Why does Milton Friedman believe that the only “social responsibility” businesses have is to increase their profits?

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1.  Why does Milton Friedman believe that the only “social responsibility” businesses have is to increase their profits?  What exactly is his reasoning here?  Do you agree?  Explain.

2.  In his essay, R. Edward Freeman defends a “stakeholder” view of corporate responsibility.  He defends this view with respect to a few different kinds of stakeholder.  First, briefly describe what a “stakeholder” is.  Then, consider just one of the specific arguments Freeman makes about different groups of stakeholders.  Do you agree with him that businesses have responsibilities towards these stakeholders?  Briefly explain.

3.  Summarize Bakan’s argument in Chapter 2 of The Corporation.  Do you agree with him?  Further, consider the example of “Mark Barry” discussed towards the end of the chapter.  Do you think that he is *just* as responsible for the things he does on the job as he would be if he did these things on his own time?  Does the company he works for bear any responsibility, as you see it, for the ethically questionable things he does on a regular basis?  Briefly explain.



1.  What exactly does “estranged labor” mean, for Marx?  The concept of “estranged labor” is more often translated as “alienated labor.”  What is one important way in which modern industrial work “alienates” workers – and what does it alienate them *from*?  Briefly explain, using at least one citation from the Marx reading.

2.  Dan Swain, in the midst of explaining Marx’s idea of estranged (or “alienated”) labor, spends a brief chapter expounding the Marxist idea of “commodity fetishism.”  Briefly explain what this concept is supposed to mean, and provide an example of your own.  What, if anything, is the connection between alienated labor and commodity fetishism?

3.  In the chapter “Work, Leisure, and Full Engagement” Matthew Crawford criticizes Marx’s conception of alienated labor.  What specifically is his point of disagreement with Marx?  With whom do you agree more on this point, and why?

PHL309: Business Ethics

Midterm Paper

Please write a 3-4 page paper (double-spaced, 12-point font, no more than 1.25” margins) in

response to one (1) of the following questions, and upload it to D2L in either Word or PDF

format. (You can access the assignment link by clicking “Activities” and selecting

“Assignments.”) Your paper will be graded based on clarity, focus, engagement with the

relevant texts and themes, evidence of original thinking, and the overall quality of the

writing. For more (including a grading rubric), please see the documents contained in the

“Midterm Prompt and Related Materials” module of course content.

Note: you are free to use whatever format for citations (Chicago, MLA, APA, etc.) you like, so

long as you provide some form of citation for all quotations, and (preferably) all major ideas

that are taken from a text and paraphrased, even if they are not directly quoted. You do not

need to provide a separate “Works Cited” page or bibliography; footnotes or endnotes work

fine. Likewise, if you are only referring to one text, you can use parenthetical page

references. For PowerPoint presentations posted by me to D2L, just cite my name, the

PowerPoint title, and the frame being quoted or cited. If you have further questions, don’t

hesitate to email me.

1. Build on your response to RRP 1 on corporate social responsibility by combining your

two answers as a single topic. For example, if you chose to write on questions 1 and 3,

you could discuss the similarities and differences between Friedman and Bakan,

and/or discuss what you think Friedman might say about the example of Mark Barry

in Bakan’s book, what his reasons might be, and what you think about it. Or you

could seek to show that Friedman (and/or Bakan) demonstrates the limitations in

Freeman’s “stakeholder theory.” Likewise, you could argue that Bakan fails to show

that a corporation cannot act fully in the interests of its stakeholders. (Etc.)

Whichever way you go with it, be sure to clarify what the issue is, what arguments

are made by the authors you’re discussing, and what your take on it is.

2. Pick a concrete example (of a commodity, a boycott, etc.) and argue that it shows the

benefits, or the limitations (or both!) of ethical consumerism. Be sure to explain in

your own words what ethical consumerism is, or is supposed to be. Your paper

should engage closely with at least one of the assigned readings for this unit.

3. Some argue that private property in land, including the materials that come from it

(wood, water, fruit and other edible plants, wild animals, etc.), is not only a man-

made invention, but unnatural and unjust, specifically on the grounds that nature has

existed since long before us, and does not come in parceled-out units, but rather, as

John Locke points out, is originally “given” to people (he says “men”) “in common” by

God. Nature doesn’t belong to anyone and nothing comes pre-packaged, so to speak,

in units that belong to this or that person, and so it is wrong for people to mark any of

it off as their own property as opposed to using it in common. Explain Locke’s

criticism of this argument. Do you agree with his view about the need for private

property? Why or why not? Explain, with reference to his argument (i.e. try to stay

close to the text and show you understand his argument, whether you agree or not).

You may also find it helpful to look over the relevant PowerPoint posted to D2L.

4. Adam Smith famously argues that a situation in which all individuals pursue their

own self-interest is not only acceptable, but is actually preferable to a situation in

which individuals explicitly and intentionally try to make society better and increase

social well-being. In other words, society is better off when everyone focuses on

pursuing their own self-interest. Explain his argument on this point in your own

words (again, try to stay close to the text), and then either argue in favor of this view

or against it. You may find it easier to do this if you focus on a particular example.

(Again, you may find the related PowerPoint helpful.)

5. Choose any one of the three questions that appear in RRP 4 (on the readings from

Marx, Swain, and Crawford) and write a paper in response to it. Your answer should

explain in your own words the concept of “alienated labor,” as it is discussed in any of

these writings and/or in class, and a concrete example of work: it could be making

something useful (as Swain discusses), or working in the service industry, or in

healthcare, or in an accounting firm, or as a coder, etc. (As with the question 1, if you

choose this one you are free to expand on what you wrote for the RRP, or say

something different – but either way your paper should be more developed and

focused than the answer you wrote for the RRP.)

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