"The Social Responsibility to Rent-Seek?"
Milton Friedman’s notion that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profit” is one with a large number of adherents.
It seems to me, however, that if taken seriously this is an attitude that’s curiously destructive of the underpinnings of the capitalist order. After all, this implies that a business executive has not only the right as a citizen of a democratic country but a moral obligation to dedicate his energy and that of the firm he manages toward erecting regulatory barriers to competition and to begging for bailouts and subsidies. The Friedman view is that an entrepreneur who’s obsessed with creating great products is not just in some loose sense a sucker compared to the one who’s more focused on creating a politically entrenched monopoly, but that he’s also guilty of some kind of ethical failing.
I think I need to re-read The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism but my point is basically that for the system to work you need some kind of thicker ethics than “greed is good.”