A critical look at the 'citizenship' of U.S. corporations

To the editor: There is a distinct difference between a corporation and a philanthropic organization. While a corporation's core objective is to enhance its shareholders' value, a philanthropic organization's value lies in fulfillment of a range of its defined social responsibilities. In today's dynamics of a progressive global society, one cannot deny the pertinent need of having a robust corporate structure along with vibrant nonprofit social organizations. ("Does the 'good corporate citizen' get a say in the political process?," Editorial, Dec. 30)

However, the general credibility of mega-corporations is intricately linked to their role in the sphere of today's growing corporate social responsibility. To achieve this dual objective of maximizing profitability as well as balancing their social responsibilities, corporations need to have a voice in the furthering of the nation's good governance. This has been rightly recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, although some improvements are needed in the transparency of corporate donors funding the super PACs.


In my opinion, if we evolve a corporate social responsibility index on the lines of the Dow Jones index to evaluate the role of corporations in social development of the society nationally as well as globally, we all can have a better insight into how these corporations discharge their duties as responsible corporate citizens.

Atul M. Karnik, Woodside, N.Y.


To the editor: The purpose of a for-profit public company is to make enough money to survive, grow and keep shareholders happy about their return on investment. If, after making sufficient money to please shareholders, companies have excess money, the values of the people in charge will dictate how they spend it.

If their values are materialistic, the highest-paid executives will buy corporate jets, expensive art, jewelry and third, fourth and possibly even more homes (I guess relatively successful people are entitled to a couple).

If their values are about making the world a better place, those executives will be more civic-minded and also give their excess money to nonprofits, foundations and charities, a la Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

Mark Goulston, Santa Monica


To the editor: Corporations are not U.S. citizens and have no rights according to the Constitution. The founders granted them privileges, but only if they fulfilled responsibilities.

In 1886, the United States Supreme Court almost accidentally granted corporations rights under the 14th Amendment, which was not the intent of the 14th Amendment. Two years later, the court affirmed its earlier statement.

Corporations can't be "good." By law they are amoral and can put nothing ahead of stockholders' interest and their own bottom line; this is reflected in a Michigan Supreme Court case that Henry Ford lost when he tried to treat workers more fairly.

Any good that a corporation does is due to self-interest. The good may benefit society, but it's a cost of doing business — it's marketing, green washing and whatever else will generate sales.

Corporations never sleep or stop working to expand their businesses. They write our laws or rewrite them. They control our regulatory bodies to protect their interests, not ours.

Do we care about justice? If yes, we must amend the Constitution.

Mark Tabbert, Newport Beach

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