Should Corporations Act Purely on Self Interest?

company culture comments edit

I saw this post on Don Park's blog...

My perspective on this latest hot topic is that I think companies should act only in interest of itself, the Microsoft shareholders in this case, and not anyone else, including its employees. So I think the discussion should have been about whether leaders of Microsoft made the right decision in the interest of its shareholders.

I don't understand this mode of thinking. Should people in general act purely on self interest and not for the common good? Why should corporations be any different? After all, they are made up of people, both shareholders and employees. It seems not all companies agree as Boeing, Nike, Coors, HP, and others supported the bill.

I suppose Microsoft would have continued to support the bill if it was rewritten to state that gays are not protected under anti-discrimination laws to own stocks in major corporations. Oh then you'd see some major rallying around gay rights.

I understand that having a corporation get behind a political cause is a touchy situation. Whose values do you support? Your employees? Your shareholders? America at large? But it's clear that this bill supports values Microsoft already holds dear. Microsoft has in the past supported this bill and has shown itself to be progressive in its own policies.

And Ballmer's worry of discriminating against anti-gay bigots is a real piece of work. Here's a snippet.

What message does the company taking a position send to its employees who have strongly-held beliefs on the opposite side of the issue?

As Shelley eloquently points out, this bill doesn't deny rights to others. And the message would have already been sent by the fact that Microsoft's own policies are reflected in this bill. So if you're worried about the bigots feelings Mr. Ballmer, are you going to change your policies to reflect that as well?

We've all seen what acting purely on corporate self-interest produces. Oh, Enron springs to mind, sweat shops, destruction of the environment, and countless other examples. Corporations have all the rights of a person without many of the implicit responsibilities. Corporations are members of the community. It's time they start acting like it.

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