Milton Friedman and corporate social responsibility

This web page contains resources for related to the following article:

  • Evans, A.J., “Is economic familiarity a necessary prerequisite for understanding Milton Friedman’s view of shareholder primacy? Reflections on a classroom exercise.” Working Paper

It is based on the following article by Milton Friedman:

Links:
  • Concepts
  • Cases
  • Cases (Solution) – an instructor resource, available on request
Quizzes:

Part 1 – this gathered information about the participants for the original study.

Part 2 – this should be used after the reading the Friedman article. This quiz can be a standalone activity for instructors who simply want to test student comprehension.

Part 3 – this should be used after the reading the Friedman article and the handouts. This is more focused on applying the Concepts to the Cases.

Sequence

The original sequence of interventions was as follows:

    1. Students took quiz 1 under exam conditions.
    2. Students were then asked to read the Friedman article before the next session.
    3. Students took quiz 2, which tested their comprehension of the Friedman article.
    4. Students received the “Concepts” and “Cases” handouts. They were given 20 minutes to read the handouts.
    5. Students took quiz 3, which included a reflection on the exercise as a whole.

EMBA Managerial Economics & Business Ethics – Cotrugli


Background readings:

The textbook is Economics: A Complete Guide for Business by Anthony J. Evans (2020). I wrote it specifically for this course and all students are advised to read it in conjunction with the lectures. 
 
There are plenty of other good textbooks on the market. I also recommend Managerial Economics by Luke M. Froeb, Brian T. McCann, Michael R. Ward and Mikhael Shor (Thomson Southwestern 3rd edition, 2013) and A Concise Guide to Macroeconomics by David Moss (Harvard Business School Press, 2007). 

Course handouts: Managerial Economics and Business Ethics

Day 1

1. Incentives matter* +

Textbook reading: Chapter 1

2. Understanding cost* +

Textbook reading: Chapter 2

3. Auctions +

Hild, M., Dwidevy, A., and Raj, A., “The Biggest Auction Ever: 3G Licensing in Western Europe”, Darden Business Publishing, 2004 (£)

Discussion question: What are the alternatives to auctions?

Extra activity: The Dutch flower auction

Textbook reading: Chapter 3

4. Prediction markets +

Coles, Peter, Lakhani, Karim and McAfee, Andrew, “Prediction Markets at Google” Harvard Business School 9-607-088, August 20th 2007 (£)

Prediction Markets, February 2016

Textbook reading: Chapter 4

Day 2

Before the Macroeconomics class you should watch this video:  and complete this quiz.

6 & 7. Monetary policy* +

“The Euro in Crisis: Decision Time at the European Central Bank” Harvard Business School case no. 9-711-049

The ECB During the Crisis, July 2021

Textbook reading: Chapter 7 and Chapter 8

8 & 9. Fiscal policy* +

Textbook reading: Chapter 9

10. Macro Policy Workshop +

Extra activity: NGDP masterclass

After the Macroeconomics class you should watch this video and complete this quiz.

Day 3 

  1. Managerial Insights*
  2. Macro Risk*
  3. Markets: The First AI* +
    • For this session there are 4 readings. You may find some of them tough going. But you’ll have some time in class as well. Please try to read them. 
    • On the Origin of Money” (Carl Menger, 1892, Economic Journal, (2):239-55)
    • The Use of Knowledge in Society” (Friedrich Hayek, 1945, American Economic Review, 35(4):519- 530)
    • I, Pencil” (Leonard Read, 1958, Foundation for Economic Education)
    • What is Seen and What is Not Seen” (Frederic Bastiat, 1850, Paris: Guillaumin. This version taken from The Bastiat Collection, 2nd Ed., Mises Institute, 2007, pp. 1-11 only)

    Here is a PDF copy of the reading pack which should be read:

    Download the reading pack here.

  4. Group preparation
  5. Group presentations

Day 4 See Business Ethics.

Before the Business Ethics class you should read about these mini cases: and complete this form.

 

Note: Sessions marked with an asterix (*) have a lecture handout available in advance, which can be downloaded. Cases marked with a pound sign (£) are available through the Programme Office. Follow the + links for additional resources.

Tip jar

☕️ If you have enjoyed any of these resources, feel free to buy me a coffee.

