Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 13:15:12 -0600
From: "Stephen Evans" [email protected]
Subject: Re: Corporations
A. Chu keeps hammering on the role of corporations in violating human rights. This is an important area, which has been sometimes addressed in the HR movement at large (e.g. the Nestle boycott), yet too often negleted. Possibly neglected, in part because corporations are a more difficult & amorphous target than governments — also because of our Western deification of the private realm — corporations are private (legal persons) hense have the right to do what ever: no-one passed a law forcing women to use baby formula etc.
Yet corporations are a real locus of power, operating with a certain autonomy from political processes (e.g. voting) — sort of a massive international feudalism.
If human rights (or a Buddhist equivalent) is universal, which I accept, than corporations should be limited as well as governments.
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 19:34:44 -0400
From: "Steven D. Jamar" [email protected]
Subject: Re: corporations
Corporations are permitted to exist by statutes of particular states which allow them to exist. Regulating what they do is a matter for the states in which they are incorporated and the states in which they do business. The regulation tends to focus not on corporations per se, but on conduct such as working conditions, environmental controls, employment discrimination, product safety and quality.
So the HR controls on corporations are indirect – through the states and their laws and actions.
The reason I had not responded sooner is that it is not clear what A. Chu is concerned about with respect to the corporations or the extent to which that concern is separable from the other HR issues. To assert that corporations are powerful is to assert the obvious. To assert that they can get so large and become so complex, particularly multi-national corporations, that defining responsibility for any action of the corporation becomes difficult is to simply state a problem without regard to HR issues. To assert that corporations, particularly multi-national corporations of a certain size, should be treated as states for some purposes, such as HR – now that is to assert something on which we could chew.
But A. Chu made no assertion at all except that corporations are important in peoples lives. So what?
Corporations can and do restrict free speech, free movement (within the corporate-controlled compounds), free religious expression. Do they torture people? Not that I am aware of. Do they exploit people unjustly and in violation of international labor standards (some of which are HR’s) – some do.
Before you chastise us about not responding, please narrow your concern somewhat. I do not think the implication that by not responding we are somehow lackeys of the mulitnationals is a fair one.
Steven D. Jamar
Howard University School of Law
"What is the fundamental question one must ask of the world: ‘Why is the child crying.’" Alice Walker in Possessing the Secret of Joy.