Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs
Citizens do not deliberate on many of the issues that affect them because they have other time-consuming demands such as earning a living or looking after family members. Corporations, however, have large institutional structures dedicated to championing and lobbying in their own interests on a daily basis. Some citizens have some of their interests pursued by citizen sector organizations, but coverage here is uneven, and many citizens' interests are underrepresented in the halls of power. In short, between corporations and citizens, there is a deeply disturbing asymmetry of capacities for impact. This problem takes on a special urgency in a world where governments are failing to deliver certain social services and public goods, and where corporations are picking up some of the slack. In such cases, corporations may be performing governmental tasks, and perhaps at times acting in the interests of the public; but it is extremely difficult to determine if and how they are responsive to the views of the public. For one thing, corporate leaders are not elected. For another, states--especially developing states--have limited control over corporations given current power relations. This report examines how one can reduce this dangerous asymmetry, increasing the responsiveness of corporations--and other powerful actors--to the views of the public.
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