Thursday, January 7, 2010
Faith and Corporate Law
As part of the day long program of the Section on Socio-Economics at the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans today, I participated on a panel titled The Relationship of Faith and Law: The Example of Corporate Law. The panel was organized and moderated by my colleague Lyman Johnson and included presentations my Sarah Duggin, David Opderbeck, Gordon Smith and myself.
In my talk, I contrasted the vision of the human person underlying Catholic social thought with the vision underlying the classical law and economics model that has dominated corporate law scholarship and also talked about some of the difficulties of moving from a discussion of general principles of Catholic thought to specific prescriptions for corporate law and corporate behavior. Gordon Smith identified a different difficulty operating from a Mormon perspective – the lack of a developed set of principles of Mormon social thought, in contrast to the developed set of Catholic principles.
Gordon also raised the important question of who is the audience for our discussions in this area. When we talk about questions of faith and corporate law, to whom are we speaking? This is a question relevent not just to the subject of today’s panel, but one that can be asked more broadly about our project of attempting to articulate a Catholic legal theory. It has long been my view that if there is value in this enterprise, we must find ways to be heard outside of our own group and not be merely talking among ourselves. Sarah Duggin provided one answer to the audience question in the corporate area, focusing on our role as law professors in teaching our students that there is a viable alternative to the shareholder primacy norm that they seem to take for granted.