Milton Friedman is given a rather severe critique in The Rise and Fall of Management, especially over his malign influence on industrial management, how it is taught and how it is done. The Friedmanism which best captures his contribution to that endeavour is the one which tells the world that ‘corporate officials’ have no ‘social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible’.
This space is not habitually given to expressing party political views, but occasionally it is unavoidable. Political parties inevitably, from time to time, address head on, topics which are of prime concern here. And sometimes their approach is either so right, or so wrong, that comment is necessary if these postings are not to appear totally disconnected from the real world. Today is such an occasion.
The seemingly ever increasing numbers of innocent followers of Mises, Hayek and Friedman, in their devoted pursuit of the free market ideal, have overlooked the fact that markets, which typically start out as competitive, naturally tend to become monopolistic.
The announcement that Gordon Brown is to put mutualism and co-operatives, such as John Lewis Partnership, at the heart of Labour’s election manifesto is surely welcome after twelve years of the rape and pillage resulting from New Labour’s unquestioning support for free market deregulation and the maximising of shareholder wealth. But what does it mean? Is it just the sentimental swan-song of the Labour government? Or does it have substance as the foundation for real action?