The Phantom Menace of the Responsibility Deficit

The strongest argument for the conclusion that corporations should be held morally responsible for their actions has been advanced by Philip Pettit. Pettit’s argument proceeds in two steps: arguing first that corporations are fit to be held morally responsible, and second that, given this fitness, they should be. This chapter assumes that Pettit has established his first point—that corporations can bear moral responsibility—but argues that nevertheless, they should not. The argument for this conclusion is based on the twin observations that: 1) attributing moral responsibility to corporations has no useful practical value—it does not supply any desirable end that is not achievable without corporate moral responsibility; and, 2) attributing moral responsibility to corporations is incompatible with the basic values of a liberal society.