31 January 2010

Corporations versus humans

We constantly confuse means with ends. For most of recent history a society's corporate health was a fairly reliable indicator of economic health which, in turn, was reasonably well correlated with the wellbeing of an entire population. But there's nothing inevitable about such strong correlations. Corporate objectives differ from those of ordinary individuals, and often conflict with them. But large corporations and government are now so big that they can manipulate the legislative environment to make sure they grow even bigger and more influential. Any link between the success of big organizations and the wellbeing of ordinary people is nowadays almost coincidental.

Social Policy Bonds could restore that link. They would subordinate the interests and activities of corporations and government agencies to outcomes that society itself chooses. Ones that would be inextricably linked the wellbeing of ordinary people. They would eliminate the confusion between ends and means that bedevils current policymaking at any but the most local level.

Meantime, the role of the corporate actor continues to expand. David Bollier reports that, on 21 January:
[T]he U.S. Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for corporations to enclose our democracy. The Court ruled that corporations must legally be considered “persons” who are thereby entitled to First Amendment rights. By this tortured logic, long-standing limits on corporate contributions to political campaigns constitute an unconstitutional infringement of free speech. [N]ow paid speech (on behalf of market interests) is privileged over people’s speech in electing our political leaders. “We the Corporations….” Corporations may now drown out the speech of real, live human beings for whom the First Amendment was designed. The Corporate Enclosure of Democracy, David Bollier, 21 January

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