So long, Friedman

Know your business history: this podcast episode from The Daily gives a nice run down of the transition from managerialism to shareholder primacy to where we are now, a moment when both the biggest investors and most influential CEOs are saying that employees, customers, and society should matter at least as much as shareholders.

(What will today’s moment be called? “Societialism”? Social primacy?)

It’s important to remember that business wasn’t always so obsessively focused on profits and return for shareholders. Before the reductionist Milton Friedman, before Reagan and obsessive deregulation, corporate leaders were much more socially conscious. In a way, today’s moment is a return to form for the private sector, out of the “greed is good” hysteria.

How will social primacy be tested if reports of a recession around the corner turn out to be true?