What does it mean to say that “business” has responsibilities?

Published by Jeannie R. Ferrell

Nov 21, 2022

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Corporate Responsibility: Compete for Money or Care for Social Matters?
As we began covering competition and market structure, I believe it is worth engaging in a Socratic debate on the core mission of corporations: is it making more money only or also having social responsibilities as well? How about if the two contradict each other? Which one shall come first?
Perhaps, no article attracted more attention on this matter than the one written by Milton Friedman 50 years ago. Below, I would like you to read Friedman’s original article in its totality first. Then, you shall read recent discussions on the article. Once you do that, I want to know your position on this matter. Do you agree with Friedman or his opponents? Why?
A Friedman doctrine‐- The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits
By Milton Friedman Sept. 13, 1970
WHEN I hear businessmen speak eloquently about the “social responsibilities of business in a free‐enterprise system,” I am reminded of the wonderful line about the Frenchman who discovered at, the age of 70 that he had been speaking prose all his life. The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit but also with promoting desirable “social” ends; that business has a “social conscience” and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers. In fact they are—or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously— preaching pure and unadulterated socialism. Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.
The discussions of the “social responsibilities of business” are notable for their analytical looseness and lack of rigor. What does it mean to say that “business” has responsibilities? Only people can have responsibilities. A corporation is an artificial person and in this sense may have artificial responsibilities, but “business” as a whole cannot be said to have responsibilities, even in this vague sense. The first step toward clarity in examining the doctrine of the social responsibility of business is to ask precisely what it implies for whom.
Presumably, the individuals who are to be responsible are businessmen, which means individual proprietors or corporate executives. Most of the discussion of social responsibility is directed at corporations, so in what follows I shall mostly neglect the individual proprietor and speak of corporate executives.
IN a free‐enterprise, private‐property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom. Of course, in some cases his employers may have a different objective. A group of persons might establish a corporation for an eleemosynary purpose—for example, a hospital or school. The manager of such a corporation will not have money profit as his objective but the rendering of certain services.
In either case, the key point is that, in his capacity as a corporate executive, the manager is the agent of the individuals who own the corporation or establish the eleemosynary institution, and his primary responsibility is to them.
Needless to say, this does not mean that it is easy to judge how well he is performing his task. But at least the criterion of performance is straightforward, and the persons among whom a voluntary contractual arrangement exists are clearly defined.
Of course, the corporate executive is also a person in his own right. As a person, he may have many other responsibilities that he recognizes or assumes voluntarily—to his family, his conscience, his feelings of charity, his church, his clubs, his city, his country. He may feel impelled by these responsibilities to devote part of his income to causes he regards as worthy, to refuse to work for particular corporations, even to leave his job, for example, to join his country’s armed forces. If we wish, we may refer to some of these responsibilities as “social responsibilities.” But in these respects he is acting as a principal, not an agent; he is spending his own money or time or energy, not the money of his employers or the time or energy he has contracted to devote to their purposes. If these are “social responsibilities,” they are the social responsibilities of individuals, not of business.
What does it mean to say that the corporate executive has a “social responsibility” in his capacity as businessman? If this statement is not pure rhetoric, it must mean that he is to act in some way that is not in the interest of his employers. For example, that he is to refrain from increasing the price of the product in order to contribute to the social objective of preventing inflation, even though a price increase would be in the best interests of the corporation. Or that he is to make expenditures on reducing pollution beyond the amount that is in the best interests of the corporation or that is required by law in order to contribute to the social objective of improving the environment. Or that, at the expense of corporate profits, he is to hire “hard core” unemployed instead of better qualified available workmen to contribute to the social objective of reducing poverty.
In each of these cases, the corporate executive would be spending someone else’s money for a general social interest. Insofar as his actions in accord with his “social responsibility” reduce returns to stock holders, he is spending their money. Insofar as his actions raise the price to customers, he is spending the customers’ money. Insofar as his actions lower the wages of some employees, he is spending their money.
The stockholders or the customers or the employees could separately spend their own money on the particular action if they wished to do so. The executive is exercising a distinct “social responsibility,” rather than serving as an agent of the stockholders or the customers or the employees, only if he spends the money in a different way than they would have spent it.
