[This was a reply I made on August 27, 2011 to a question poised on the firstname.lastname@example.org listserv. It mainly points out how raising awareness among the general public is the underlying action that needs to happen — which can be thought of a lifelong service to a noble goal.]
To reply to your questions, please see my responses below:
is there something else that needs to happen besides abolishing the right of corporations to be treated as ‘people’?
I think what needs to happen is raising awareness and education among the general public which amounts to consciousness raising about the issue of corporate personhood and why we must change it. This will not happen quickly, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of activist organizations all over the world working hard on this goal. Have you heard of Bioneers and wiserearth.org, started by Paul Hawken? They are certainly in the vanguard but unfortunately the mainstream media does not quite “get it” yet how serious these issues are, and needs to prodded into covering these issues. So, this is why I’m trying to do my part by volunteering as much as I can to help.
But accomplishing a US Constitutional amendment that abolishes the constitutional rights of corporations will require a huge effort; the last time this was attempted in this country was the Equal Rights Amendment for women. It was a long and exhausting struggle, which came very close to passage, but ultimately failed. The time may come where it will be attempted again for them — which I think could only help the Move To Amend struggle. Please see movetoamend.org for more background on why this goal is necessary.
Some of the more inspirational authors who have influenced me of the need to engage in this consciousness raising comes from David Korten’s The Great Turning and Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade. They are powerful visionaries, who have faith that it is not human nature to want to destroy ourselves, and point out with abundant and persuasive evidence in their excellent and extensive research.
was there anything in that little deal that spoke of the *responsibilities* of corporations (aside from obeying legal requirements)?
Nope. Appealing to the moral sensibility of corporations is not a strategy that activists who have long been engaged in this struggle would recommend, to put it politely. There are numerous documentaries out there that testify to the psychopathic behavior that large corporations exhibit and cultivate, both as institutions and in the individuals that lead them; one recent one I’d recommend is Inside Job. Certainly, there are outstanding examples of corporations that do do great good because they are headed by individuals with a conscience and a heart, such as Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard; but unfortunately they too small a minority at the moment.
So, raising the political awareness and call to action to curb corporate behavior, and the standard of leadership to, yes, have respect for the environment and communities, goes hand in hand with this awareness raising — including reforming the teaching of economics and how the profession practices its “faith” as well. That is my particular area of interest. The carrot may be to appeal to their sense of responsibility, which really has more value as a political plank, but to expect a real response the real effort must be in the stick — or cudgel, is how I like to think about it — of legal and political change, which is the only force that the corporate elite will really respond to — and certainly not willingly.