Self-interest, deregulation and trust

  • Salvör Nordal Centre for Ethics, University of Iceland
Keywords: social responsibility, self-interest, trust, deregulation, MiltonFriedman


In this paper I will discuss Milton Friedman’s thesis that the social responsibilityof business is to maximize the shareholders’ profit. I examine the underlyingassumption of self-interest and argue, contrary to the neoliberal thesis ofderegulation, that the profit motive must be constrained by strong state regulations.Furthermore it facilitates keeping the division between business andgovernment intact. The financial crisis shows that the emphasis on a profitmotive without the external constraints of tight regulations has serious implicationsfor the trustworthiness of business. In the latter part of the paper I willdiscuss trust in relation to self-interest. The overemphasis on self-interest isparticularly unfortunate in connection with business, and not least the financialsector, as this institution is grounded in trust, without which it cannot survive.Seen from this angle, it can be claimed that a business model, celebratingprimarily self-interest, profit-motive and deregulation, is not going to be sustainablein the long run.

How to Cite
Nordal, S. (2009). Self-interest, deregulation and trust. Etikk I Praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics, 3(2), 53-63.
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