September 6, 2009

Amazing Moyers!

This latest interview (and essay) on regulating corporate freedom of speech is outstanding. Moyers gets cornered on why the business of journalism should get special freedom. I've never seen him get so flustered.

To me, this debate underscores something never mentioned here, i.e., that if business were more ethical we wouldn't have this regulatory dilemma. It's not really corporations who act. It's the individuals leading them. And there is no reason those individuals should act less ethically professionally than they do (or should) personally.

The assumption made is that corporate free speech is biased by definition since it is completely interested with increasing short-term profit. But I don't see why this must be the case. In fact, there are a growing number of counterexamples to that thesis. Indeed, they would seem to represent the very essence of corporate social responsibility.

The promissory agreement to further the interest of shareholders first is the corporate motivator. But there is also no reason why shareholders should consider merely short-term financial gain to the exclusion of all else. Socially-responsible corporations for example would not automatically lobby to sacrifice consumer safety requirements in the interest of higher profits.

Thus, if corporations behaved more civically, there would be little reason to gag their speech. It's the arguable abuse of their great influence today that threatens to drown out citizens' voices which is the problem. As with monopolies, it's the abuse of power that is dangerous. Not necessarily the power itself.