A Philosophical Perspective on the Regulation of Business
ABSTRACT: The paper compares the Anglo-American and continental legal systems in parallel with a comparison of the philosophical foundations for each. The defining philosophical distinction between the two legal traditions (viz., the Anglo-American system is predicated on idealism and the continental system on materialism) is shown to influence the way in which criminal justice is handled by the two systems as applied to citizens, and how this influence is carried across to the regulation of business as applied to corporations. The idealistic (possibly theological) worldview inherent in the Anglo-American legal system explains its moral presumptions regarding human freedom, dignity, and responsibility, while the materialist worldview inherent in the continental legal systems explains its amoral assumptions about human motivations and behavior. I suggest that while the Anglo-American legal system may be justified in its moral philosophical presumptions as applied to citizens, the continental legal system, with its amoral assumptions, more accurately reflects corporations than citizens. Understanding how the philosophy behind the two legal systems influences the application of law in modern society can lead to improvements in public policy.
There is an effort underway in the automotive sector of the ever-expanding global economy to harmonize motor vehicle regulations world-wide. This micro-experiment in world democracy (along with others like it in different economic sectors) differs from more prominent examples of negotiating international law in that it deals with the amoral realm of business, rather than the moral/immoral realm of international conflict and criminal justice, and in that it deals with regulations, rather than laws. Because regulations govern very technical aspects of business activity, they are even further immersed in the amoral aspects of society, namely the activities that constitute science, technology, and commerce. Nevertheless, because the regulation of business is patterned after, and administered by, legal authorities established to maintain social order, the regulation of business reflects regionally the legal traditions under which it was established.
As might be expected, this regulatory harmonization effort is taking place under the auspices of the United Nations (specifically, Working Party 29). It has as its ultimate goal the development of a global automotive regulatory system in which motor vehicles are tested once according to universal standards, and are accepted everywhere, as opposed to the current situation in which differing regulations require unique vehicle configurations, and differing certification requirements require that a vehicle be tested according to multiple test procedures and standards, even where the vehicle configuration is the same. The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the...