July 31st marks the 102nd anniversary of Milton Friedman’s birthday and I’m wondering if we really still believe that the social responsibility of business is solely to increase profits. Were we ever that insensitive to others? Has the Chicago school of economics had any other thoughts since his essay spawned an evangelical like attempt at a neo-conservative, free market like approach? As Chesterton said he had nothing against the free market it was just that it hadn’t been tried yet.
Reagan and Thatcher seemed to agree with Milton about the pros of the marketization of the other through our globalized economy. They weren’t too concerned with many cons, because, after all, the market would sort them out in the long run. The polarization that grew out of these Friedmanesque like notions seems to be getting worse. The gap increases and we redefine segregation. The statistics suggest that the rich are getting richer and the poor are not even holding up the status quo. There is no status quo. The miracle of the middle class is not appearing as some might like to argue. It’s the middling of the middle. Some are raising themselves out of poverty to be sure and this must be celebrated. But they are not seeing the same benefits as the elite and privileged few in many parts of the world.
A truly free marketplace would result in serious changes, challenges and maybe even have tragic global consequences. Power and politics loom large when it comes to the push and pull of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. We didn’t need an introduction to J.P. Morgan Chase and their two billion dollar screw up to figure that out. “The system,” Wilde confessed, “seems almost to have for its aim the wrecking and destruction of the mental faculties. The production of insanity is, if not its object, certainly its result.”Oscar was as insightful as a Lehman Brothers auditor. Either/or rarely works. Look what black/white has done for us. Where’s the other in this discussion? I say we temporarily abandon empirical logic of straight lines, quantification and mathematics. What about relationship? We humans, or at least many of us, take a back seat as self interest grows as quickly as does obscene wealth and entitlement. Intentional insularity digs us deeper into a global vacuum as we are consistently reminded that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Grace is indeed gone.
Is there a way to offset the ever obsessive market of unfettered greed as we spend our resources using a market that is everywhere in chains?
It’s time for those involved in the dialogue to get together and struggle through the same issues, around the same table, with the same goal in mind.
Now that’s a party worth attending. Those are candles I would happily light one by one.
Maybe 102 years from now we’ll really have something to celebrate.
First Published on Taking It Global – May 2014