Friday, November 20 – Saturday, November 21

Crisis in the Economic Theory of the Firm

Milton Friedman famously wrote that the only social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. Friedman's result is based, among others, on the assumption that the rules of the game are fixed: firms, in their profit maximizing behavior, cannot modify the rules to their own advantage. Ironically, the year after Friedman published “The social responsibility of business,” George Stigler, Friedman’s colleague at the University of Chicago, published “The Theory of Economic Regulation,” perhaps the most influential piece ever written on the problem of regulatory capture. A central thesis of this paper is that, as a rule, regulation is "acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.” Hence, firms are not players in a game whose rules are exogenously set (as in Friedman’s view), but players that successfully lobby to modify the rules of the game to their advantage. From a normative point of view, in this world what should a firm maximize? Is Friedman's rule still valid, or should it be modified? If so, how? This is the topic we want to discuss in this meeting.

Co-organized with Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School
Baker Library, Bloomberg Center 102
3 Soldiers Field Road
Allston, MA 02134

See schedule for more details.


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