Backtrack

REFORM, REGULATE OR REWRITE?

In an initiative part think tank, part voter registration, and part referendum, we asked people whether we should Reform, Regulate or Rewrite the corporation – or as we call them, the 3 ‘R’s. We weren't championing one ‘R’ over another, believing all are needed, but this strategy allowed us to frame the debate into three schools of thought that are pragmatic and policy-oriented.

1. ReWrite

Overthrow. Change the actual legal constitution of every corporation. Eradicate corporate "personhood'. Change the entire DNA of the corporate animal. Anarchism & new experiments in democracy.

The REWRITERS see themselves as the radicals. Regulation and reform are not enough; the only way to get rid of the problem is to change the system and redefine the corporation. Besides resist, abolish and tyranny, the words we heard most often were transparency and accountability. Processes are enshrouded in secrecy and the near impossibility of holding anyone liable must be redressed. Some feel the entire corporate structure should be discarded and communities need to step in and regain control. Others believe that removing the legal loopholes would free up all the people caught in a bad situation who want to behave ethically, but are stuck plumbing the bottom line.

2. Regulate

More democratic governmental controls. Hold corporations accountable. Make corporations really pay for their planetary misdeeds. Worker control. Bigger bars on the corporate cage.

The REGULATERS see themselves as the realists. Regulation is seen as a critical first step toward lasting change, and more likely to be adopted than more radical measures. Call it the corpaholic's 12-step program to a healthier, more democratic form of ownership. Many asserted that power was still the prerogative of the people and we could reign in the corporation by effective government and good laws. Production could continue to ensure economic prosperity but in a manner that is sustainable and ethical.

3. Reform

Make corporations run better. Reward good management. Hold corporate “heroic” leaders up as a testament that better people can run better companies. Make better business practices “good business.”

The REFORMERS have been surprisingly silent, garnering only a small number of votes. Could it be we're all too cynical to believe the corporation would want to be good?

RETHINK THE CORPORATION DEBATE & DVD HOUSE PARTY CAMPAIGN

The release of the DVD, with its many additional activist resources (over 8 hours of extra features including links, and strategies for change) presented another opportunity to organize and collect feedback. In April 2005 we launched The Corporation House Party campaign to discuss and devise solutions to the problems the film so aptly illuminates. To get the ball rolling, we organized an online ReThink The Corporation Debate on May 7, 2005 with special guests L. Hunter Lovins, Joel Bakan and Jeff Milchen arguing whether we should Reform, Regulate or Rewrite the corporation.

The House Party campaign may be “officially” over but if people still want to party, that’s fine by us! Let us know what you're up to and we'll do what we can to help spread the word.

Special thanks to our House Party & PSA co-sponsors:

THE I-CORP PROJECT

The i-Corp (The Corporation Interactive) Project refers to the development of interactive content features on this website, with plans to create an interactive DVD. i-Corp was envisioned as creative content for a community of "inter-activists" able to respond online, offline, and in real-time to the issues raised by the film. Shortly after The Corporation had it's US theatrical debut, we launched a prototype which included the premiere webisode of DocBack.org called Biotalk, and an online Personality Test that playfully mimicked corporate personality type-casting.

Funding for the production of more features never arrived, unfortunately, and the prototype was removed. Our attention instead shifted to producing newsletters, organizing the DVD House Party campaign & debate, and gathering feedback for the next stage of action.

YOUR FEEDBACK!

Here are some of the ideas you've proposed so far:

Revoke the legal personhood status. Change the law to subordinate corporate rights to those of the people.

Overhaul the corporate structure and its constitution mandating it pursue profit at any cost. Shareholders need to be more concerned with the ecological and human costs and not just maximizing their return on investment. In the US, reformed corporate lawyer Robert Hinkley is fighting to add 28 big little words to corporate law: "the duty of directors hence-forth shall be to make money for shareholders but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, public health and safety, dignity of employees, and the welfare of the communities in which the company operates.” To find out more, check out Citizens for Corporate Responsibility.

Shift power from shareholders to stakeholders so they have direct and influential decision-making power.

Use regulation as the carrot AND the stick. The amount of regulation is subject to behaviour where good gets less and bad gets so much more.

The corporation separates liability and ownership to avoid individual prosecution. Lack of ownership ensures a lack of responsibility. Business should be run as a cooperative, owned by the employees, with shares available to investors who only own their investment.

Use the resources of resistance already in place: participate in rallies and protest corporate policies; complain loudly and in writing; support activist groups such as POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy).

The creation of protective agencies and regulatory bodies, ones with enough power to keep the corporation in check. Watchdogs with sharp teeth who aren’t afraid to bite down hard when need be!

Disallow the corporation from making financial contributions to political parties. No more corporate sponsorship of government representatives and hijacking democracy.

Revert back to the idea that the corporation is a sacred trust with a set time limit of existence, owned by a limited number of partners.

Limit the amount of profit being pursued. Enforce profit capping so that profit beyond your allowable limit be given to the producers (not directors), charity or the government.

Stop rewarding CEOs with obscenely high pay-offs and see workers as an essential part of production also deserving of a piece of the pie. Get rid of executive perks and treat all employees equally regardless of company status, whether it’s in regards to benefits or mandatory drug testing. The escalating pay scale differential needs to be addressed at the very least.

Tax companies that outsource and exploit cheap labour markets in poor countries. Give tax breaks to corporations who remain in their home country.

Fines should be more punitive and actually enforced.

Make companies accountable for the harm they do. Enact harsher, more punitive laws against corporate malfeasance. If the corporation is a person, perhaps they should be tried as such for committing crimes against the public. Punishment could include dissolution of the company or jail time.

Re-nationalize essential public services at least, and even more sectors of the economy. Privatization has not resulted in the consumer gains we were promised.

Mandate companies to put their production information on their products, just as food products must list nutritional content. Corporations should not be able to sell products in countries where their production methods have violated the laws of that country, such as using child labour in other countries.

Use the market to sell a new brand and a new kind of corporation with a philosophy that pursues human benefit, not profit. Create a model based on a new way of thinking with universal appeal and people will buy it.

Withdraw from NAFTA and WTO agreements that violate the best interests of the public.

Create a process that sets and grades standards of business practices so consumers can make choices according to their personal values.

Buy locally and fairly traded products whenever possible.

Lobby your government and embrace democratic structures. We need participatory governments that engage citizenry, not isolate and disenfranchise them.

Reform the media and the rules for ownership. The media is relied upon to be the watchdog of democracy and no society can afford to have its journalistic ideals supplanted by other interests.

Rebuild unions and create more worker cooperatives.

Live simply, buy less. The corporation is driven by consumerism and as long as people look to buy their happiness, no amount of reform or regulation will matter.

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