Essays Social Conscience

Essays Social Conscience-16
But the former can be achieved only by serving, not merely exploiting, your customer base.

But the former can be achieved only by serving, not merely exploiting, your customer base.

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Let’s not forget that the flow of corporate wealth to CEOs and shareholders has helped drive the middle class into income stagnation and debt, impoverishing corporate America’s customer base.

So much of the debate today about corporate social responsibility misses the point.

He was responding to a public debate on the corporation’s role in society launched in the late ‘60s that sounds very much like the direct forebear of Occupy Wall Street.

Dissident shareholders at Bank of America, AT&T and dozens of other companies freaked out managements by questioning not their financial results but the “social impact” of their activities, and disrupted annual meetings with demands for proxy votes on such issues as their company’s role in the Vietnam War, its record on minority hiring and its contribution to pollution.

What would Friedman have made of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which granted rich corporations the same free speech rights as individuals — including the right to make unlimited political contributions?

Here’s what he wrote in that 1970 essay: “What does it mean to say that ‘business’ has responsibilities?

Viewing the entirety of social responsibility as the pursuit of profit “within the rules of the game” damaged millions of lives because the rules of the game didn’t leave room for a social conscience.

Social conscience is what tells a CEO that long-term growth is more important than short-term profit.

There are many reasons why corporate social responsibility is on the table these days.

One is that the sharp rise in business profits since the 2008 crash hasn’t produced a commensurately sharp rise in hiring.


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