Civil Liberties need to be extended to include Corporate Governance issues

Traditionally, civil liberties are freedoms that protect the individual from government. Civil liberties set limits for government so that it does not abuse its power and interfere with the lives of its citizens.

Basic civil liberties include freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. There are also the rights to due process, to a fair trial, to privacy, and to self defense. Many of the world’s democracies including our own, have constitutions that guarantee civil liberties, unfortunately as the world becomes increasingly corporatised, those rights or liberties are steadily eroded, not by government, but by large corporations whose charters and quest for profit may not measure up to the high ideals within society.

How do we regain control over our lives, by limiting the power of large corporations such as SAB-Miller, Media24, Anglo-American? Surely the same logic applied to individual freedom vs government apply here? Surely employees enjoy the same rights as voters, and shareholders have the same kind of responsibility as public servants?

As somebody who is still sitting with the threat of a corporate gagging order limiting my freedom of expression, I find the hypocrisy in South Africa increasingly unbearable. If we expect our government to bow down before freedom, surely we should do the same to corporations?

  1. I think that corporates are elected by our purchasing decisions in the same way that governments are elected by our votes. So in the same way that governments are accountable to us for their actions and influence on society, business should also be explicitly accountable for its effects.

    We can vote on the business world with our hard earned cash but we also need to mind its activities with the same kinds of rules we mind government. We can vote in a new government every couple of years but there’s no way we could let them do what they want in between!

  2. There is a lot of talk about human capital as an asset that ough to be on the balance sheet.

    How can we achieve this and give shareholders & directors the manadte to take care of this asset like they treat cash. Is it an investment or a current asset?

    Carl J Lotter

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