Let’s Rethink Commerce: Survival of the Fittest or Shared Fate?

According to Milton Friedman, professor of economics at the University of Chicago business school:

“There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits, so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

The billionaire capitalist Malcolm Forbes, founder of the Forbes Magazine publishing empire, agreed with Friedman. Forbes put it even more simply:

“The only sin in business is not making a profit.”

A century earlier, the legendary robber baron John D. Rockefeller had shown the way to fabulous riches in the oil business by amassing capacity and exterminating his smaller rivals. He expressed his philosophy in equally blunt terms:

“The day of combination [monopolies, mergers, acquisitions, and trusts] is here to stay. Individualism has gone, never to return. Competition is a sin. The American Beauty Rose can be produced in the splendor and fragrance which bring cheer to its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow up around it. This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely the working-out of a law of nature and a law of God.”

Before we take up the question of whether, how, and how much to rein in corporate expansionism, let’s pause to acknowledge a very big truth:

The corporation, as an economic entity,
probably surpasses all other human inventions
in terms of the benefits it has brought to modern societies.