Eric Palmer
Allegheny College
The classic formulation of doubt regarding the appropriateness of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as voiced by Milton Friedman, is that “…there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game…” I present a reply to Friedman, and to others, that accepts their implicit premise – that business, including globalizing business activity, can be a virtuous mechanism of free society – but that denies their conclusion regarding responsibility. The reply does not fit the traditional mold of CSR arguments, which argue for responsibility to a broad group of corporate stakeholders, and which, Friedman suggests, “undermine the very foundations of our free society.” My reply hinges upon precisely the virtue of “freedom” that Friedman and others clearly consider intrinsically valuable. In the most extreme case, where maximizing profits will place a government under threat, such activity will not coincide with maximizing social value, and would undermine the freedoms that these authors claim to value. Concerning less extreme cases, responsibilities will also apply, if we can take a page from the capabilities approach, developing Amartya Sen’s argument that, “we have to see individual freedom as a social commitment.”.
Keywords Business and Professional Ethics  Conference Proceedings  Social Science
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ISBN(s) 978-0-9763264-4-1
DOI iabsproc20061738
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