by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Martin Center column reflects on the impact of “social justice” with university business schools.
Many professors cannot resist the temptation to smuggle their personal beliefs into the courses they teach. As long as those beliefs are “progressive,” there is little chance that higher-ups in their departments or top administrators will try to rein them in. For example, engineering has been infiltrated by activists who are concerned about social justice concerns, not just how to best design objects for performance and safety, as Michigan State professor Indrek Wichman pointed out.
A recent article published on Inside Higher Ed, “B-Schools That Don’t Boast About Billionaire Alumni,” similarly informs us that some business school professors have decided that they should teach students about their own social justice concerns, not just how to best manage an enterprise. …
… [I]f egalitarians believe that the U.S. should further decrease the gap between rich and poor by having businesses act in what they regard as socially responsible ways, they are free to do so. The questions, however, are whether that advocacy is sensible (can business actions really make a net improvement in the lives of poor people?) and whether teaching about this has a place in the business school curriculum.
One academic quoted in the article is Selma Botman, provost at Yeshiva University. She says, “If we teach (students) a high level of integrity and to conduct business using Jewish principles of justice, humanity, compassion and service to others, then we’re giving our students the tools to be successful in the business world, in the community and in their family life.” Toward that end, she extols Yeshiva courses such as “Business as a Human Enterprise” that includes “corporate social responsibility” and a labor economics course focusing on inequalities in human capital and wages.
But should Jewish values incline one to the belief that acting with justice and humanity means altering your business decision-making away from profit maximization? One Jewish intellectual who thought otherwise was Milton Friedman. (Friedman was of Jewish ancestry, although he wasn’t religiously Jewish.) He took issue with the notion that business executives have either a moral warrant or expertise to pursue social justice objectives in their roles as corporate managers in his 1970 essay, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase its Profits.”