We live in a society where we hear the phrases “rights” and “duties” all the time. Rights are defined as the mechanism through which a person obtains certain types of privileges, whilst responsibilities are defined as the obligations that a person must complete. At first glance, everyone’s rights and obligations seem to be the same, but a deeper examination reveals that rights and duties fluctuate at different levels depending on the entities with whom they are engaging. For example, if someone violates your rights, you may go to court; similarly, if someone fails to perform their legal obligations, you can compel them to do so. This is all well and well for humans, but what legal standing do things like an unborn child and natural resources have? Can they be granted human-like rights, status, and ownership?
Corporations are often given rights and obligations, but few feel they should be allowed to participate in and vote in democratic elections. The idea that a business should be allowed to vote is often regarded as ‘preposterous,’ since it violates the ‘integral to liberal democracy’ tenet that only human beings should be able to vote. This response begs the normative issue of why only humans should be allowed to vote in a democracy. However, explanations based on normative concerns about democracy are dependent on assumptions about the nature of entities that potentially have democratic rights. These are conceptual inquiries.
The current research focuses on the conceptual question and examines if the nature of businesses precludes them from inclusion in the demos.
It may seem evident that corporations are not qualified as bearers of democratic rights and that such rights pertain solely to human individuals. After all, the literal definition of the word “democracy” is “rule of the people,” and corporations are not people. However, this argument should be rejected completely. The fact that the term “democracy” is derived from the Greek word for “people” reveals the original meaning of democracy but does not determine how we talk about democracy today. ‘We are not bound by any prior norm, much less by the creators’ original definition: if we can construct a better meaning for a political phrase, it should be favored,’ writes Josiah Ober in his insightful investigation of classical discussion of democracy. Furthermore, the idea that only individuals may have democratic rights is incorrect in and of itself, since such rights are regularly extended to democratically governed organizations, whether or not their members are human persons. As a result, we are acquainted with the idea that democratic rights may extend to groups that are not individuals (for example, unions, employers’ associations, and supranational organizations).
Another reason why democratic rights may only apply to humans is because liberal democracies are established on the concept of popular sovereignty, which holds that “the people” are the ultimate source of public authority.
The United States Constitution is a prime example. Following the preamble, the institutions of public power derive their authority from ‘We the people.’ As confirmed by later case law, the phrases “citizens,” “persons,” “inhabitants,” and “subjects” do not encompass companies, but only flesh and blood humans. Corporations are not citizens; at most, they are ‘like’ citizens since they lack the necessary ‘legal and administrative standing.’
However, it is unclear how much legal practice should drive judgments regarding the conceptual criteria for democratic participation. The past assumed that women, labourers, and the ignorant did not qualify as citizens. These commonly held notions were plainly not the basis for them; the prevalence of a practice is not a cause to support it.
A third approach is to question whether the structure of the company prohibits it from being the bearer of rights to political participation in light of widely recognized democratic views. We diverge from Robert Dahl’s democratic process theory, which holds that participation rights extend to “every citizen subject to a government and its rules.”
This democratic inclusion principle states that entities may only have democratic rights if they are individuals subject to the law. According to this viewpoint, companies may only be granted democratic rights if they are legal people.
The following groups of people are identified in international and constitutional law as being included in the idea of “population”: citizens (subjects) of a distinct state; foreign citizens permanently living in this country. Dual citizenship may also fall under one of these categories (bipatrides). In the second group, stateless people (stateless), refugees, and migrants may be distinguished. Citizenship functions as a subjective right that a person has. Subjective rights encompass the following powers: the right to dwell in the state; the right to a complete range of rights, freedoms, and obligations; the freedom to leave and return to the state’s territory; and the protection of state authority.
Political rights are now unequal in the United States between “born and naturalized citizens.” This is shown by the fact that naturalized citizens are not eligible to run for president. Naturalized citizens in France get voting privileges after 10 years of citizenship. Linguistic prejudice in the Baltic nations (particularly in Latvia) is a kind of national discrimination.
As a result, the condition of citizenship should be regarded as the most significant legal criterion for an individual’s legal standing in a community. A number of significant legal repercussions are associated with citizenship under constitutional law. Only a person with the legal status of a citizen of a nation may be a subject of state-legal interactions.