But if he does this, he is in effect imposing taxes, on the one hand, and deciding how the tax proceeds shall be spent, on the other.
This process raises political questions on two levels: principle and consequences. On the level of political principle, the imposition of taxes and the expenditure of tax proceeds are governmental functions. We have established elaborate constitutional, parliamentary and judicial provisions to control these functions, to assure that taxes are imposed so far as possible in accordance with the preferences and desires of the public— after all, “taxation without representation” was one of the battle cries of the American Revolution. We have a system of checks and balances to separate the legislative function of imposing taxes and enacting expenditures from the executive function of collecting taxes and administering expenditure programs and from the judicial function of mediating disputes and interpreting the law.
Here the businessman—self‐selected or appointed directly or indirectly by stockholders—is to be simultaneously legislator, executive and jurist. He is to decide whom to tax by how much and for what purpose, and he is to spend the proceeds—all this guided only by general exhortations from on high to restrain inflation, improve the environment, fight poverty and so on and on.
The whole justification for permitting the corporate executive to be selected by the stockholders is that the executive is an agent serving the interests of his principal. This justification disappears when the corporate executive imposes taxes and spends the proceeds for “social” purposes. He becomes in effect a public employee, a civil servant, even though he remains in name an employee of private enterprise. On grounds of political principle, it is intolerable that such civil servants—insofar as their actions in the name of social responsibility are real and not just window‐dressing—should be selected as they are now. If they are to be civil servants, then they must be selected through a political process. If they are to impose taxes and make expenditures to foster “social” objectives, then political machinery must be set up to guide the assessment of taxes and to determine through a political process the objectives to be served.
This is the basic reason why the doctrine of “social responsibility” involves the acceptance of the socialist view that political mechanisms, not market mechanisms, are the appropriate way to determine the allocation of scarce resources to alternative uses.
ON the grounds of consequences, can the corporate executive in fact discharge his alleged “social responsibilities”? On the one hand, suppose he could get away with spending the stockholders’ or customers’ or employees’ money. How is he to know how to spend it? He is told that he must contribute to fighting inflation. How is he to know what action of his will contribute to that end? He is presumably an expert in running his company—in producing a product or selling it or financing it. But nothing about his selection makes him an expert on inflation. Will his holding down the price of his product reduce inflationary pressure? Or, by leaving more spending power in the hands of his customers, simply divert it elsewhere? Or, by forcing him to produce less because of the lower price, will it simply contribute to shortages? Even if he could answer these questions, how much cost is he justified in imposing on his stockholders, customers and employees for this social purpose? What is his appropriate share and what is the appropriate share of others?
And, whether he wants to or not, can he get away with spending his stockholders, customers’ or employees’ money? Will not the stockholders fire him? (Either the present ones or those who take over when his actions in the name of social responsibility have reduced the corporation’s profits and the price of its stock.) His customers and his employees can desert him for other producers and employers less scrupulous in exercising their social responsibilities.
This facet of “social responsibility” doctrine is brought into sharp relief when the doctrine is used to justify wage restraint by trade unions. The conflict of interest is naked and clear when union officials are asked to subordinate the interest of their members to some more general social purpose. If the union officials try to enforce wage restraint, the consequence is likely to be wildcat strikes, rank‐and‐file revolts and the emergence of strong competitors for their jobs. We thus have the ironic phenomenon that union leaders—at least in the U.S. —have objected to Government interference with the market far more consistently and courageously than have business leaders.
The difficulty of exercising “social responsibility” illustrates, of course, the great virtue of private competitive enterprise — it forces people to be responsible for their own actions and makes it difficult for them to “exploit” other people for either selfish or unselfish purposes. They can do good—but only at their own expense.
Many a reader who has followed the argument this far may be tempted to remonstrate that it is all well and good to speak of government’s having the responsibility to impose taxes and determine expenditures for such “social” purposes as controlling pollution or training the hard‐core unemployed, but that the problems are too urgent to wait on the slow course of political processes, that the exercise of social responsibility by businessmen is a quicker and surer way to solve pressing current problems.