 

Social, political, and ethical dimensions of digital transformation – 2023/24

Course introduction

There are widespread concerns that social and political divisions are being exacerbated by information technology, and that this is having a profound impact on the capabilities and quality of both global and local institutions. In a similar way to how the advent of the printing press prompted the rise of democracy and the nation state, perhaps digital transformation is contributing to a similar disruption in governance.

Such trends are particularly relevant in regimes where statehood was not an internal process, and was adopted either through colonial or international activity. Rising populism and authoritarianism provides the social and political backdrop to our analysis of the broad impact of technology, and we will consider whether pluralist approaches may help to combat some of the emerging threats to liberal democracy.

This course investigates how digital transformation relates to democracy and governance in an increasingly connected yet potentially polarised world.


Assessment
  • 40% Group report [download here]
  • 60% Final exam (MCQ) – this relates to all lecture content and the readings from the content section

For a good example of a subject matter for the group report I highly recommend reading The Story of VaccineCA. In particular, consider how the following elements coincide: the type of organisation chosen to pursue this objective (initially volunteers but then a Delaware corporation;  the institutional context (i.e. liberal market democracy where sharing such information wasn’t illegal); and the cultural attitude toward problem solving and tech optimism. For a great interview with Patrick McKenzie about his background and advice listen to his Conversation with Tyler.


Prerequisite

Students should have already taken my 6 hour component of the Business Frontier Technologies course. This includes some of the following content:


Mandatory pre-course readings

For a 50 point quiz to test your knowledge of the pre-readings see here.


Contents
  1. Addiction [lecture handouts]
  2. Democracy [lecture handouts]
  3. Ethics [lecture handouts]
  4. Humans [lecture handouts]
  5. Governance [lecture handouts]

Optional background preparation

To understand some of the context for my construction of this course I recommend:

  • Matthew Perry on BBC Newsnight, (yes, one can make the contrarian and pedantic point that humans exercise “choice” in every decision we make, but this interview demonstrates the importance of acknowledging the human cost of not being in full/partial/any control of things that are harmful to your well being. Particularly poignant given Perry’s death in 2023).
  • Beware the Jabberwock, This American Life, March 15th 2019 (a single episode that provides a detailed look at the origins of the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory and one parents attempt to fight misinformation. The second half of this episode is an interesting, but less relevant profile and interview with Alex Jones).
  • Four Hours at the Capitol, BBC (a documentary about the storming of the US Capitol building on January 6th 2021)
  • The Coming Storm, BBC Sounds (7 part podcast documentary on the rise of QAnon)
  • Death by Conspiracy, BBC Sounds (an 11 part podcast documentary on Gary Matthews, who died from covid in January 2021 having been drawn to social media claims that it was a hoax. I listened to this as a parallel to The Coming Storm but it strayed too far into covid, media ethics, and psychology for me to incorporate it more fully in this course, which attempts to avoid those areas. I didn’t learn much about conspiracy theories aside from episode 9 which provided a good attempt to understand why our common conception is often misplaced. Ultimately I just found this sad.)
  • Things Fell Apart, BBC Sounds (a documentary that looks at the different origins of the culture wars, which are defined as “the battle for dominance over conflicting values”, or the things we shout about on social media)
  • Command and Control, PBS (a documentary looking at how close we came to a major nuclear accident)
Recommended video

Famous documentaries about Facebook include:

Here is the Brexit movie mentioned in class:

Here are US political strategists talking about micro targeting:

Here is David Rand’s talk on misinformation:

This documentary looks at the Arab spring:

Here is Coltan Scrivner’s explaining the evolutionary purpose of paying attention to true crime:

Here is Patri Friedman arguing that we should be able to start new countries as easily as starting a new country:

Recommended audio
Recommended movie night

This is not massively related to this course, but I really enjoyed watching Top Gun: Maverick (you may need to watch the original Top Gun first to get the full benefit). It reminded me of how Rocky IV contrasted American individualism, authenticity, and heart against superior Soviet technology. I saw Maverick as a rumination on automation, and the continued role for human emotion, and decision making that is instinctive, impulsive, and emotive, and how that gets managed. The subtext is that unmanned drones and algorithms are the future. In the film, US technology is deemed inferior but it is all about who is in the plane and not the plane itself. Traditional pilots needs to eat, sleep and piss but remain the driving force of future success, and whatever is is that ensures a future is worth achieving.

