I guess it’s because municipal politics attracts the dregs, the people who can’t make it at any other level of politics, that we regularly get the most insane and ignorant suggestions from Hamilton city councilors. The previous highlight was an idea to ban swearing in the downtown core. Councilors were apparently wholly unaware of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, among other vital political concepts.
The latest suggestion is to give the vote to corporations. Yes, you read that correctly. Ostensibly this is to counteract a proposed ban on corporate and union campaign donations (not a horrible idea itself) in order to represent the business interests in the community and to make Hamilton more pro-business. (In Hamilton whole city blocks just up and fall over, we’re not really a business Eden).
So, what’s so wrong with giving the vote to non-people?
Hmm. Well, first, it totally undermines the concept of suffrage, the idea of one person, one vote. But theoretical matters bore everybody but me, so what are the real-world implications? Well, corporations are essentially treated as people under the law. Even though I am pro-capitalist, this is one of the ridiculous parts of capitalism that I have a hard time swallowing. (Though it’s hard to see how we could have experienced the growth of the last hundred years without such legal rights for corporations.) One of the wonderful side effects of this is that members of corporations who commit crimes (fraud and other white collar crime, pollution, etc) are often difficult to prosecute because they are hiding behind the rights of the corporation. When people are brought to justice (in the case of Enron, for example), it takes forever.
Additionally, money already plays a ridiculously large role in politics as is. Giving a vote to corporate entities only increases the importance and influence of the rich and well-connected, and further marginalizes the rest of us. For those who direct the corporation, it means two votes: one vote as a corporation and one vote as a private citizen.
City councilors don’t appear to consider any of this stuff when they open their mouths about something they think will get them reelected. (These people must really rely on the business vote.) I hope that this proposal only causes laughter from Hamiltonians, but I fear some people might actually be serious about it. So I ask that you keep your ears to the ground. Hamilton councilors have a history of proposing anti-democratic ideas on a fairly regular basis and we need to check them whenever they do.