That’s the question posed by the John Templeton Foundation to a group of leading lights. You can see their responses at www.templeton.org/market/. As you might expect, the answers provided a rich range of perspective. You can also weigh in and provide your own comments.
As I researched my recent book NOBLE ENTERPRISE: The Commonsense Guide for Uplifting People and Profits, I was inspired by the examples of companies and leaders who are truly noble – and actually made their companies more successful through that nobility, with passionate adherence to ethical values and a sense of higher purpose – in which these companies serve not only the material needs of customers and employees, but also their non-material (some would say “spiritual”) needs.
Regarding the question posed, what if we asked whether “free speech corroded moral character?” I suspect that most of us would heartily conclude “no.” It’s not the freedom that corrupts; it’s what you do with it that corrupts.
What can be corrupting is unfettered power, as in an industry where there is only one player who holds all the cards. But then, that’s why we have anti-Trust constraints on the concentration of power.
I’m also struck that for most people who think the free market does corrode moral character, they tend to conclude that it is the government that must keep us moral. They overlook the important role of industry associations – in setting standards and providing a vehicle through which all the players in an industry can play a role in shaping how business is done in that industry. See the work of Prof Severyn Bruyn of Boston College who has written extensively on this subject.
If you’d care to weigh in on this question, go to www.templeton.org/market/.