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Showing posts from June 2, 2013

The age of skipping

Neither Jesus nor Socrates left us any footnotes. The oral form into which they destined their teachings does allow for references, but these references have a more choral than notorial nature – they echo, they caress, they allude. But if they never exactly cite page and author, if they do not exactly locate the quote, both teachers do indeed quote, and do indeed gloss. They tease the footnote, one could say. This is the way it is, mostly, with prophets and poets – although there are exceptions, such as Pope’s translations of Homer, Swift’s joyful notes to The Tale of the Tub, Eliot’s credentialing notes to the Waste Land, and finally the takeover of the text by the note in Pale Fire and the backtracking notes of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, notes that are less in the Swiftian mode, which mocks all metalevels, and more in the mode of a certain desperation concerning metalevels, a desperation that the footnote’s totalizing authority has been lost. Or, to put it another way

Milton Friedman's wrong: the social responsibility of business is not just to make a profit

Milton Friedman wrote an article for the NYT Magazine in 1970 that was appropriately headlined: The social responsibility of business isto make a profit. While Friedman was not the first to make the argument, his reasoning certainly is the starting point for an idea that has lodged in the American soul like a tick in a coon’s ass. The reasoning is not, as it should be, legal, which is why, from the very beginning of his argument, Friedman goes off on the wrong track: “The discussions of the "social responsibili­ties of business" are notable for their analytical looseness and lack of rigor. What does it mean to say that "business" has responsibilities? Only people can have responsibilities. A corporation is an artificial person and in this sense may have artificial responsibilities, but "business" as a whole cannot be said to have responsibilities, even in this vague sense. The first step toward clarity in examining the doctrine of the social