Here’s an absorbing and fascinating explanation of how the Mach 10 scene resembles a perfect pop song:

The best 3 movies related to AI and our conception of reality (in my opinion) are:

 

Recommended activity
Recommended case studies on digital transformation

Perhaps the best case study of the importance of an effective digital transformation is the UK Post Office Horizon scandal (Wikipedia). There is an excellent podcast about it produced by BBC Sounds and in January 2024 ITV aired a documentary.

Further academic reading

Student reflections

Priyanka Dalotra (LinkedIn)


On design
Resources for the public sector

If you wish to work in the public sector I recommend the following resources:

Recommended books

The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series contains a number of titles that are relevant for this course. I particularly recommend:

The Bank of England Museum

I have been to the Bank of England Museum several times and highly recommend it. It provides a good overview of the Bank’s history, contains interactive content, and has special exhibitions. Situated in the basement of the Bank (and therefore very close to the eponymous underground station) it’s open on every weekday and even opens late every third Thursday. The best part: it is totally free!

My most recent visit was in June 2024.

I started by looking at early examples of currency. Gold coins originate from c7th bc in Lydia (now in modern Turkey) and here is my photo of one of the first:

The museum has a section on the historic non monetary uses of gold. Here is a photo of a gold-plated visor from a metal workers helmet:

The bank’s notes originate from 1743 and the most popular types served as a type of payable receipt, that would enable the holder to redeem coin deposits. Here are some examples of early bank notes:

Notice how some are torn in the bottom corner. As this page explains, this shows that the balance has been paid.

I was very pleased to see a section marking the history of women at the bank. The first female employees started in 1894, and the bank was one of the first institutions in the City to employ them.

My favourite part of the museum is the attempt to explain how monetary policy works. This machine gives visitors the chance to play the role of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) and move interest rates up or down depending on how close inflation is to the target.

As you can see, I wasn’t very good!

But I did get it in the end!

While I was visiting there was a special exhibit on slavery and the bank. Over a 300 year period the global slave trade took over 12 million Africans from their homes, and this map reveals the scale.

I didn’t learn much about the banks role, but I was encouraged to reflect:

I hope you enjoyed my tour as much as I did. Please consider visiting the museum for yourself!

You can take a short quiz to test your knowledge here:

The Museum of Neoliberalism

I was saddened to learn that The Museum of Neoliberalism is closing (see here). It is located near Lewisham and I visited in November 2023.

In this article I wanted to share 5 points that came to mind as I looked around.

(1) There is a tendency for critics of neoliberalism to present a conspiracy theory view of the movement. The museum presents this in the following way:

I mean, they even used red thread!

The serious point is that these outside accounts don’t match my inside knowledge, and I don’t believe that’s due to naivety on my part. I’m a senior fellow of the Adam Smith Institute and disagree that they constitute a “total perversion of Smith’s ideas”, but welcome an intellectual conversation about that claim. Back in 2016 Sam Bowman (then Executive Director at the ASI) wrote an article called “I’m a neoliberal. Maybe you are too” and yet I’ve not seen an honest engagement with them.

Ultimately, I think that the truth is less exciting than the museum depicts – these think tanks are transparent with their objectives and activities, punch above their weight in terms of resources, but have little direct power or influence. It’s an error to present them as something they are not.

(2) There is lots to be said about what has happened to economic inequality (and why) over the course of the twentieth century (my teaching materials are here). But the idea that governments responded to falling inequality by increasing prices is simply wrong. Milton Friedman’s monetarist prescriptions were a response to the prevalent inflation, and succeeded in controlling it. That inflation was a result of excessive money creation, in part due to the fiscal profligacy of government spending. The chronology is clear – neoliberalism gained dominance within the context of high inflation, and sought to combat it. It did not generate inflation as a means to reverse declining inequality.

(3) There is this a long list of notable moments of privatisation in the UK. I suspect the assumption is that because people typically don’t like privatisation, this is persuasive. However, the paradox of privatization is that although most people believe that the process by which assets are returned to private ownership is often flawed, they typically do not want the state to control those industries. (Note that the solution, therefore, is to avoid nationalisation in the first place.)

But when you actually look at these companies – Lunn Poly, Thomas Cook – does anyone really want state ownership of travel agents? Is Rolls Royce really a company that the UK government has to manage and run? Really?

