Milton Friedman was a freedom fighter in the sense that he argued that an entrepreneur’s social responsibility is to achieve maximum profit. I’ve been a wholehearted believer in that and also the tradition of Adam Smith, whose Wealth of Nation, I think, is a great design for people to cooperate together. The human being’s history is about how we organize together. It is really hard for people to cooperate with each other. We’ve been through a lot. Adam Smith offered a very great design.
But recently something provoked me to think more. Recently, I’ve read too many wrong doing of businessmen in both China and US. Here in US, cable companies tried to destroy net neutrality in order to “maximize their profit”. Also many Internet companies ‘ wrongdoing in China including Google. Some are purely evil. You cannot imagine it if you hear it. Those cable companies’ claim is also shameless. (I don’t think those cable companies should have a share in the web economy. They already got what they got as traditional infrastructure companies. The value created by web community is totally creative values belonging to web communities, not cable companies.)
Sorry for drifting to another big topic. Anyway, these prompted me to think what free market is. Business is only to maximize profits under some certain circumstances. But who set up those circumstances? Who make the policy? What value will those policies be based on? Economy alone doesn’t seem to answer these questions. The answer still has to come from people’s hearts. What they really want? So this is an issue of humanity, of culture. People’s hearts have to be reflected in those circumstances.
If so, the issue now is that whether business should have a social responsibility? Or should social consciousness be reflected in the business model?
If Friedman sticks to his gun, I guess he should argue that in a free market, other smaller cable companies will stand up and promote net neutrality, So people will all go to those cable companies who treat content equally. But it seems that that market is pretty much solidified. (Is it?) I don’t know how these can play out. Anyone knows?
Most people in China believe that if economy goes well, anything else will go well automatically. So China does a lot of economic reform, but hesitate on other reforms. I guess that is ok for manufacturing industry. But for creative industry, that is suffocating. Also if even a person cannot be treated equally, how can we have a free market? Big corporations will just kill small companies easily with their almighty power.
Just some more random thought here: maybe it is the law’s responsibility to specify what the basic freedom is and protect them. Leave it to business to do whatever it wants to as long as it doesn’t violate the law. Again, how will this play out in the net neutrality case?