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The motivation here seems to have been making a greater profit from the sale of Pintos.If Ford was really more concerned with making some extra profit than they were with preventing their customers from dying in fires, then it seems that they had the wrong motivations in mind when they made the choice. After all, aren’t people more important than profits?Well, for a business, maybe not.The dominant view in business has been the Stockholder view. This view requites that businesses (and publicly-traded corporations in particular) have an obligation to increase profits for the benefit of stockholders. They don’t have an obligation to save lives or prevent deaths unless this is required by laws or it leads to greater profits. According to this view, the Ford Motor Company had a duty to follow the law, and they did not have any obligation to make the Pinto any safer than the law demanded.This seems a bit inconsiderate, but it has been the dogma of the business world for many, many years. How can business-people defend decisions which effectively sacrifice people’s lives for the sake of profits? Your next reading is a classic paper from Milton Friedman. In this paper, he will give an argument in favor of the dominant Stockholder view.The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits 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 Milton Friedman of business is to ask precisely what it implies for whom.