For-profit corporations in a just society

Business Ethics Quarterly 18 (2):191-212 (2008)
Abstract
This article develops contractarian business ethics by applying social contract arguments to a specific question: What are the pre-legal (or moral) rights and responsibilities of corporations? The argument uses a hypothetical social contract to show the existence of for-profit corporations in democratic capitalist societies is consistent with Rawls’s fundamental principles of justice. Corporations ought to have recognised their rights to be autonomous, to pursue private purposes, andto engage in economic activities. Corporations have a responsibility to respect the freedom and human rights of all people, and not to interfere with government programs that ensure people have the education and training they need to find and keep corporate employment and that provide a safety-net that prevents destitution. If corporations have any other rights and responsibilities, those rights and responsibilities need to be established by actual social contracts, probably in the form of legitimate democratic processes
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