Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 385–397 | Cite as

Business Ethics After Citizens United: A Contractualist Analysis



In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the US Supreme Court sharply curtailed the ability of the state to limit political speech by for-profit corporations. This new legal situation elevates the question of corporate political involvement: in what manner and to what extent is it ethical for for-profit corporations to participate in the political process in a liberal democratic society? Using Scanlon’s version of contractualism, I argue for a number of substantive and procedural constraints on the political activities of businesses. Central to this contractualist analysis is (1) an identification of the self-governance-based interests of individuals that are affected by corporate political activity and (2) a method for judging the various assignments of social rights, duties and roles according to how they collectively meet those interests. Together, these two features make this contractualist approach distinctive and allow it to generate substantive ethical results.


Business ethics Policy Contractualism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chair in Business and Professional Ethics, W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, The Sauder School of BusinessThe University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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