are nothing more than a series of contracts enabling a large number of people to work together toward common goals.
This resolution, though purporting to support individual rights, is in reality opposed to such rights because it claims that these rights somehow disappear when the individuals who have them choose to use them in a coordinated manner.
This confusion is sadly typical on the left. For example, it is often said that there is some “right” to hold a protest rally because of “free speech”. In reality, the organizers have no such right; the rights that let them hold the rally are the individual rights of all the participants to walk down the street, or go to a park, or otherwise use a public place without being harassed. If thugs break up the protest, the thugs haven’t violated the rights of “protesters”, they have violated the individual rights of each person they harassed by assaulting, battering, and falsely imprisoning them.
The principles involved here are not unique to libertarianism; they are very fundamental legal principles. Indeed, A.V. Dicey actually discusses this very point at length in his Law of the Constitution. One of his many outstanding examples will suffice to illustrate the point:
Suppose group X is planning on holding a rally in a public park. Group Y is opposed to group X and intends to use violence to stop them. The residents near the park want to avoid a riot and thus all go stand in the park before the members of group X get there, thus blocking the members of group X from holding their rally. If the protesters had some right, they could defend it with force and attack the residents, but since using force to remove someone from a place where they have right to be is unlawful, it cannot be that the law provides special protection to “protesters”. Rather, the law protects the individual rights of every single person involved in the protest by making it unlawful to forcibly remove them.
Apparently, 21st century Americans have regressed to the point that even understanding “introductory” concepts about rights presents great difficulty.