Business is important, but not more important than the quality of life of the bulk of the population. Corporations must work within the structure government imposes to ensure a regulated market working for the people’s benefit is the result. A free market is a utopian myth that exists only in the imagination of economists. The term ‘free market’ has been twisted in the last few decades to carry only the meaning ‘free from government regulation’. It is then further warped by the hypocrisy caused by greedy rich people who maintain that government interference distorts markets, yet actively pursue corporate welfare programs. They are against government interference with their interests, but support receiving taxpayer money without providing benefit in return. This is the culture of greed that must be struck down.
What is required after this change in definition of a corporation is a balancing force on the market to ensure we gain the benefits of innovation and competition without the stagnation of corporate monopolies. The incredible deregulation of the US market since 1980 has shown clearly that this approach only achieves a concentration of wealth in the hands of the few; it guarantees monopolies are the result. This can be
Every society needs a well-functioning business community from the smallest sole trader to the largest multinational corporation. All levels of business have something to offer society as a whole, but they can only operate in society’s interests if given the right guidelines to work within. The focus must be on entrepreneurial startups and small or medium businesses that account for the majority of job creation and sustainability. They also account for the majority of strong business innovation. Any government that claims to support business, but fails to direct the majority of resources to this sector, is fundamentally failing to achieve their goals.
This isn’t to say that corporations have been an entirely destructive force on society. They have also served to provide the impetus behind bringing the global population together in trading empires. They have funded the spread of internet access globally that has helped the new era of global revolts endlessly. They have broken down national walls and made it possible for an individual to run a multinational business – look at the sellers on eBay, Etsy, Amazon and a million other business sites if you think that is an exaggeration. They have produced a global monetary system that
The government exists as the representative of ALL the people they rule.
Corporations exist as a representative of a specific active business interest. Unions exist as the representative of a specific active labour group interest. Communities exist as a group of people who share a culture of common goals. Eg, religious, sporting, business, social, craft, lifestyle, etc
In order to have a balanced society that operates overall for everyone’s benefit, then the government must act to balance the interests of these three kinds of groups. To provide and preserve that framework of mutual benefit and balance, somebody must act as the referee in disputes. It is essential that the referee is both beyond reproach and does not act purely in the interests of any one of those entities. That referee is the legal system, which is already kept separate from the operation of government under the doctrine of the separation of powers. This doctrine could be strengthened to change the way judges are selected from the current system of political appointment.
Here are some principles to guide the interaction of these groups and the roles the play. This should inform all legislative decisions
The People Come First
The failure to prosecute large banks for deliberate and consistent illegal activity because ‘it may cause a failure of confidence in the organization’ has confirmed a culture of no consequences for careless, selfish and illegal actions. The establishment of the rule of law over all individual and corporate entities is a necessary step towards giving people confidence in the system again. The costs of this new enforcement should be borne solely by corporations in the form of an annual levy.
Crimes that involve theft of sums of money above a million dollars should carry increasingly severe penalties matched with similar physical crimes.
A business that affects hundreds of thousands or millions of people should be liable for punishment in accordance with the severity of the affect. If the actions of the business or individuals resulted in ten thousand families losing their homes, for instance, this should mean jail terms equivalent to murder being applied. In addition to lengthy jail terms, they should lose all monetary benefits they gained while working for that business – including repaying their salary. The aim is to create a significant deterrent for individuals considering committing these crimes and to provide resources to ensure that
The first part of this answer lies in allowing donations to political parties to come only from individual citizens. This means corporations looking to lobby cannot so easily bribe a party with the essential media support they need. Further legislation needs to be added such that if they want to support or attack a party directly in the media, they have to do so with their own money and state publicly who paid for the campaign.
The longer term answer lies in not regulating particular industries so closely, but regulating all commercial organizations for compliance with legal safety, environmental and sustainability standards. These standards must be expressed clearly and simply to change the job of the ombudsman from interpreting law to applying the standard rules to the facts of each case. Breaking these standards must carry escalating penalties such that each successive offence results in an exponential increase in punishment. Legal non-compliance cannot then become a cost of operation; it will eventually claim the entire organization in punitive damages. Money claimed in this way is to be used to fund the programs associated with the standards the company was breaking. The program would be regularly funded by a levy