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November 19, 2006


Mark Sofman

Too much of the discussion of CSR sounds like Humpty Dumpty in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I really don't think you make your case against what Friedman had to say about "corporate social responsibility." And I don't think Mason states a countervailing argument either - he strikes me as more in agreement with Friedman than you give credit for. First and foremost what Friedman was about is individual liberty, private property ownership and the freedom of contracts - what he said about what's called CSR these days was aimed at keeping government out of business decisionmaking. That's no less true nowadays for keeping organized political activists out of business decisionmaking.

Henry Manne, on today's WSJ Opinion Page (and opinonjournal.com) is pretty good on the topic. I commend the article to you for your consideration.

John Schneider

The beauty of the free market is that business if free to decide how it wants to conduct business, and consumers are free to patronize whatever businesses they see fit.
Ultimately, how business conducts business resides in the purchasing decisions of the consumers.


I think that, putting aside arguments over which philosophy should be written into business charters, that businesses will, for the most part, do the right thing - but only after every other possible option has been exhausted! (to paraphrase a quote by Winston Churchill about U.S. involvement in WWII).

I think there is a mix of what is more important here - consumer education will certainly shape demand, and consequently business activity. At the same time consumers are subject to business influences, and demand/desire what businesses promote and advertise. This sad example of industry influences is a case in point.

The current gradual 'awakening' of enviro-consciousness seems to have started a kind of waltz between between these two concepts.

Not wanting to appear self-promoting, but a recent blurb I put up on Levis is a good practical example of how demand from consumers can be insufficient for an industry turnaround, yet sufficent for both industry and consumers to work together for positive development.

Thanks for the very interesting article Joel.

the ecopreneur

I am not convinced by Henry Manne's op-ed (which inadequately considers market and legal failures that necessitate CSR), and have written about it here:


Susie Hewson

Green business practice is scalable, sustainable and profitable. The Corporate Social Responsibility of business does not need to be at the expense of profit, but philanthropy is surely at the heart of socialism. Where the sum of the efforts of workers contribute to the largest percentage of a companies success or failure, socialism as a guiding principle requires care for the people and for the environment in which we all live. For the most part, this is why the Green movement holds a candle to socialism, and Corportate responsibility is an adjunct to environmental responsibility. As a company founded on these two principles, product development began with environmental concerns as a starting point of primary consideration. The next part of the equation was profitability as an achievable value over time. Being an entreprenorial competitive private business, our philosophy has held for 17 years without failure. Perhaps companies that go public, should choose their shareholders more carefully, or better still, trade on a greener more ethical stock market!

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