It seems that these are the times that try Georgians’ souls. Reading the news recently, one has to ask, do corporations make the laws for Georgia these days? Do we not hold it to be self-evident that it is our inalienable right as the people of Georgia to make to our own laws however we think best? Why then do we seem so willing to cede this sacred right to large corporations that do not share our same concerns as citizens?
In recent months we have heard a lot of debate surrounding our state’s bid to entice Amazon and its 50,000 jobs to Georgia. Amazon says its move will bring $5 billion to our economy. Critics, though, say after the incentive package is added up, taxpayers would essentially be paying the living expenses of many wealthy, out-of-state executives.
The possible Amazon move has also entered political debates that have nothing to do with Amazon. Whether it is an “English-only” bill, the adoption bill, the religious liberty bill, or now the Delta tax-exemption, the opponents give the same criticism; they say Amazon won’t like it.
State Sen. Josh McKoon, who introduced or supported the “English-only” and RFRA bills, asserts that large corporations base their decisions on economic, not political, factors. But precedence begs to differ. In 2016, after a majority of Georgians represented in the legislature voted for McKoon’s RFRA bill, many corporations, including Delta and Coca-Cola, condemned the bill, and some even threatened to abandon Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal — pressured by Apple, Microsoft, and Twitter — vetoed it.
Of course, there is a legitimate place for the veto power, but if the concerns of these corporations, more than the general welfare of Georgians, persuaded the governor to use it, then it would appear that — contrary to the Declaration of Independence — our government derives its just powers from the consent of corporations, not from the people. This is the very definition of corporatism.
This political heresy has even led some in Georgia to consider trading their sacred right to self-government for a dubious monetary boon. The deluded city council of Stonecrest has prostituted itself by promising Amazon 345 acres of its citizens’ land to Amazon, suggesting it name the newly acquired estate “Amazon, Georgia.” As if that was not low enough, the mayor of Stonecrest promised to seek legislation making the Seattle-based CEO the unelected, permanent mayor of this new Georgia city. Moreover, our own governor has made known the depths to which he is willing to bow to Amazon, promising that he would “call a special session so that we can make whatever statutory changes are required to accommodate a business opportunity of this magnitude.” Is he willing to make a deal that Amazon cannot refuse, even if the people of Georgia probably would?
It should be clear by now that the political positions of corporate executives filter down throughout the whole company into their brand. This is as true for the conservative Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby as it is for the liberal Target and Delta.
Let us not miss what is really at stake here: it matters not the cause a corporation may espouse; it is plainly contrary to our most fundamental political principles to let the voice of a corporation outweigh that of the people themselves. The American Revolution was justified on the basis that government is legitimate only by consent of the people. No corporation — no matter how valuable — has a right to challenge that consent.
It may, in fact, be prudent to make great allowances to get Amazon to Georgia, and it may not be prudent to have an “English-only” bill or to remove Delta’s tax exemption. However, it is surely not fitting for a free people to cower or kowtow before any corporation that threatens it with economic harm or demands sycophantic submission to the political preferences of its executives. Corporations sometimes employ thousands of employees, and they each are entitled to their own political opinions as citizens; let them speak for themselves, just like the rest of us.
To paraphrase Patrick Henry: Are jobs so dear or corporate revenues so sweet as to be purchased at the price of a loss of consent to our own laws? Forbid it, Almighty God!
There is only one question we should be asking when we make laws: is this good for Georgia?
Clifford Humphrey is a Warm Springs native who’s currently a PhD candidate in politics at Hillsdale College in Michigan.