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Why Milton Friedman Could Love Social Entrepreneurship

Lou Pizante

This past weekend marked 43 years since economist Milton Friedman first wrote his blockbuster article, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” To this day, it remains a source of fevered debate. Supporters argue the business of business is, well, business. Detractors claim capitalists have a responsibility to use profit to improve society. But Friedman himself hinted at a third way -- a manner in which we could envision private enterprise that served a public good.

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  • Ben Goldhirsh

    good'ol friedman. I figure you for a Keynes man, Lou. In all seriousness, I think this is a big and important discussion. i do think business inherently drives value for society in that society is implying the value of the product through its consumption. That said, I think there are a number of challenges to this perspective - a) people can market their way to a need that might not have authentic footing, and b) the process of responding to a need (authentic or not) might drive negative value to society (employee treatment, supply chain, waste). On the former, I trust members in the market are smart. On the latter, and this is why Citizens United is so dumb, is that it is the responsibility of government to provide the regulations to ensure that activity meets the standards we need for our community to thrive. In the absence of this reality, we need the market to not only look at what's needed, but also to demands standards of behavior. B-LAB is starting to provide accountable guidance by measuring a wholistic set of impact metrics for businesses that opt in to this evaluation. This is an awesome start. We need all businesses to take this path or we need government to digest such standards and lift the floor for all participants.