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Prof. Catherine Hardee on the Dangers of Corporations Addressing Social Problems

Prof. Catherine Hardee

When corporations are empowered to fix the collective problems traditionally solved by government intervention, the power to define morality and social policy is given to an elite group of corporate owners and managers, writes California Western’s Prof. Catherine Hardee in a recent op-ed in the International Business Times.

The Supreme Court has magnified this problem by giving corporations a First Amendment right to thwart democratically-made decisions regarding social good. The Court decided the case setting this precedent with a narrow majority, making the appointment of the next Justice pivotal in determining the role that corporations play in defining American values, continues Prof. Hardee.

Adherents argue that corporations should strive to be moral citizens who value the greater social good as well as shareholder profit. In practice, the two sides have largely reconciled as corporate managers can justify pursuing virtually any social cause – such as environmental protection or LGBTQ rights – by pointing to demand by consumers and potential employees for ethical corporate behavior. Thus, the pursuit of social good is often a legitimate strategy for maximizing corporate profits.

Assigning corporations the task of correcting social ills comes with its problems. First, such solutions are piecemeal, tending to provide fixes only for those with the most market influence.

More importantly, the Constitution protects citizens from governmental overreach into our most personal decisions, such as family planning, sexual relations, and religious exercise. These Constitutional protections, however, do not apply to corporations using their power to coerce individuals under their economic control into compliance with a social norm.

Read the full article here: