Journal of Human Values 27 (1):15-26 (2020)

Daniel Ostas
University of Oklahoma
This article explores the motives underlying corporate responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis begins with Thomas Dunfee’s Statement of Minimum Moral Obligation, which specifies, more precisely than any other contribution to the business ethics canon, the level of corporate beneficence required during a pandemic. The analysis then turns to Milton Friedman’s neoliberal understanding of human nature, critically contrasting it with the notion of stoic virtue that informs the works of Adam Smith. Friedman contends that beneficence should play no role in corporate settings. Smith, by contrast, emphasizes the need for prudence, beneficence and self-command in all human endeavours. The article then uses these competing frameworks to reflect on a published survey of 145 corporate responses to COVID-19. In many of these responses, the benefit to a non-financial stakeholder is clear, while the financial consequence to the firm remains nebulous. This supports the contention that during a pandemic, beneficence provides a more complete explanation of many corporate actions than the profit motive alone. The article contests Friedman’s Chicago School profit imperative and goes beyond Dunfee’s SMMO by endorsing the more full-throated embrace of beneficence and stoic virtue found in the works of Smith.
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Reprint years 2021
DOI 10.1177/0971685820973186
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References found in this work BETA

The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Dover Publications.
Nicomachean Ethics.Terence Irwin & Aristotle of Stagira - 1999 - Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
Capitalism and Freedom.Milton Friedman - 1962 - Ethics 74 (1):70-72.

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