BP is not a bad corporate citizen; because it is not a citizen at all. This idea of a “corporate citizen “is just a bad idea. It doesn’t show much understanding of either corporations or citizens. In Civilizing the Economy, I outline four aspects of a corporation or four ways we can think about them: as property, as a human community designed to produce goods and services, as an agent, and as a provider.
Let’s look at the idea that a corporation is a property first. Obviously it is. We can buy and sell them. Milton Friedman’s famous essay that the only social responsibility of corporations is to make a profit treats corporations this way. Friedman is not really talking about the obligations of corporations in this essay, but of the corporate executives who exist in an agent-principle relationship with the owners. Corporations are the property of the owners, and the executive has an obligation to the owners. Executives are essentially property managers.