I’ve been reading John Perkins lately and he talks about going to business school in the late 60’s before the doctrine of Milton Friedman became the new normal.
To grossly oversimplify Milton’s complex Nobel Prize-winning work: this doctrine advocated the manipulation of the money supply by the government as the primary means of solving economic problems. As such, the only concern of businesses should be the maximization of monetary profits at all non-monetary costs. Many people believe this to be the birth of the infinite growth paradigm, the unintended consequences of which we are just beginning to come to fully grasp.
Perkins says that prior to Friedman, university students were taught something very different about what a business is:
When I went to business school, I was taught that a good CEO takes care of the long-term interests of the corporation–the employees, the customers, the general economy–not just there to make short-term profit.– John Perkins
That changed when people like Jack Welch, Ted Turner and the other “great” American CEO’s of the 70’s and 80’s, became cultural idols by putting the Friedman model into practice. The idea spread like a virus because to all appearances it “worked”. The people practicing it got really rich and their companies grew. So everyone started doing it and then Ivy League business schools started touting it.
In terms of a solution, I think a critical piece will be simply (but not easily) to stop teaching this economic model, or perhaps more accurately, stop preaching it. There is no proverbial plug to pull but we can work to ensure that our generation and the next do not allow ourselves to buy into this lie.