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Quotation of the Day…

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… is from page 45 of the 2015 English translation (by Matthew Dale) of Weiying Zhang’s excellent 2010 book, The Logic of the Market [2]:

In one respect, logically speaking, if a [corporate] manager wants to avoid responsibility, the best way to do so is to proclaim responsibility to everyone’s interests.  Accordingly, that manager would actually not be responsible for anyone.

Slogans often sound much nicer than they look after their implications are unpacked.  As Zhang here points out, a “responsibility” to “society” offers no practical guidance to those who are said to have such a responsibility.  To be responsible to everyone is indeed to be responsible to no one – that it, it is to be thoroughly irresponsible.  Ironically, then, one of the best ways to free corporate managers from the need to take actions the consequences of which actually do turn out in general to yield net benefits to society is to declare that those managers have a fiduciary responsibility not only to their shareholders but to “society” or to “stakeholders.”  The resulting freedom of action for managers will better allow them to pursue their own private interests, or their own (varied and often conflicting) visions of society’s interests, at the expense of the public interest.

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