Fifty years ago this month, the late, great economist Milton Friedman, published an essay, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits”.
The title really says it all, but it is important to understand that Friedman always emphasized that his political views (he was a Libertarian) were separate from his economics (Monetarism). He also insisted that he was not exempting business from ethical norms.
Although Friedman and John Maynard Keynes had very different views on economics, he would have agreed with Keynes famous quote:
“When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?”
I like to think that Friedman would have a very different view today because America and the world have changed enormously in the last half-century. It is important to recognize that the immediate impetus to social change really had nothing to do with “business”, but was triggered by questionable police violence against African Americans. Not exactly a new problem.
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