A Monstrous Proposal

– This idea from, George Monbiot, makes deep sense to me.  He calls it monstrous but he’s tongue-in-cheek. The only entities likely to complain are the corporations.   This would go some ways towards pulling their fangs.


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Why the private sector should be subject to freedom of information laws.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 8th May 2012

Modern government could be interpreted as a device for projecting corporate power. Since the 1980s, in Britain, the US and other nations, the primary mission of governments has been to grant their sponsors in the private sector ever greater access to public money and public life.

There are several means by which they do so: the privatisation and outsourcing of public services, the stuffing of public committees with corporate executives(1), the reshaping of laws and regulations to favour big business. In the UK, the Health and Social Care Act extends the corporate domain in ways unimaginable even five years ago.

With these increasing powers come diminishing obligations. Through repeated cycles of deregulation, governments release big business from its duty of care towards both people and the planet. While citizens are subject to ever more control – as the state extends surveillance and restricts our freedom to protest and assemble(2,3) – companies are subject to ever less.

In this column I will make a proposal which sounds, at first, monstrous, but which I hope to persuade you is both reasonable and necessary: that freedom of information laws should be extended to the private sector.

The very idea of a corporation is made possible only by a blurring of the distinction between private and public. Limited liability socialises the risks which would otherwise be carried by a company’s owners and directors, exempting them from the costs of the debts they incur or the disasters they cause. The bail-outs introduced us to an extreme form of this exemption: men like Fred Goodwin and Matt Ridley are left in peace to count their money while everyone else must pay for their mistakes(4).

So I am asking only for the exercise of that long-standing Conservative maxim: no rights without responsibilities. If you benefit from limited liability, the public should be permitted to scrutinise your business.

– More …  



2 Responses to “A Monstrous Proposal”

  1. Joel says:

    Dennis, reading your blog is a constant source of eye-opening, bandwith-expanding, thought-provoking ideas. I would NEVER, on my own, read this widely (issues, geography), and I enjoy the low-cal mental dessert. Monbiot’s tongue is so far in his cheek it’s sticking thru the other side. Small comfort knowing that our kin across the pond suffer from some of the same corporate angst.

  2. Dennis says:

    His core idea is a good one though.