(4) The section on “bullshit jobs” exposes poor working practices and elicits sympathy for workers who lack certain employment rights. In my view, though, the last thing you should do in such situations is to take away options. And yet this is what higher labour standards, by imposing costs on employers, tend to do. Ultimately I find these sorts of judgments elitist and snobbish. There’s a million jobs I’d hate to do, but any job that someone voluntarily agrees to, because they view it as an improvement over their next best alternative, is ok by me. Generally speaking, the gig economy has been a liberation within the context of excessive restrictions on labour.

(5) And what’s the conclusion? Well this final panel, called “there is an alternative” sums things up nicely. Apparently

“the current crisis is an open moment of possibility in which the world will step beyond it into something else. What that ‘something else’ looks like is up to you.”

Forgive me, but I do not see an articulation of an alternative. This does nothing to dispense the fear that the alternative to a free market system of private property rights is a utopian nonsense.

I love the concept of a Museum of Neoliberalism and am sorry that it is closing. I found it provocative and hope you enjoyed my reflections.

Zagreb

I’ve been regularly visiting Zagreb for over a decade, and have noticed that it is unique for three main reasons:

(1) The old town – all nice European cities have an old town, but five things make Zagreb’s particularly memorable.

    • The Funicular is the shortest in the world and Zagreb’s first form of public transit.

©Vladographer/Getty Images Plus

    • The Gric cannon fires at 12:00pm every day, and has done for for over a century. Kaboom!
    • The Stone Gate is in the upper town and displays an icon that supposedly survived a fire in 1731 (see here). Here is a photo of the stone gate from the 1940s:

    • The Gric tunnels are handy ways to pass through parts of the centre. I first heard about them from an episode of one of my favourite YouTube series, Cockpit Casual.

    • Croatia (as in “cravat”) invented the tie. See more here.

(2) Weird museums – Zagreb is home to several bizarre sounding museums, all in the centre of town. I’ve been to most, but am not sure what order to list them here. The perfect night out?

(3) Festival of light – held in March each year, the festival marks the arrival of Spring and includes installations throughout the city. The use of light in public spaces is a theme in Zagreb, as you can see from the display on the Hendrix bridge:


Finally, here are some ad hoc recommendations:

 Music

Movies

Food

  • Zagrebačke kremšnite (from Vincek)

And here’s my favourite photo from Zagreb:

Montalbert

We  have a 2 bedroom apartment in the family-friendly ski resort of La Plagne Montalbert. It has a master bedroom and a smaller bunk room making it perfect for a family of 4, and the sofa bed in the lounge means that it can cater for 6. Located on the second floor, the balcony overlooks the piste and provides hours of entertainment and afternoon sun.

How to get there

✈️ Montalbert is a 2 hour drive from Lyon or just over 2 hours from Geneva. Both airports are served by low cost flights with usual car rentals available.

Aime station is at the bottom of the valley (11km), and easy to reach either by taxi (15 minutes) or a regular bus service via Altibus. During the ski season there after often direct trains from St Pancras, however return journeys depart from Bourg-St-Maurice, which is twice as far away (this is because Bourg has the security equipment that allows it to have international passengers). A good option is to get a standard Eurostar to France and then change for a TGV to Aime. There is a regular (and cheap) service from Paris Gare du Lyon but you can also change at Lille, which means you avoid having to cross Paris! For more see the Man in Seat 61.

We are 976km from Calais which is around 9 hours of driving. It can be done in one day, but France has plenty of clean and affordable hotels at convenient stops along the way. There are two ways to reach Calais:

⛴️ There are regular and cheap ferry services from Dover.

The Eurotunnel is usually around £140 but takes just 35 minutes and goes from Folkestone.

Winter

La Plagne is world famous for its size and array of runs. Best suited for all rounders and families, there are enough black runs to challenge serious skiers but the main places are accessible via blue runs. Best of all the Vanoise Express connects La Plagne with Les Arc, providing over 400km of ski runs and 70% of those are above 2000ft. There are also 18 separate “fun zones” and new activities and lifts are added each year.

Summer

Montalbert is a charming mountain village which makes it a suitable place to vacation all year round. Outside of the ski season there are plenty of amenities and the summer wildflowers are stunning. The gondola still operates and this allows walkers to reach the higher mountains. Mountain bikers can take ski lifts up several runs and enjoy the descent.

