SUPREME COURT IS ANGEL OF DEATH FOR PRIVACY RIGHTS

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling against class action plaintiffs claiming gender bias at Walmart on the technical grounds that the class was much too large and much too wide to be considered, at least is defensible, even if a compelling case can be made against it. A more unnoticed ruling, and one not at all defensible was another in the Roberts courts’ veneration of all things corporate, and the untrammeled rights of corporations to do anything they damn please, damn the rights of individuals or affected parties.

The case in question concerned a law enacted in Vermont (a similar law is under consideration in Massachusetts and elsewhere), which prohibited pharmacies from selling patients’ prescription records to pharmaceutical companies for marketing or other purposes. According to the court, such laws inhibit the free speech rights of pharmaceutical companies. Oh, the pain and the woe those poor, oppressed pharmaceutical companies do suffer.

You don’t want to overstate the level at which corporations and the business sector dominate the American polity, but at this point, doing so is nigh impossible. The ability of moneyed interests to crowd out the voices of the hoi polloi in democracy’s political arenas had its biggest day in court in 1976, with the Buckley v Valeo decision declaring that money equals speech. The recent Citizens United ruling according corporations the luxury of all the giving to political campaigns they are inclined to do more or less sealed their hegemony over American democracy.

These decisions do illuminate the consequences of elections, in particular the Bush vs. Gore presidential election whose deadliest fallout perhaps was the confirmation of Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Their views reflect the radicalism of today’s Republicans and Libertarians in their belated but impassioned restoration of feudalism.

The Vermont decision illuminates the complete loss of balance in adjudicating the rights of corporations and businesses against those of the individual, at the same time that the power of government, the only extant countervailing power to the massive power of today’s corporate sector, increasingly is diminished through the courts, and national and state legislatures.

The Vermont ruling also makes it perfectly plain: your right of privacy in matters pertaining to your very own medical records are trumped by the pharmaceutical companies’ “free speech” right to profit by them. The values of free market purism aren’t the dominate values in America today: they’re the only ones.

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