Aside from the question of fact—I share Adam Smith’s skepticism about the benefits that can be expected from “those who affected to trade for the public good”—this argument must be rejected on grounds of principle. What it amounts to is an assertion that those who favor the taxes and expenditures in question have failed to persuade a majority of their fellow citizens to be of like mind and that they are seeking to attain by undemocratic procedures what they cannot attain by democratic procedures. In a free society, it is hard for “good” people to do “good,” but that is a small price to pay for making it hard for “evil” people to do “evil,” especially since one man’s good is anther’s evil.
I HAVE, for simplicity, concentrated on the special case of the corporate executive, except only for the brief digression on trade unions. But precisely the same argument applies to the newer phenomenon of calling upon stockholders to require corporations to exercise social responsibility (the recent G.M. crusade, for example). In most of these cases, what is in effect involved is some stockholders trying to get other stockholders (or customers or employees) to contribute against their will to “social” causes favored by the activists. Insofar as they succeed, they are again imposing taxes and spending the proceeds.
The situation of the individual proprietor is somewhat different. If he acts to reduce the returns of his enterprise in order to exercise his “social responsibility,” he is spending his own money, not someone else’s. If he wishes to spend his money on such purposes, that is his right, and I cannot see that there is any objection to his doing so. In the process, he, too, may impose costs on employees and customers. However, because he is far less likely than a large corporation or union to have monopolistic power, any such side effects will tend to be minor.
Of course, in practice the doctrine of social responsibility is frequently a cloak for actions that are justified on other grounds rather than a reason for those actions.
To illustrate, it may well be in the long‐run interest of a corporation that is a major employer in a small community to devote resources to providing amenities to that community or to improving its government. That may make it easier to at tract desirable employees, it may reduce the wage bill or lessen losses from pilferage and sabotage or have other worthwhile effects. Or it may be that, given the laws about the deductibility of corporate charitable contributions, the stockholders can contribute more to charities they favor by having the corporation make the gift than by doing it themselves, since they can in that way contribute an amount that would otherwise have been paid as corporate taxes.
In each of these—and many similar—cases, there is a strong temptation to rationalize these actions as an exercise of “social responsibility.” In the present climate of opinion, with its widespread aversion to “capitalism,” “profits,” the “soulless corporation” and so on, this is one way for a corporation to generate goodwill as a by‐product of expenditures that are entirely justified in its own self‐interest.
It would be inconsistent of me to call on corporate executives to refrain from this hypocritical window dressing because it harms the foundations of a free society. That would be to call on them to exercise “social responsibility”! If our institutions, and the attitudes of the public make it in their self‐interest to cloak their actions in this way, cannot summon much indignation to denounce them. At the same time, can express admiration for those in dividual proprietors or owners of closely held corporations or stock holders of more broadly held corporations who disdain such tactics as approaching fraud.
WHETHER blameworthy or not, the use of the cloak of social responsibility, and the nonsense spoken in its name by influential and prestigious businessmen, does clearly harm the foundations of a free society. I have been impressed time and again by the schizophrenic character of many businessmen. They are capable of being extremely far‐sighted and clear‐headed in matters that are internal to their businesses. They are incredibly short sighted and muddle‐headed in mat ters that are outside their businesses but affect the possible survival of business in general. This short sightedness is strikingly exemplified in the calls from many businessmen for wage and price guidelines or controls or incomes policies. There is nothing that could do more in a brief period to destroy a market system and replace it by a centrally controlled system than effective governmental control of prices and wages.
The short‐sightedness is also exemplified in speeches by businessmen on social responsibility. This may gain them kudos in the short run. But it helps to strengthen the already too prevalent view that the pursuit of profits is wicked and am moral and must be curbed and controlled by external forces. Once this view is adopted, the external forces that curb the market will not be the social consciences, however highly developed, of the pontificating executives; it will be the iron fist of Government bureaucrats. Here, as with price and wage controls, businessmen seem to me to reveal a suicidal impulse.
The political principle that under lies the market mechanism is unanimity. In an ideal free market resting on private property, no individual can coerce any other, all cooperation is voluntary, all parties to such cooperation benefit or they need not participate. There are no “social” values, no “social” responsibilities in any sense other than the shared values and responsibilities of individuals. Society is a collection of individuals and of the various groups they voluntarily form.
