Corporate Speech as Commercial Speech

Business Ethics Quarterly 17 (1):97-103 (2007)
Raising the issue of corporate moral agency in our examination of the morality of corporate speech is important for two fundamentalreasons. Each reason suggests we exercise caution in conflating corporations and individuals as the law often does. First, raising the issue of corporate moral agency is important to the aim of providing a framework for ethically evaluating corporate speech. It is tempting to proceed as if the nature of corporate speech is self-evident. But this is hardly the case. Corporations are not natural persons, and we mustn’t assume corporate speech is indistinguishable from human speech. Before we can ethically evaluate corporate speech, we must first clarify what corporate speech is. This requires an understanding of the fundamental nature of the corporate entity, including its moral status. Second, raising the issue of corporate moral agency is important if we wish to promotemorally responsible corporate speech. Any diminished moral capacity on the corporation’s part would suggest a core role for the strong legal reinforcement of any ethical aspirations here. In promoting morally responsible corporate speech, ethical injunctions uncoupled from an effective legal regime may hold only limited promise
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