Sustainability

Lecture handout: Sustainability

⭐ Required readings:


Here’s how to visit the grave of J.B. Say. Here is a photo from a book written by Richard Cantillon, published in 1755, which uses the word “entrepreneur”.

Here is a video on poverty being a lack of cash, not a character trait:

Here is the Bushradical video about building a log cabin in the woods:

Here is the Outdoor Boys video building a snow shelter:

 

Here’s a great visual showing different carbon pricing initiatives:

Here is more on the doughnut model:

Some spinning donuts (you see! it is meant to be measured after all):

Depopulation

Paul Erlich’s ‘The Population Bomb’ warned that we would be unable to feed a growing global population and that the solution was to reduce birthrates. He said “we can no longer afford merely to treat the symptoms of the cancer of population growth; the cancer itself must be cut out”. Suggested methods included adding sterlients to the food supply (see Ritchie 2024, p.155). That didn’t happen, but fears about overpopulation were so influential it led to the sterilisation of 8 million Indian men. And yet as of January 2023 Paul Erlich is still receiving media coverage when warning about unsustainable growth. Note:

As the lecture argues, we are more than capable of providing good living standards for the population. And if you are worried about an exponential population growth then don’t be. Population growth has fallen from over 2% in the 1960s to 0.8% by 2022. We have now passed “peak child”, with the highest number of children peaking in 2017. The global population is expected to stabilise at 11bn. It turns out that when you are successful at reducing poverty people tend to have fewer children. We have sufficient natural resources as well as the socio-economic system necessary to support a thriving global population. Like John Lennon, we do not need to be concerned about over population:

Lecture handout: Sustainability Playbook
Degrowth

Recently there has been increased attention to the concept of “degrowth”. We simply don’t have sufficient wealth for everyone to have a reasonable standard of living. Even if you somehow confiscated entire global GDP and shared it equally everyone would only get $15 per day. (84 trillion between 8 billion people is $10,695 which is $30 per day. This is a reasonable income for many parts of the world, but very much locks us in to present consumption power. Would you have wanted your parents to have made a similar trade back in 1985, which would be $12 trillion between 5 billion is $2,400, i.e. less than $7 per day? I’ve used income, rather than wealth, because the data is better. These figures should also be adjusted for purchasing power, but it’s only meant as a back of the envelope exercise).

Growth is one of the biggest parts of the solution to our environmental problems because:

  1. We have successfully decoupled a lot of the negative impact of growth. Therefore there’s no fixed trade off between material betterment and environmental protection.
  2. The best way to fix our environmental problems is through technology, and as Hannah Ritchie argies (2024, p.35) recent breakthroughs in the batteries required for electric vehicles, or low cost solar panels, are a result of economic growth.

I also recommend the following:

Recommended books:

  • Ridley, M., 2011, The Rational Optimist, Fourth Estate
  • Munger, M., 2019, Is Capitalism sustainable?, American Institute for Economic Research
  • Rosling, H., 2018, Factfulness, Sceptre
  • Tupy, M.L., and Pooley, G.L., 2023, Superabundance, Cato Institute
  • Ritchie, H., 2024, Not the end of the world, Chatto & Windus

Recommended podcasts:

Learning Objectives: This session considers whether infinite growth is possible on a planet with finite natural resources.

Spotlight on sustainability: Doh!

Business Economics (BIM) 2024

This course will develop students capacity for economic analysis and awareness of the most important insights for management.

 Assessment
Textbook

Evans, Anthony J., 2020 “Economics: A complete guide for business“, London Publishing Partnership

Digital copies of the relevant section are available in the links below.

Content
Session Before During After
1. Incentives Matter Nothing Lecture handouts
2. Markets: Beyond AI Watch the full movie Arrival (2016), Denis Villeneuve

You can download all of the above in a single PDF file here.

Lecture handouts
3. Market Applications Lecture handouts
4. Competition and the Market Process Lecture handouts

5. Global Prosperity Activity: Global conditions quiz Lecture handouts
6. Growth WatchGrowth is like an iPhone

Lecture handouts
7. Sustainability Lecture handouts
8. Inequality Activity: Thinking about wealth

Watch: “$456,000 Squid Game In Real Life!” Mr Beast

Watch the full movie Parasite (2019), Bong Joon Ho

Lecture handouts