CEOs Lead America’s New Great Awakening

Source: The Wall Street Journal (behind paywall).

The writer finds grounds for CEO political activism in an unlikely place:

Economist Milton Friedman, in his 1970 essay on corporate social responsibility advised: “It may well be in the long‐run interest of a corporation that is a major employer in a small community to devote resources to providing amenities to that community or to improving its government. That may make it easier to attract desirable employees, it may reduce the wage bill or lessen losses from pilferage and sabotage or have other worthwhile effects.”

I agree with Friedman, but would emphasize the limited scope of the observation, not seek to expand upon it. After all, the title of the original (brief) essay was, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.”

Click to access Friedman.pdf

The point of the quotation is to show that it might be advantageous for a business to behave in ways that look or might be described as “socially responsible,” but that even there increasing profits remains the one true and justifiable purpose, according to Friedman.

I’m sure the writer — a management professor at Yale — knows all this quite thoroughly. But that makes his argument entirely baffling. Does he really mean that trying to increase profits justifies political activism?

Beyond a basic commitment to the rule of law and a healthy patriotism, I can’t imagine it.

10 thoughts on “CEOs Lead America’s New Great Awakening

      1. Truer words are hard to find. The last 5 years are witness to an eradication of social norms that had been growing since the Reagan era.

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    1. You quote Mitt Romney, but Friedman mentions the idea in his essay:

      “A corporation is an artificial person and in this sense may have artificial responsibilities, but ‘business’ as a whole cannot be said to have responsibilities, even in this vague sense.”

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  1. Social responsibility come to the conservative forefront when complaints about social media bias abound.

    Facebook is doing what he can to increase profits. So are Twitter, Google, Yahoo…

    If that means cutting off a serial abuser of misinformation and probable incitement to violence, is that socially responsible behavior? If so, why the big deal? If not, but profits increase, what is the big deal now?

    If Harley-Davidson opted to keep some plants overseas to maximize profits, why did the last president threaten them with boycotts?

    Purdue Pharma flooded the market knowing that addiction drove sales. Legal prescriptions, so what is the big deal, again? Friedman would be proud of the Sacklers.

    Conservative thinking seems to applaud amoral corporate structures until it doesn’t.

    I’ll call a yellow card on this post.

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