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posted by janrinok on Friday October 11 2019, @10:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the would-it-work? dept.

The rise, fall and rise again of businesses

What's the purpose of a business? For a long time, the textbook answer to that question has been purely "to make as much money as possible for its shareholders". But business leaders – who often themselves get huge payouts from this model – are beginning to challenge this orthodoxy.

Or so it seems. The influential Business Roundtable association of top US business leaders, which includes CEOs of Apple, Boeing, Walmart and JP Morgan, made a landmark statement in August. They committed "to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders". Maximising profits, they said, would no longer be their primary goal.

For many, it was seen as an historic moment for business. Markets, however, greeted the news with a yawn. Both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 in the US increased marginally on the day of the announcement.

[...] This brief history has us lurching back and forth between the ideas of shareholder versus stakeholder primacy that have waxed and waned over the decades. Are we doomed to pontificate on this endlessly?

As a way forward, I would advocate for a modest approach to end this interminable debate. A Hippocratic oath for corporations, based on seven principles:

1. Do no evil.

2. Pay taxes and adhere to laws and regulations.

3. Avoid interfering in politics.

4. Do not deny science.

5. Focus on core competencies and embrace competition.

6. If invested in the stakeholder model, ensure that stakeholders are represented in your governance structures.

7. If concerned about inequality, start at home.

This approach can help restore faith in corporations, protect their brands and reputation, and avoid accusations of hypocrisy, while focusing their attention on what they truly do best – producing goods or services. To paraphrase the writer Anand Giridharadas: "Avoid virtue signalling and virtuous side projects; do your day jobs more honourably."

And to quote Milton Friedman, business "should engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud".

What do you guys think ??

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Friday October 11 2019, @11:34PM (10 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 11 2019, @11:34PM (#906099) Homepage Journal

    So long as universities are churning out morally corrupt MBA's, these people have a snowball's chance in hell. They have UNdone much of the good accomplished 100 years ago by unions and other labor activists. Overtime, for instance. How many kids today work sixty hours or more, but never see overtime, because none of their three employers will put them full-time?

    Let's go Brandon!
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  • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Friday October 11 2019, @11:59PM

    by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Friday October 11 2019, @11:59PM (#906109) Homepage

    Well, I suspected that Soylentnews stopped posting controversial stories on Friday and Saturday evenings, American time, because they didn't want them shitposted to death by drunken Americans.

    But speaking of businesses serving their shareholders, PG&E (which sounds suspiciously a lot like AT&T) are now cutting power to Californians, turning the richest and most tolerant and progressive state into Venezuela. And now our local Sempra Energy is doing the same to us here down south. Apparently both of those are public companies which have a fiduciary duty to prioritize their shareholders. And also are suspiciously targeting right-leaning ruralists, disproportionately.

    As a guy who likes ruralists and ham enthusiasts, I don't like it. But as a guy who does want to see liberal California continue to make itself the laughing-stock of the USA, I do.

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by The Mighty Buzzard on Saturday October 12 2019, @02:18AM (8 children)

    ...the good accomplished 100 years ago by unions and other labor activists.

    You mean like pricing American labor nearly completely out of the manufacturing market? Unions did some good things back in FDR's day and earlier but even then they had already started cutting the limb they were sitting on for firewood. Today they're all about short-term gain at any cost, including causing the inability to grow or even outright bankruptcy of the companies they're contracted with.

    My rights don't end where your fear begins.
    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Saturday October 12 2019, @01:48PM (7 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday October 12 2019, @01:48PM (#906319) Homepage Journal

      No, I most certainly don't mean pricing the US out of the labor market. THAT happened a mere 40 years ago. The unions got too damned powerful, too corrupt, and, it got so you couldn't tell a union officer from a mid-level manager, or a senior union officer from a CEO.

      Tell me, Buzzard - do you think child labor laws are reasonable, and correct? Or, do you think the company should be able to fire Grandpa, who makes ten dollars a day, then hire his grandson to replace him for two dollars a day? Junior is only nine years old, but he can work circles around the half crippled old man!! And, how about overtime? If you work 70 or more hours per week, do you expect time and a half for thirty of those hours?

      How many labor laws do you consider to be unreasonable? A few? A lot? All of them? Should a manager get away with firing a woman who works for him, because she refuses to give him head?

