Freiburger Diskussionspapiere zur Ordnungsökonomik 06/6
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become not only a growing subject in business schools and in academic as well as public discourse more generally, the CSR-movement has grown into a major industry providing a profitable niche for a variety of non-profit organizations. The literature devoted to CSR can fill libraries, and sorting out the variety of arguments that academic researchers on, and political advocates of, corporate social responsibility have advanced is a Sisyphean task. The purpose of this paper is to identify and examine some of the more fundamental arguments by approaching the matter from the perspective of constitutional economics. The focus of my analysis will be on the issue that Milton Friedman (1970) has raised in a famous essay that has become a catalyst in the debate on CSR and by far the most often quoted paper in this debate. Restating an argument made earlier in his Capitalism and Freedom Friedman noted in this essay: "In a free-enterprise, private-property system a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers."