Libertarian Marketplace Ethics
(also named Shareholder Theory)
What's good ethically is doing well economically, within the law.
Respect for laws, regulations and commonly accepted codes for operation.
Gear decisions to the economic rules of the marketplace.
Decisions checked for compliance with letter (and potentially with the spirit) of applicable laws, regulations and accepted practices.
Ethics becomes the pursuit of economic opportunities within legal and regulatory boundaries.
Libertarian advocates of Marketplace Ethics build arguments on the principle of individual freedom and dignity.
(Social and environmental initiatives hold no value independent of business activity and are not recognized from within business activity).
Social obligations and initiatives, like environmental ones, are better handled by non-profit organizations specialized in the area of concern, or by fundamentally social institutions including government.
The invisible hand: the argument that businesses seeking profit in their field of expertise ultimately do more good for society generally than businesses distracted by philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and similar apparently noble initiatives. While this argument can be useful in discussion, the ethics does not depend on its veracity: even if the idea of the invisible hand is proven untrue, the basic ethics remain unchanged.
Companies may seek to do good in the world, but only because profit opportunities lie along the way. Being socially responsible is understood as just another tool for the construction of profitability.
How should ambiguous laws and regulations be interpreted?
What non-legal norms and codes will be honored and to what degree? (Example: Will sugar-bomb cereals be advertised at children?)
How, and to what extent does society as a whole benefit when businesses narrowly pursue their own bottom-line welfare?
Many start-ups and small businesses
The typical private client wealth management service
Steve Jobs was sometimes criticized for not being a philanthropist. Last year the founder of the Stanford Social Innovation Review called Apple one of “America’s Least Philanthropic Companies.”
Mr. Jobs’s contribution to the world is Apple and its products — his work — not some Steve Jobs Memorial Foundation for Giving Stuff to Poor People in Exotic Lands and Making Me Feel Good About Myself. Because he already did that: He gave them better computers, better telephones, better music players, etc. In a lot of cases, he gave them better jobs, too. Did he do it because he was a nice guy, or because he was greedy, or because he was a maniacally single-minded competitor who got up every morning possessed by an unspeakable rage to strangle his rivals? The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that that question does not matter one little bit. Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. Profits are not deductions from the sum of the public good, but the real measure of the social value a firm creates. Those who talk about the horror of putting profits over people make no sense at all. The phrase is without intellectual content.
Prime philosophical theory compatibilities
Rights theory, Libertarianism, Rational egoism. Also utilitarianism under conceptions of economic growth colored by the invisible hand. For example, the profit drive resulting in the creation of socially beneficial beauty. Critically, the social benefits are not the cause, only the effect of libertarian distinctions between right and wrong.
Strong respect for autonomy, freedom, rights of the individual
Inherent dignity of the individual, entrepreneurship, "the self-made" man/woman.
Respect for others without patronization; refusal to pity others.
Acceptance of formalized collective social institutions, frequently as grounded in self-interest (contract notions of social organization).
Because the idea of community - and so notions of community standards and similar - generate from individuality (as opposed to individuals finding their own place within a pre-established collective), this ethical outlook is more likely than collective-centered frameworks to produce non-conformist ideas or ones that flaunt social conventions regarding truth-telling and similar.
Example 1: Rula Lenska, the international celebrity everyone was supposed to know (and who no one had ever heard of).
Example 2: The most interesting man alive
Associated notable figures
Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, The Cato Institute
Goldman: Progress is Everyone's Business campaign,
Bank of America Opportunity campaign
Levi's: Go Forth,
Ford: No Bailout
The Indian Point nuclear plant near NYC is being branded by Entergy as environmentally friendly. After Japan, this is a hard sell. They may do better discussing the entrepreneurial advantages of low cost power for innovative New Yorkers