It is fascinating to read the commentary vis-Ã -vis Representative Anthony Weiner (the member of Congress with the texting and tweeting problems, for the few souls in Kazakhstan who may not have picked up on this ongoing saga). The commentary has a running thread: â€œThis is a matter between Representative Weiner and his constituents in his congressional district.â€ Before the contact-with-a-17-year-old issue and the photos from the House gym emerged, Mr. Weinerâ€™s voters were running 51% for his remaining in Congress.
How fascinating that the â€œonly voters countâ€ commentary comes from the same folks who are proponents of stakeholder theory. R. Edward Freeman, credited as the scholar who brought the theory to the forefront of academic discussion, holds that corporations should not just limit their ethical decision processes to consideration of how their shareholders (i.e., those who can vote) are affected. Stakeholder theory would have corporations consider how corporate decisions impact others: employees, members of the community, suppliers, and creditors. For example, making a decision to outsource production to factories in countries with cheaper labor benefits shareholders but costs current employees, as stakeholders, their jobs, and does not consider the impact of such factories on the employees in other countries and the resulting effects on their cultures and societal structures. In other words, stakeholder theory demands consideration of the interests of non-voting parties. Stakeholder theory holds that such expanded consideration will benefit both the corporation and society because the decisions will consider long-term impact, result in good community relations, and improve analysis of particular questions.
However, when it comes to political scandals, we dismiss the expanded analysis stakeholder theory provides and return to voter determination only. The impact of Mr. Weinerâ€™s conduct and his subsequent denials on others, on the credibility of members of Congress, and on the fabric of society fall by the wayside as voters are the limit of accountability. Even the just-plain-creepy aspects of the sordid conduct are dismissed in favor of a voters-only policy.
If we were to follow stakeholder theory consistently, we would be required to ask, â€œWho is affected by Mr. Weinerâ€™s decision to engage in the conduct as well as his decision to remain in his seat?â€ Well, beyond those all-knowing voters, we all were. His conduct left him vulnerable to pressure, threats, and demands. A member of Congress who wants to keep embarrassing conduct private is an elected official who is corruptible and whose judgment is impaired. We are all affected by Mr. Weinerâ€™s indiscretions because it left him subject to blackmail and us stakeholders at risk.
The analyses of what Mr. Weiner should do are very limited: only voters in his district should have a say in finding the answer to, â€œShould he go or should he stay?â€ Sounds like free-market-Milton Friedman theory to the Barometer: Shareholders who have an interest in the corporation have a say in what the corporation and its managers do. All you others, well, itâ€™s none of your business, literally and figuratively. Funny how the inconsistencies in stakeholder theory emerge when non-corporate ethical issues arise.