I very much look forward to reading Kyle Edward Williams’ thesis on corporate social responsibility whenever it comes out. For now, he’s got a great piece in the Washington Post on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to bring responsibility back to corporate governance:
This is not just a question of corporate greed. The problem is also our federal system. Because businesses can choose to incorporate in any state and still do business on a national level, state governments have few incentives for putting restrictive language back into charters. Any state that did so would risk losing business and tax revenue to its neighbors.
Warren wants to resurrect the movement to impose good corporate citizenship. That’s a good thing. Her project rests upon the idea that corporations are quasi-public institutions beholden to a greater array of interests than just shareholders, because the government grants them remarkable privileges like limited liability, potentially eternal life and a variety of legal tools for capital formation. They are governmental institutions that exist in some sense beyond the categories of public and private.