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ASU workshop to hone in on the social responsibility of business

Program on Feb. 4 will help 15 students develop skills to strengthen their careers in public, private sectors

People wearing suits sitting at a table with notepads.
February 01, 2022

In a 1970 controversial op-ed, the late American economist Milton Friedman famously argued that "the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” Recently, this view has been attacked on all sides by politicians and business leaders. Prominent opponents of Friedman's view argue that business leaders should weigh profits against the interests of various stakeholders.

Who is correct? Is earning profits the primary purpose of a business? Or can business leaders help society more by pursuing other apparent benefits?

These questions will guide the workshop “Reconsidering the Social Responsibility of Business” from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4.

'Reconsidering the Social Responsibility of Business'

Workshop attendees will explore the issues that arise in the debate about the role of business in society, and practice discussing contentious issues in the context of civil dialogue and shared inquiry.

"The purpose of the workshop is to invite participants to examine dominant views and to move past prejudices to a more nuanced understanding," said the workshop leader, Andrew Humphries, a postdoctoral research scholar with Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. "Students might never have considered how profits direct businesses to make socially desirable decisions. Many assume that conscious charity is the only way to advance human well-being. But it's not obvious that conscious charity has no role to play in business either. What's the best mix? That's what we need to figure out."

The program is limited to the first 15 students who register. Those who enroll will also receive a complimentary copy of Milton and Rose Friedman’s book “Free to Choose.”

Interested students can register here.

The workshop is a collaboration between the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development and the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty as part of an effort to promote ASU’s new Certificate in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, an interdisciplinary certificate that expands students’ perspectives about moral, economic and political issues, and provides them with conceptual tools to understand and address major problems in the world today. By integrating the approaches of philosophy, politics and economics, the certificate offers a holistic understanding of such problems and of possible solutions — great preparation for leadership in the public or private sectors. 

Students who pursue the certificate develop analytical skills and learn useful concepts through a course in each of these disciplines, and have the opportunity to integrate them through both an introductory and a capstone course. These courses complement the students’ degrees and add value to their careers in public office, law, business, philanthropy, engineering and journalism, among others. 

Students interested in this workshop may also be interested in the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty's upcoming reading group on Thomas Sowell's “Conflict of Visions” and Jim Otteson's “Honorable Business.Apply here to participate in the reading group.

The certificate is a collaboration between four ASU units: the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, the School of Politics and Global Studies, the Department of Economics in the W. P. Carey School of Business and the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

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