Tuesday, December 06, 2005

WSJ wants to know

In the interest of regulating public opinions, the editors of The Wall Street Journal solicited its wsj.com audience for responses to the question:
How important should social concerns be to a company?

wsj.com automatically reported as of 12/6/05, 12:31pm, 1006 responses. The distribution of available choices was 346 [very important], 431 [somewhat important], 229 [not important]. The event also includes commentary posted by registered poll participants and approved by wsj.com editorial staff.

This writer's response: somewhat important
This writer's post:
This prompt cleverly veils a normative reality, that is, a company’s status in the context of society. In the US, at least, and in the interest of social (or legal) “justice”, a company is “a person” not many people. To suggest what “a company” should or should not do is, on the one hand, to affirm individual ethics and obligations in the context of society and, on the other, belie abuses of anonymity only “a company” may enjoy by virtue of heterogenous institutional operations and “responsibilities”, if not their sheer scope . Sirs, the discretion of the one ill fits abstraction of the many.

Apparently stymied by your prompt to compare apples to oranges, voters have replied in kind. Electing ideas such as public welfare, externalities, ownership, morality, and political integrity (perhaps ignominy!) helps to unpack just what “social concerns” may inform business processes or business managers. They do not point to an agent. Rather these ideas self-consciously enjoin various imperatives to exculpate the many individuals who actualize a business’ identity, as if they are the company per se and, further, represent one mind. The assumption that employees and a diversified (or not) community of stockholders qualify corporate governance viz. “social concerns” is a practical error that need not be encouraged by the editors. The DOJ doesn’t buy academic discourse. Why should I?

wsj.com poll 3721PmCC SCORE:0.38

2 Comments:

Blogger Miss Mary said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Miss Mary said...

Was it cynical to say "The assumption that employees and a diversified (or not) community of stockholders qualify corporate governance viz. “social concerns” is a practical error"?

Not.

Today Carl Ichan, 2.5% shareholder of Time Warner released this statement that verified the chasm separating a corporation and its constitutients, however regal.

In short,Ichan replied by PRNewswire.com to a Washington Post OpEd by Steve Case, former Time Warner boardmember:
"We are not surprised that someone with a front row seat to the debacle at Time Warner during the Parsons years and a large personal equity stake reached the same conclusion that we have -- a major restructuring of Time Warner is necessary to maximize shareholder value.

However, we are shocked that Time Warner's shareholders have had to rely on the Washington Post, well after the fact, to learn that a member of the Time Warner Board proposed to the Board that value would be enhanced by
splitting the company into four separate entities. Investors need to
understand what level of debate actually occurred at the Board, what type of analysis was conducted and who was responsible for this analysis, all of which go to the heart of shareholder accountability."

It would be naive to presume, Time Warner governance is atypical. It would be naive to presume Time Warner public battles are typical. If you understand that moral performance begins with one person, then there is no question of "how important should social concerns be to a company." There remains only your own apathy about demanding the concrete 'accountability'of one to many that Mr. Ichan demands.

11:35 AM  

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