Jeff Pearce
corporate risk
Editorial: Corporations shouldn’t have more rights than people | Canadian Insurance

Editorial: Corporations shouldn’t have more rights than people

If you tick off the standard checklist of rights—free speech, religion, assembly—most folks in the West will nod with impatient agreement. But when you suggest people should be allowed to live where they please, you get a negative, sometimes even hostile reaction. And I don’t understand this.

Immigration and refugee policy are the themes of this issue, and you’ll find provocative arguments sprinkled across our staple features, from “Exposures” to Christine Duhaime’s legal column. Speaking for myself, I openly advocate that borders be thrown open across the United States and Canada and across Europe.

Is the idea really so ludicrous? As Yaldaz Sadakova points out in our main feature, the EU has had this for years, allowing member-nation citizens to travel and work where they want. What makes the continent buckle right now is not the open door, but the shopping list of economic woes that’s made Germany the key destination for refugees while France, Spain and other countries hope nobody remembers they’re there. There’s been no co-ordinated approach to handling the influx. And that’s the real problem: spreading the burden, but failing to recognize the potential.

In North America, there is no good reason why Canadians and Americans should not have what the Europeans have: the right to work in each other’s countries. Before you raise the alarm that there would be a mass exodus in one direction or another, consider that not everyone wants to go south or head north. In Canada, we have a paltry 35 million or so in the second biggest country in the world. We can share, and more importantly, we need regular injections of talent and innovation that immigrants—whether American or folks from Europe, Asia, Africa or elsewhere—can offer.

To me, the most foolish “anti” position is that open borders are a threat to security. The majority of horrific shootings in the U.S. are committed by Americans. The Charlie Hebdo attack was done by thugs born in France. But there’s a more sophisticated argument to employ here. With open borders, you actually incentivize nations on democratic and economic levels. The despot regimes of the world count on the small-mindedness, the petty red tape of countries that advertise their liberalism yet ration it. Fling open not just one door, but many doors, and watch them cringe.

Similarly, if the U.S. knows the best web producers can enjoy Czech coffee or Canadian health care (legally), boy, things will change. To those who wonder how resources would be paid for, etc., I ask again: the French health care system isn’t on the verge of collapse because x number of Italians or Romanians take jobs in Toulouse. So why is it that corporations have more rights than people?

Yes, there’s a lot of fine brushwork—financial, diplomatic, bureaucratic—to add to such bold strokes, but I hope to provoke a discussion. We’ve held fast for decades to a human protectionism that no longer makes sense, even as free market advocates chant that capital has no country. Riding in a vehicle in Beirut, I passed a crowd of Syrian refugees beseeching their embassy. Beirut also has Starbucks. I still wonder why the corporation can go where it pleases but people can’t.

Copyright 2015 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of Corporate Risk Canada magazine