Discuss Parker & Pearson in relation to can a corporation has a conscience? Can a corporation be a good corporate citizen under capitalism, justify your response from arguments in the readings
In their article titled ‘Capitalism and its Regulation: A Dialogue on Business and Ethics’, Gordon Pearson and Martin Parker set out to discuss the possibility of ethics applying to the decisions and operations within a capitalist environment. Drawing their arguments from Platonian principles, Pearson and Parker brought out the differences that made it difficult for corporate entities to be ethical in their choices (Parker & Pearson 2005). Ethics within the corporate setting has always been a debatable issue. Any assumption that ethics should automatically be part of any corporations’ structure is a wrongful one.
One of the main reasons behind the controversial place of ethics in capitalism stems from the nature of regulation. Capitalism is guided by a laissez faire system that fundamentally liberates private companies from the hold of the state. Corporate bodies are released from the strict scrutiny and interference by the states, and in its place, capitalism is controlled by the market forces of supply and demand. Operating in a free market means that these companies are free to formulate and comply with their own set of principles that may materially differ in organizations. Furthermore, it is evident that while operating within a free market, corporate bodies are mainly motivated by profit and this leaves no room for ethical principles to be adopted and practiced.
In assessing if an element is ethical, the question that surfaces is how ethical the particular element is. Conventionally, capitalism is closely associated with unethical behavior that it is quite difficult to argue in its defense. Capitalism lacks a strong sense of ethics mainly because, as a mode of economy, it fails to compliment social and economic goals and in the processes, places the citizens in a difficult position where the social and economic goals are in conflict with each other. In their dialogue, Martin and Gordon both highlight several features and outcomes of capitalism such as over expenditure, exploitation, and inequality. These characteristics eventually appear in any capitalist society due to a lack of ethical behavior among the different stakeholders within a capitalist system.
Pearson and Parker (2005) gave the example of the emerging dominance of supermarket chains in the United Kingdom. The growth of these large retail stores has resulted in few choices for consumers. Additionally, these large establishments took up the bigger market share and made colossal profits while local establishment remained stifled and struggled to grow in unfavorable conditions. In this particular example, capitalism can be said to be unethical due to the inconsiderate approach that it takes in realizing profits above any other societal and economic goals. Several scholars have argued that corporate bodies have embraced and implemented corporate social responsibility (CSR) documents that serve to regulate their behavior within the market and serve the societal needs. These CSR requirements are a step towards introducing ethics within corporations. However, they have failed to instill ethical behavior within these corporate bodies mainly because of the liberal capitalist environment that lacks any authoritative entity that would enforce these ethical requirements.
In conclusion, the capitalist system can be said to be operating in a liberal environment that makes it difficult for ethical behavior to be adopted. Most of the corporations are motivated by profit returns and in the face of weak regulatory organizations; companies are free to violate any ethical boundaries in their quest to achieve their monetary objectives.
Parker, M, & Pearson, G, 2005, ‘Capitalism and its Regulation: A Dialogue on Business and Ethics’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 60, pp. 91-101.
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