Should companies be held accountable for dealing with oppressive regimes?

I was listening to a podcast on ethics earlier today, and the main speaker was advocating putting companies on trial for buying from dictators, charging the companies with receiving stolen property. He made the case pretty well, peppering his argument with examples of horrific exploitation, and I’m 110% in favor of finding methods to put a stop to these crimes, but something about the idea just doesn’t click for me. I’d like it to work, but I just don’t think it will ever happen.

It won’t happen. And that is sad. There are a couple of problems with it. Firstly for enforcement, with so much fungible product around it is far too easy for companies to evade any sanctions you may wish to impose. Secondly, and perhaps most sadly, most people just don’t give a damn.

Unless we see a total shift in the ethics of investment and consumer purchasing it just won’t be feasible. Most consumers don’t give a damn if their goods are made in sweatshops, as sickening as that is. Most don’t care to hear if their goods were produced by virtual (or not so virtual) slave labour. There is some movement towards ethical business dealing (green and socially responsible investments are out there) but until we in the west get over our addiction to cheap goods we’ll continue to turn a blind eye to the excesses and horrors of both dictatorships and the (often western) corporations that support them

I’m going to weigh in here. I am not sure you can call it “receiving stolen goods” because a regime is repressive. I do think our country should be more liberal with employing sanctions against bad regimes. And that any corporation looking to deal with the US would need to guarantee their goods were “dictator influence free”. Not sure how we would go about getting consumers over their desire for cheap goods.