Shareholders and Social Responsibility
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The article presents an analysis and critique of Milton Friedman’s argument that the social responsibility of business is merely to increase its profits. The analysis uncovers a central claim that Friedman implies, but does not explicitly defend, namely that the shareholders of a corporation have no duty to direct that corporation’s management to exercise social responsibility. An argument against this claim is then advanced by way of a convergence strategy, whereby multiple influential moral approaches are shown to align themselves against Friedman. The convergence strategy shows that Friedman’s position lies on the lonely fringes of Western moral thought, and that at least some of Friedman’s professed adherents appear to offer incoherent moral views. The convergence strategy is shown to suggest, but not entail, a stakeholder model of the corporation. The article concludes by considering two objections.
Keywordscorporation investor Judeo/Christian ethics Kantianism management shareholder social responsibility stakeholder utilitarianism virtue ethics
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