The Decision Of An Executive Using Corporate Assets For Social Policies Violates Shareholders ' Autonomy

The Decision Of An Executive Using Corporate Assets For Social Policies Violates Shareholders ' Autonomy

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Although Friedman never in the article uses the term “autonomy” in the article, it is clear that the act of an executive using corporate assets to contribute to social policies violates shareholders’ autonomy. In Kant’s Deontology, this would imply that the shareholders’ are being used as means to the end of a social good, which is a violation of the second formulation of the categorical imperative (Johnson, 2004). This is something that I concede to, but one of the primary issues that I have with the article stems from Friedman’s definition of those who are concerned with the actions of a business. According to Friedman, those who have primary interest in the corporation are solely its shareholders, none others (Marcoux, 2008). It makes sense under this light the autonomy of shareholders should be of consideration. However the actions of a corporation can often be far reaching, and will often affect more people than only the shareholders of the business.
Corporations do not operate within a vacuum. They participate in a world with a full range of moral meaning, and affect people who may not have financial assets invested in the company. For example, the United Fruit Company’s actions have had a significant impact on Latin America. Is it really accurate to say that if the United Fruit Company executives had violated their shareholder’s autonomy and not continued businesses practices that have harmed the autonomy of many individuals in Latin America, they should, as Friedman seems to allege, simply be replaced by a less scrupulous executive? This does not make intuitive ethical sense. It is not a valid way to implement Kant’s Deontology: Using individuals in Latin America as means to the end of profits so that the shareholders of ...


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...ast half century significantly. Although it does illustrate the reality of the corporate machine very well, it attempts to absolve any sort of social or ethical character on businesses. This promotes unethical behavior in both Kant’s Deontology and Act Utilitarianism, as well as not satisfying principles of social justice and autonomy, and further justifying violations of non-maleficence. As well, Friedman’s attempt to separate the corporate entity from those who compose is unnecessary and troublesome for perfectly valid ethical analysis. Those who are a part of the company may disagree on whatever the ethical course for profits may be, but that does not mean that social responsibility of a business should be abandoned completely, as it is composed of individuals with ethical faculties. Corporations are thus moral agents, and do in-fact have social responsibilities.

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