The economist and Grameen bank founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize today. He won because he rejected accepted business practice and made entrepreneurs of the poorest people in the most impoverished of countries. In his acceptance speech he criticized the corporate-centric path to globalization.
He warned that “the globalized economy was becoming a dangerous ‘free-for-all highway’… ‘Its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies,’ Dr. Yunus said… He called for legal recognition of a new category of corporation that would be neither profit-maximizing nor nonprofit. It would be a ‘social business,’ like Grameen Bank, the Dhaka-based microcredit institution he started 30 years ago.” (New York Times)
In other words, corporations chartered to engage in business for the public good. For the first hundred or so years of the U.S., corporations were commonly chartered for very specific purposes, building a bridge for example, and dechartered when the bridge was completed. There are a lot of people who would like to bring that type of corporation back into being, Dr. Yunus among them. A lot of people would also like to recharter existing corporations to emphasize their responsibility to conduct their business in such a way that it is, in fact, a “public good.”
A radical concept, conceivably capable of making free market capitalism compatible with democratic, egalitarian governance. More on this later.