Chapter

Corporate Speech and Civic Virtue

Milton C. Regan

in Debating Democracy's Discontent

Published in print October 1998 | ISBN: 9780198294962
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598708 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198294964.003.0023
 Corporate Speech and Civic Virtue

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The Supreme Court in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce upheld the application to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit corporation funded by dues from members, three-quarters of whom are business corporations, of a Michigan law that forbids non-media corporations from using corporate treasury funds to make independent expenditures in connection with state elections for public office. The decision in Austin can be seen as resting on the view that business corporations are constrained in ways that systematically preclude them from cultivating civic virtue. Ironically, despite its often enormous wealth, the corporation is a paradigm of the materially dependent actor that has no choice but to look relentlessly to its self-interest. The modern corporation is operated for the sake of fictional shareholders, who are assumed to care only about maximizing the financial value of their shares, but, given the increasingly broad ownership of shares, shareholders also may well be employees of the company in which they hold stock or members of a community in which the corporation is an important economic presence. Union activity represents an effort at self-governance in the workplace, which requires consideration of and trade-offs among a variety of both material and nonmaterial goods.

Keywords: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce; corporations; dependent; elections; fictional; funds; material; nonmaterial; shareholders; union

Chapter.  8855 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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