The political principle that under lies the political mechanism is conformity. The individual must serve more general social interest— whether that be determined by church or a dictator or a majority. The individual may have a vote and a say in what is to be done, but if he is overruled, he must conform. It is appropriate for some to require others to contribute to a general social purpose whether they wish to or not.
Unfortunately, unanimity is not always feasible. There are some respects in which conformity appears unavoidable, so I do not see how one can avoid the use of the political Mechanism altogether.
But the doctrine of “social responsibility” taken seriously would extend the scope of the political mechanism to every human activity. It does not differ in philosophy from the most explicitly collectivist doctrine. It differs only by professing to believe that collectivist ends can be attained without collectivist means. That is why, in my book “Capitalism and Freedom,” I have called it a “fundamentally subversive doctrine” in a free society, and have said that in such a society, “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 fraud.”
Source: https://www.nytimes.com/1970/09/13/archives/a-friedman-doctrine-the-social-responsibility-of-business-is-to.html
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A Free Market Manifesto That Changed the World, Reconsidered
Milton Friedman’s libertarian economics influenced presidents and inspired “greed is good.” So what did Friedman get right — and wrong? Today’s business leaders and economists weigh in.
MARC BENIOFF, chief executive of Salesforce
I’ll never forget reading Friedman’s essay when I was in business school in the 1980s. It influenced — I’d say brainwashed — a generation of C.E.O.s who believed that the only business of business is business. The headline said it all. Our sole responsibility to society? Make money. The communities beyond the corporate campus? Not our problem.
I didn’t agree with Friedman then, and the decades since have only exposed his myopia. Just look where the obsession with maximizing profits for shareholders has brought us: terrible economic, racial and health inequalities; the catastrophe of climate change. It’s no wonder that so many young people now believe that capitalism can’t deliver the equal, inclusive, sustainable future they want. It’s time for a new kind of capitalism — stakeholder capitalism, which recognizes that our companies have a responsibility to all our stakeholders. Yes, that includes shareholders, but also our employees, customers, communities and the planet.

HOWARD SCHULTZ, emeritus chairman of Starbucks
I’ve asked this question since opening my first coffee shop in 1986. My answer, a rebuke of Friedman’s single-minded focus on profits, appeared in our company’s original mission statement: “We wish to be an economic, intellectual and social asset in communities where we operate.” We would do this not at the expense of profits, but to grow them.
Starbucks’s initiatives included providing part-time baristas with health care and tuition-free college education; volunteering in neighborhoods; talking openly about racism; and helping impoverished youth find first jobs. The ethos fueling such efforts — that companies have a responsibility to enhance the societies in which they flourish — was integral to Starbucks’s ability to employ great people and attract customers, which in turn drove a 21,826 percent return to shareholders between 1992 and 2018, the year I stepped down as executive chairman.
….
ALEX GORSKY, chief executive of Johnson & Johnson
Friedman is owed respect for his analysis, but this highlights the ways in which investors and society have evolved over 50 years. Employees care about how companies function. Many of them are also a company’s shareholders, and they are calling on leadership to take action on societal issues.
In 1943, as Johnson & Johnson prepared for its initial public offering, Robert Wood Johnson made clear our responsibilities as a corporation: first to the patients, doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers and others who use our products and services, then to our customers and business partners, our employees and our communities. And, finally, to our shareholders. We are fortunate in having long had shareholders who have valued this balancing of interests. Now markets increasingly comprise such shareholders. Our performance over generations, when the life of an S&P 500 company now averages less than 20 years, is a testament that companies need not choose between service to a broad group of stakeholders and generating long-term financial value for shareholders. Revisiting this essay is a welcome exercise, and a reminder of the importance of self-scrutiny.
MARIANNE BERTRAND, professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
The shareholder-primacy view of the corporation — which gives little voice to the workers, customers and communities that are impacted by corporate decisions — has been the modus operandi of United States capitalism. Why did this view become so dominant? One rationale was a practical one. Rather than being asked to balance multiple, often conflicting, interests among stakeholders, the manager is given a simple objective function. More important, though, was the naïve belief, dominant in the Chicago school at the time, that what is good for shareholders is good for society — a belief that rested on the assumption of perfectly functioning markets. Unfortunately, such perfect markets exist only in economics textbooks.
