Corporate Social Responsibility

Hugh Pavletch has sent me this exchange on ‘corporate social responsibility’. The two parties arguing the standard Friedman case against CSR (one of them is Friedman) are much less interesting than the party arguing the case for – John Mackey. That’s not because Friedman et al are necessarily wrong, but because what they say is pretty straightforward.

I don’t know if the publisher, Reason Magazine – whose slogan is “Free Minds and Free Markets) – intended it this way, but John Mackey arguing in favour of CSR (though not for imposing it on businesses) wins the argument hands down when he gets to compare his own financial results to the financial results of the Friedmanite.

Of course the anti-CSR crowd can quickly jump in and say “See, its not CSR at all, it’s just good PR and good marketing.” Maybe, but that’s a little glib. Read the article and see what you think. I’m not too sure what I think, but I certainly like John Mackey more than his opponent T.J. Rodgers.

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Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2021 years ago

TJ Rodgers is in many respects an admirable character -there was an interview with him in Reason a few years ago – but he hasn’t quite yet purged Ayn Rand from his system.

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

A tantalizing comment Jason – you obviously know more about these guys than me. More please?

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2021 years ago

Interview with TJ Rodgers here
http://reason.com/rodgersint.shtml

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

Sorry Jason,

I was mixing the two up. Rogers didn’t strike me as having anything of any interest to say. I thought you were talking about the other guy.

Vee
Vee
2021 years ago

I’ve read enough Friedman to know he’s usually wrong and has no conscience.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Thomas Friedman and Milton Friedman are different blokes.

derrida derider
derrida derider
2021 years ago

Of course the anti-CSR crowd can quickly jump in and say “See, its not CSR at all, it’s just good PR and good marketing.” Maybe, but that’s a little glib.

Yes, it’s glib – but why is it not true? There is no such thing as a Fallacy of Glibness.

Vee
Vee
2021 years ago

Thomas is the journalist for NYT isn’t he?

Milton is whom I was referring too.

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

DD.

Fallacy no. But there are other values.

As Oscar Wilde said to Bosie – “The supreme vice is shallowness”. The reason I don’t think it’s particularly helpful would take a more substantial post than I have time for. But suffice it to say that redefining what you see in terms of your axioms doesn’t strike me as particularly helpful or interesting.

The thing is that John Mackey is trying to harness more social aspects of human beings than simple profit seeking. He deliberately blurs distinctions (which, though it will horrify some people on this blog, I think can be a constructive thing to do).

In this case I think Mackey is suggesting that he wants to ‘make a difference’ and that he’d want to do some of it even if it impeded profit to some extent. However he doesn’t ever have to get to that stage because when one thinks creatively, there are so many things one can do that improve the world (even at some short term cost to profit) but which turn out to increase profit in the long run.

Since his firm is still in the space where social instincts and long run private profit co-incide Mackey is jumping up and down saying that. I realise DD that this won’t convince you, but to even try to get a bit further would be a big post. It’s coming yet, but God knows when. In the meantime, I invite you to reflect on the fact that the energy in the discussion in Reason is all in pushing the discussion into well worn intellectual grooves, rather than exploring the more territory that Mackey has opened up.

Like I say, I’m with Wilde. The supreme vice is shallowness.