Business and Markets

Stakeholder Capitalism vs. Milton Friedman: What is the Future of American Capitalism?

September 15, 2020  • Business and Society Program

This webinar featured Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, in conversation with James Stewart, columnist at The New York Times. The conversation explored the implications of two major anniversaries for the future of U.S. capitalism: The publication of Milton Friedman’s “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits,” and Business Roundtable’s updated Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.

It was exactly 50 years ago this September that the economist Milton Friedman published his doctrine “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.” Within a few years, the message of a single objective of business—maximizing value for shareholders—became accepted wisdom in boardrooms and business-school classrooms alike. That decades-long trend was challenged one year ago, when Business Roundtable issued an updated statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, forgoing shareholder primacy for value creation for all stakeholders.

Is capitalism really at a tipping point, as BRT chairman Jamie Dimon suggested? This question has gained new urgency in light of COVID-19, its economic downturn, and protests for social justice. Join Darren Walker and James Stewart as these two American luminaries examine how solutions from corporate investment in workers to a new tax code could forge a new inclusive future for U.S. capitalism.