Richard Epstein takes a look at ‘social responsibility’ investing:
‘In September 1970, the late Milton Friedman published a bold manifesto entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” in the New York Times Magazine, where he argued that businesses do not need to engage in various charitable or public-spirited activities, even those that generally meet with approval from shareholders. The best defense of the Friedman thesis is that any discrete corporate effort to advance collateral ends will not enjoy the unanimous consent of all corporate shareholders, so that the contribution operates like an implicit tax on dissenting shareholders. The better track is for the corporation to make the shareholders rich, so that they in turn can embark on their own charitable operations, without having to bind their fellow shareholders.’
I’d argue that more people nowadays are feeling social pressure to seek purpose, membership in a group, to do what everyone else is doing, be or be thought a ‘good’ person through their investments, and reacting accordingly. There’s an underlying collectivism in the idea of wearing your commitments on your sleeve this way.
Or, at least, this underlying collectivism puts upward pressure upon companies and corporations to appear ‘socially responsible’ whatever their aims, and in fact pretty much every advertising campaign nowadays seems to be making some nod to climate change, helping the poor, making a difference etc.
Peter Suderman at Reason on ‘optics’:
‘So the short version is this: The administration had evidence indicating that a young advance team member, who was also the child of a lobbyist-and-donor-turned-administration-staffer, was involved in a potentially embarrassing incident with a prostitute while serving as a member of the presidential advance team—and yet explicitly denied that this was the case, and also appears to have pressured independent investigators to delay and withhold evidence until after the election was over.’
Original piece at the Washington Post.