Corporate Power - the New Reality

 

1. No corporation or private business entity may give money or support whether directly or indirectly to any political party or to any individual seeking election to public office.

[Note: the viability of this clause depends on the constitution providing for the taxpayer funding of political parties and elections - see Taxpayer funding of elections at https://constitutionuk.com/post/98906]

2. Every elected Parliament, assembly or council and every civil service department must keep a register open to the public of all contacts between its members and representatives of corporations and private business entities. With reasonable provision for commercial confidentiality, this register must include either the minutes of the meeting detailing every subject discussed or a full record in some other form.

2.1 In respect of the European Union and other international bodies of which Britain is or may become a member the national government is required to negotiate to incorporate the requirements of clause 2.0 in the treaties, statutes or legislation governing those bodies.

3. No corporation or private business entity is entitled to sue for damages (other that as provided by contract) on the basis of a change in government policy where this policy has been voted by the people or their representatives.

4. Whether by international treaty or bilateral negotiation foreign corporations may not be allowed rights or subsidies which domestic corporations are not allowed.

5. No corporation or private business entity may be allowed rights or political privileges beyond those to which its members are entitled as British citizens.

These clauses to be written into the constitution are derived from the original idea set out below.

For two hundred years or more, separation of powers within a constitution has meant recognising three distinct branches of government – the executive, the judiciary and the legislature – and endeavouring to arrange relations among them so that no one institution can fully dominate the others. From this principle is derived the famous system of checks and balances in the US Constitution.

But in the C21st, there’s a fourth element to be considered.

Within the last fifty years, multi-national corporations have developed to the point where their power makes them a significant competitor to national governments. The market capitalisation of Apple alone is around a quarter of UK GNP.

A clause in the controversial Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated between the EU and the United States would give corporations the right to sue governments which implemented regulations damaging to their interests.

Any constitution written in the C21st has to take account of the power wielded by private corporations - corporations that are often beyond the control of any one country.

To protect the power of voters – see my post: Power to the People on the Values topic -- the constitution should limit the rights of corporations (whether multinational or simply national) to those of individuals and forbid allowing corporations (including banks) special privileges.

edited on Apr 16, 2015 by Alastair Bruton

Michael Griffith Apr 8, 2015

Certainly a way needs to be found for the Constitution to prevent the domination of government by massive multinational corporations. For example, in the USA, despite its magnificent constitution of individual liberty, all three branches of government have become almost totally corrupted by the financial domination of these corporations --- banks, the military-industrial complex, big pharma etc. These corporations have placed their puppets in government at the highest levels of office.

Titus Alexander Apr 8, 2015

We shouldn’t underestimate the ability of corporations to find ways round any constitutional or legal restrictions, which is not to say we shouldn’t try.

Three avenues for restraining the power of corporations are to:

  1. Enable countervailing powers of citizens, workers and consumers, including representation on supervisory boards for companies above a certain size

  2. Strengthen legislation on anti-competitiveness and monopoly practices

  3. Strengthen forms of mutual ownership, such as coops, Public Interest Companies, etc

Colin Mayer’s Firm Commitment: Why the Corporation is Failing and How to Restore Trust in It, argues that corporations have been high-jacked by a few, bolstered by the false doctrine of shareholder value, and that this should be redressed through the creation of Public Interest Companies and other forms of mutual ownership. This video which sets out his diagnosis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljz_i0FgQtw

This is a longer talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yz3ERcXo1oo which includes more about his solutions.                                                                                                                                                                                 

Alastair Bruton Apr 10, 2015

To get the discussion started about what should be put in the constitution about corporations, could I suggest the following:

1. No corporation or private business entity may give money or support whether directly or indirectly to any political party or to any individual seeking election to public office.

[Note: the viability of this clause depends on the constitution providing for the taxpayer funding of political parties and elections]

2. Every elected Parliament, assembly or council and every civil service department must keep a register open to the public of all contacts between its members and representatives of corporations and private business entities.

3. No corporation or private business entity is entitled to sue for damages (other that as provided by contract) on the basis of a change in government policy where this policy has been voted by the people or their representatives.

 

 

John Hackett Apr 11, 2015

Those are sound principles, although I'd separate them into three ideas!

Beyond that though, 3) is very important and I think could broadly be said to mean "International businesses shall not be privileged over domestic businesses" - eg, domestic business can't sue the government for changing legislation, and neither can anybody else. Levelling the playing field could also involve forcing the UK subsidiaries of these companies to be listed in a UK stock exchange, and to have to file accounts country-by-country. That's more legislative stuff than constitutional, maybe, but comes from the same place.

laure roux Apr 11, 2015

your second point is really important I believe and the same type of register the transparency register is in place at the EU level ANd i think it is paramount for reason of transparency and accountability.

laure roux Apr 12, 2015

Dear alastair Burton could you modify your idea and write your suggested clause that you wrote in your comment ( and integrate the other comments if you feel they do fit with your idea) so that it becomes more visible to other users. Than you very much for your very active participation.

steveg33 Apr 12, 2015

Alastairs concept that Corporations [particularly global ones] should be considered as the fourth 'centre of power' is the kernel of an excellent  idea that could enable us to redress the balance away from unrestrained corporate power,  towards democratic institutions

Taking the point by Titus about "he ability of corporations to find ways round any constitutional or legal restrictions" ,  then the principal of 'Checks and Balances' should be applied - as to the other three branches of government. In the same way that the Commons  [allegedly] has the Lords to act as a Check and Balance, then the behaviour of global corporations within our country should perhaps also be afforded the same sort of scrutiny.

To take Alastair's specific example of  theTrans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership , then our constitution should allow for independent scrutiny of any proposed agreement relating to business or trade - with the ultimate power of veto, if it is deemed to potentially detrimental to the interests of the People. 

This summary of the background of the principle of Checks and Balances is highly relevant

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Checks_and_balances

 

laure roux Apr 13, 2015

great thank you for your reactivity and contribution. This is such an interesting project when people are involved.

Alastair Bruton Apr 18, 2015

Could I remind anyone who's voted for this idea that denying corporations the right to fund political parties is central to part of keeping them out of politics. But as I point out in Clause 1 above, that's only going to be possible if taxpayers are prepared to fund political parties in their place. I knows how unpalatable using taxpayers' money to fund politics is to many people, but I can't see any way round it. So could I urge you to support my idea Taxpayer funding of elections at https://constitutionuk.com/post/98906 which is currently in trouble with 6 votes for and 7 against...

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