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The Ethical Lacunae in Friedman’s Concept of the Manager

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Abstract

This article challenges along two lines Milton Friedman’s injunction that the sole role of the business manager is to maximize profits for shareholders using all legal and ethical means. First, it shows how Friedman overly narrows the manager’s moral duties to consequentialist profit maximization and thereby fails to account for a wide range of values and virtues necessary for good management. Second, it illustrates how more oblique approaches to management as well as Adam Smith’s virtue-based model better capture the moral imagination and relational aspects of leadership that are critical to good management today. In the end, this article suggests that a subtler version of Friedman’s directive should be considered in which maximizing shareholder wealth provides a powerful business goal but not an exclusive one to direct or to motivate managers.

Jonathan B. Wight and Martin Calkins, "The Ethical Lacunae in Friedman's Concept of the Manager," Journal of Markets & Morality 11, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 221-238


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