To be fair, Friedman was most likely well aware of this shaky premise. This is probably why he writes “make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society,” rather than “make as much money as possible, period.” The idea is that laws will be written to fix the many market imperfections, laws that would help realign profit maximization with social welfare.
Yet we clearly don’t have these “correcting” laws. Weak antitrust enforcement has led to monopsonistic power in the labor market, squeezing workers’ wages; polluting activities remain broadly untaxed, ravaging our planet. The government should be passing laws to discipline profit-maximization behavior, but too many lawmakers have themselves become the employees of the shareholders — their electoral success tied to campaign contributions and other forms of deep-pocketed support.
OLIVER HART, professor of economics at Harvard University, was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2016
Friedman argued that companies should focus on making money and leave ethical issues to individuals and government. One good example is charity: Rather than making a charitable contribution, wouldn’t it be better for a company to increase its dividend and let shareholders give to their own favorite charities?
The charity logic is compelling but not universally applicable. Consider a retailer that profitably sells military-style rifles in its stores. Suppose you are a shareholder and you favor fewer guns. Would you support the current business strategy on the grounds that you can use your increased dividend to promote gun safety? Most likely not: You might instead prefer the company not to sell military-style rifles at all and use your influence as a shareholder to advocate in favor of this policy shift.
The difference between the charity example and the rifle one is that companies do not have a comparative advantage in giving to charity, whereas a retailer may have a comparative advantage in reducing gun availability. The Friedman doctrine therefore needs modification. Instead of assuming that shareholders always want more money, companies should ask them if they are willing to sacrifice some profit in exchange for the pursuit of environmental and social goals. Incorporating their wishes in decision-making could increase shareholder welfare — not just wealth — and also improve the world.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ, professor of economics at Columbia University, was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2001
Friedman’s essay and his other writings on this subject were, unfortunately, enormously influential. They helped change not only the mind-set of the business community but also laws and norms on corporate governance. Courts have ruled that firms are obligated to maximize profits and shareholder value, to the exclusion of other objectives. In short, Friedman, through his various writings, promoted the idea of “shareholder capitalism,” in which the sole objective of corporations is to maximize the welfare of their shareholders. He didn’t originate the idea, of course, and if it hadn’t reflected the zeitgeist of the time, his arguments would have fallen on deaf ears.
By the time he wrote this essay, Friedman, who had done distinguished analytic and empirical work in economics, had become largely a conservative ideologue. I gave a talk at the University of Chicago around this time, presenting an early version of my research establishing that in the presence of imperfect risk markets and incomplete information — that is, always — firms pursuing profit maximization did not lead to the maximization of societal welfare. I explained what was wrong with Adam Smith’s invisible-hand conjecture, which said that the pursuit of self-interest would lead, as if by an invisible hand, to the well-being of society. During the seminar, and in extensive conversations afterward, Friedman simply couldn’t or wouldn’t accept the result; but neither, of course, could he refute the analysis — it has been a half-century, and my analysis has stood the test of time. His conclusion, as influential as it was, has not.
The absurdity of his analysis is seen most clearly by an example. Assume, in our imperfect democracy, that coal-mining companies use campaign contributions to block laws restricting pollution. Assume you’re a manager of one of the host of other companies that could spend a little bit of money to reduce pollution. You care about your children, your family, your community, but also about your business. Would you be irresponsible, as Friedman suggests, to curb your company’s pollution, because in doing so you reduce its profits? Would it be irresponsible for you to persuade others in your industry to do the same, even if you weren’t able to persuade Congress to pass a bill to compel you to do so? I think not. If you and others like you acted in this manner, societal welfare would be increased.
Friedman’s position is based on a misconception of both economics and the democratic political process. Yes, in an ideal world, Congress would pass legislation to ensure that one way or another private returns and social returns to any corporate activity were perfectly aligned. But in a democracy where money matters — clearly true in this country — it is in the private interest of corporations to do what they can to make sure that the rules of the game serve their interests and not the interests of the public at large. And they often succeed.
KEN LANGONE, a founder of Home Depot and the author of “I Love Capitalism!”
