When the next generations look back on us I fear that we will be remembered as the generation of greed. As a society, we found it intoxicating to consume in excess. We borrowed against the future without regard to the consequences. And it was just too costly and disruptive to corporate interests to protect our environment and atmosphere. We will have left the next generations with unbearable burdens all because of our greed.
No, greed is not good.
To the Editor:
Even in 1970, when Milton Friedman published his piece on corporations and profits, consumers were realizing that price shouldn’t be the only factor when purchasing, and that corporations had a bigger responsibility than returning profits to shareholders. This trend has only grown: On the day The Times revisited Mr. Friedman’s piece, it also ran an ad on the back of the magazine about Dave’s Killer Bread and its commitment to employing those who deserve a second chance. On that corporation’s website, it’s clear that the company is trying hard to replicate this model nationwide, and it is already succeeding.
I’ve never tried this brand, and I have no affiliation with the company, but would I pay extra to reward its social conscience? Absolutely, and since it is sold in my neighborhood, that will happen soon. I certainly hope Milton Friedman’s followers will rethink corporate economics. After all, money isn’t everything. Man (and woman) does not live by bread alone.
To the Editor:
Re “Blaming Milton Friedman” (Opinion, Sept. 19):
Binyamin Appelbaum highlights the role of government as a response to Milton Friedman’s 50-year-old essay opposing corporate social responsibility. In the longer view, though, the very concept of what a corporation is has changed, and perhaps needs to change again.
Corporate charters used to include an explicit focus on a company’s larger responsibility to society. In time, though, such obligations fell to the wayside, and corporate charters became simple boilerplate approvals.
The notion of linking corporations to explicit social goods is resurfacing. Nine countries now require greater gender equity on corporate boards. About 50 countries require some sort of environmental and social sustainability reporting. International anti-money-laundering rules have grown far more stringent. Numerous countries, the United States among them, restrict corporate use of conflict minerals.
Corporations are an artificial construct meant to benefit society. The way those benefits are articulated has changed over history and can certainly change again if we collectively decide to do so.
The writer is author of “The Corporation: Its History and Future.”