      A hundred years ago, is more or less contemporary with 'The Jungle' by Upton Sinclair. If you've never read that one, I recommend it pretty highly.

      I certainly don't want to go back where my great-great grandparents came from. Back in the day, the advantage of hiring newly freed slaves was, you didn't become responsible for their maintenance and upkeep. You could work them to death, and toss the carcass out the door for the authorities to deal with. And, poor white trash wasn't valued one bit higher than those freed slaves, 140 years ago.

      Let's go Brandon!
      • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Saturday October 12 2019, @03:36PM (6 children)

        You really wanna know, yes, I think the labor laws were closer to correct in 1945 when FDR left office than they are today. Yes, I think kids should be able to get a job in their mid-teens without having to get a continual sign-off by their school and parents. Hell, I think they should be able to drop out and work full time if they have the desire or need to. And, yes, I think a company should be able to fire grandpa and hire his grandson for a quarter what he makes. If the job's that unskilled that an untrained, poorly paid teenager can do it, then an untrained, poorly paid teenager should be doing it; a grown-assed man should have learned something useful by the time he's a grandparent.

        My rights don't end where your fear begins.
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by RS3 on Sunday October 13 2019, @02:55AM (5 children)

          by RS3 (6367) on Sunday October 13 2019, @02:55AM (#906505)

          I dunno. Some people are happy to do the same job for the same pay for most of their lives. They don't live for their work, they work to live. I think money, and people who control it, control too much of society. In a simpler time and society, based more on barter, people could keep doing whatever they want to. With money involved, you have inflation, interest to pay, and someone is motivated by greed to have huge control of most everyone and everything, including congress and the people through media. But I'm getting myself depressed thinking about it!


          Speaking of keeping your job, how will you like retraining to become a Raku programmer?


          • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Sunday October 13 2019, @06:15AM (4 children)

            Doesn't matter what they want, it matters what they offer the company paying them. See, that's how employment works: The company offers them money in exchange for tasks that the company wants done, hopefully with the values being round about equal. So, if they offer labor of little value, it is completely morally correct they should get paid shit. If they're willing to pick up valuable skills, they should likewise be paid like it. If they want to do the minimum necessary to keep from getting fired, they shouldn't be surprised when they're the first ones on the chopping block. And they damned sure don't need to be whining about wanting more money if they're halfassing the job.

            In a simpler time and society, based more on barter, people could keep doing whatever they want to.

            My entire hairy ass they could. Society was a whopping fuckload more harsh about it than it is now. When barter was more of a thing, you had to have something people valued to barter with or you could fuck right off.

            As for having to write things I don't like in languages that annoy me, what do you think I do now? That's why they call it "work" instead of "play". Fuck's sake, man.

            My rights don't end where your fear begins.
            • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Monday October 14 2019, @09:49PM (3 children)

              by RS3 (6367) on Monday October 14 2019, @09:49PM (#907131)

              Well, no intelligent discourse to be found here.

              I thought you knew Larry Wall approved perl6 being renamed "Raku" and I was attempting humor.

              I'll leave you alone.

              • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Monday October 14 2019, @10:56PM (2 children)

                I got the humor. I've even coded in the bloody thing. It sucks ALL OF THE BALLS but I'm still not drawing a line in the sand saying I won't code it no matter how hungry I get. Just one saying shitty jobs will only be chosen if no less shitty jobs are to hand.

                My rights don't end where your fear begins.
                • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Tuesday October 15 2019, @04:11AM (1 child)

                  by RS3 (6367) on Tuesday October 15 2019, @04:11AM (#907238)

                  I feel your pain. I hated OSes so much I wanted to write one. GDT, IDT, etc. fun stuff. Unbeknownst to me, Linux was being developed so I'm glad I didn't waste time. Ever consider designing a language?

                  • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Tuesday October 15 2019, @10:51AM

                    Nah, rehash is plenty of confusion for anybody's hobby. No need to go full OS.

                    Joking aside, I've done just that for many a microcontroller. Very limited in scope, mind you. I'm pretty sure trying to design and code my own GP OS by myself would end in my tears and other people's laughter. But not until a decade or two later.

                    My rights don't end where your fear begins.