Here’s the most misunderstood among Friedman’s many deep insights — a company can make good-will expenditures “that are entirely justified in its own self-interest.” I see that as an extension of the most fundamental truth in capitalism, that in any voluntary exchange both parties benefit.
At Home Depot, the company that I co-founded in 1978, we pay starting permanent workers much more than federal minimum wage, with top-notch benefits and advancement. That’s good for employees, and it’s good for the company. Suppliers of ours should finish a sale feeling they got just as uplifting a deal out of it as we did. Every customer should leave our store confident he or she was served the product needed at the optimal price.
That’s also why, when there is consensus at Home Depot to lend a hand with our expertise, we say yes. We do outreach with returning military veterans, and our thousands of ex-military employees know how to forge those bonds, and it strengthens our culture. Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, we brought generators, wiring, lighting and loads of other essential supplies to help rescue workers at ground zero. We do the same after hurricanes and floods. Our employees take heartfelt pride that we use our Home Depot know-how and apply it when our country is in need.
What do these widely varied practices have in common? They each enhance the company’s profitability in their own way. Employees are more productive when they are treated generously and their work has meaning. Customers and suppliers build stronger relationships with us because they know it’s based on trust. Helping out after disasters shows the whole community that Home Depot knows how to solve repair problems quickly.
But if we ignore Friedman’s crystalline perception — that profits are the driving focus — then the entire mission, good will included, falls apart. When we turn the idea of profit into a callous slur, as Friedman’s laziest critics often do, we are demeaning the essential propelling force that enables all these interconnected good works to occur.
After more than 50 years of investing, I have seen the business roadside littered with the wrecks of companies that lost sight of their core purpose, even as they held pure altruism as a goal for its own sake. Eastman Kodak was once a sparkling business success story, a homegrown company listed in the Dow 30 with enormous market capitalization. It also poured money by the bucketful on a laundry list of charitable works, much of it in upstate New York, where Eastman Kodak was known as a “sugar daddy” firm.
Eventually, the company lost focus, and a number of factors converged to bring about its downfall. When competitors began innovating, Kodak lacked the dexterity and the strategic initiative to keep up. It was delisted from the Dow in 2004 and went bankrupt in 2012. The charitable giving has dried up. Thousands of workers lost their jobs. Investors’ money evaporated. And upstate New York is now one of the most economically distressed regions in our country.

THEA LEE and JOSH BIVENS, president and director of research at the Economic Policy Institute
This is the foundation of Friedman’s worldview: that the ability to coerce — power — is not exercised in free markets. But Friedman’s clean division between power-free markets and power-laden politics is a fiction. Every market is a social and political construct, shaped by lobbying, political influence and the spending of business associations. Does the fact that power is exercised in key markets mean that social goals should be pursued by pleading with corporate executives to do good? Not really — on this we agree with Friedman. Instead, we should use politics and policy, not appeals to C.E.O.s’ consciences, to counterbalance power and achieve a decent society.
RUSS ROBERTS, research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution
The word “competition” appears only once in Friedman’s essay and only in the last sentence. Yet Friedman’s view of competition underlies much of his argument. Because he believed that businesses should pursue profit rather than something loftier, people often assume Friedman was “pro-business.” He adamantly rejected that notion. Friedman was pro-market: Businesses should be subject to competition. Businesses that treated their workers and customers well would survive the competitive process. Poor performers would lose customers and workers and eventually go out of business.
Friedman would often point out the oddity that so-called capitalists — business leaders — were often anticapitalist: They much preferred to be insulated from the competition of free markets. They would lobby for tariffs and quotas to keep out international competitors and argue that their industry required special treatment such as subsidies — policies that Friedman relentlessly criticized.
But doesn’t encouraging the pursuit of profit give businesses a moral license to exploit workers and customers? Friedman feared the opposite: that softening the pursuit of profit would take away the power of competition to push business to improve their performance as employers and as innovators.
America’s relatively eager embrace of markets and competition creates prosperity. Like many observers today, Friedman wanted prosperity to be even more widespread. But as his essay argues, he didn’t think businesses should pay higher wages as a social imperative. Instead, he argued for educational reform that would give children raised in poverty the skills to be more productive in a market system.

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