“Should American multinational companies like Apple, Blizzard, Google, and the NBA promote democratic values around the world even if it means losing profits, or should they abide by local government wishes, including censoring people and information?”

Those of you who follow the news will have learned about sports figures and gamers being punished for supporting Hong Kong protestors, and about Google being criticized for restricting their search results to please the Chinese government. You will also, no doubt, have heard about the backlash. Critics have called these companies un-American agents of oppression, and they have a point. These are American companies after all, and if supporting democratic freedom is a moral obligation, corporations are duty-bound to promote it.

On the other hand, the controversy is not as simple as it may seem. Even if democracy is the best form of government, corporations are not politicians, nor are they activists. All businesses are expected to abide by local regulations, and public companies’ boards of directors are required by law to maximize profits for their stockholders. It is not in their mandate to take political stands. In short, these companies are being asked to choose between their own bottom lines and the moral high ground, between their own self-interest and the common good. Which path should they follow?

The essay should be written for a general audience, not for a class or a teacher. Do not think of it as a research paper, but more like a magazine article or long-form blog post. It should be clear, thoughtful, and accessible to an average college student, not super technical or confusingly abstract. The essay should not have extensive quotes or excessive footnotes, although it should have some quotes, at least. Classroom assignments will not be accepted without significant revision. Prospective authors are encouraged to look at previous years’ essays to see some winning examples.

Finally, essays will not be evaluated on what position they argue for. All conclusions have equal opportunity to win. IPPL is non-partisan and non-ideological.

Entrants must be enrolled as a UND student in 2020-2021. Essays must be original, never published, and between 1500 and 2000 words. Prize money will be dispersed through UND in the form of a scholarship.


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