Deval Patrick spoke at Amherst College today. I've seen him speak maybe 6 times now and every time he gives a good talk. This time, at the inauguration of a local community engagement group, he spoke primarily about community. He told several funny stories, but focused, in the end, on people choosing to make the right decision, because they understand in the long run what is going to best for the community. I didn't get to ask my question, but I had thought about it for a few minutes. I would have said:
Governor Patrick, you spoke about the problem that our society tends to make choices for short-term gains, rather than thinking about the long term and about political and community engagement as a habit of mind. You mentioned corporations briefly, indicating that they also aim for short term, but corporations represent a special problem. A hundred and fifty years ago, there was broad public distrust of corporations: corporations were only chartered for a specific period of time and to accomplish particular goals to benefit the common good. Even 50 years ago, corporations still saw themselves as having a positive role in society. In the 1980s, however, the laws related to coporate ownership changed and since then, any corporation that fails to maximize shareholder value gets bought out and a new management team installed that will. We can potentially change our habit of mind as a society, but it won't solve the problem of corporations. How can we change how corporations are chartered to produce more socially responsible behavior?