The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Strategic CSR - David Friedman

Earlier this year I came across the work of David D. Friedman (son of Milton Friedman). He is a proponent of “anarcho-capitalism,” which is defined on Friedman’s Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_D._Friedman) as:

[A system] where all goods and services including law itself can be produced by the free market. … Friedman advocates an incrementalist approach to achieve anarcho-capitalism by gradual privatization of areas that government is involved in, ultimately privatizing law and order itself. … Friedman's version of individualist anarchism is not based on the assumption of inviolable natural rights but rather rests on a cost-benefit analysis of state versus no state.

Intellectually, I find his ideas interesting, in the same way that a pure version of Communism is an interesting thought-experiment. The practical application of these ideas, however, seems less obvious. In addition, he has adopted his father’s antipathy for CSR (or, at least, what he defines as CSR), which suggests little prospect of reconciliation:

“…my university is big on "sustainability;" it has just been having an extended event designed to boost the idea. I responded to an email urging faculty members to introduce sustainability into one of their classes by asking if it was all right if I argued against it in mine, and suggesting that a program which consisted entirely of presentations on one side of an issue looked more like propaganda than education.

Friedman is correct, of course, that any program that presents only one side of a story is tantamount to propaganda and any university should feel confident enough to allow a professor to teach an anti-CSR course—you could title it ‘Introduction to Economics’ (J).

Friedman’s conceptualization of CSR (also like his father’s), however, appears somewhat simplistic (see his blog posting criticizing the value of pursuing sustainability at: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2011/04/david_friedman_7.html). In Strategic CSR, we raise and address the anti-CSR argument in Chapter 3 (p53), drawing heavily on the work of David Friedman’s father!