Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca Henderson: Is Business Ethics An Oxymoron?
Play • 25 min

This week on All Ears Abby welcomes Professor Rebecca Henderson, who teaches about innovation, corporate culture change, and ethics at Harvard Business School. Her class,  “Reimagining Capitalism”, is one of HBS’s most popular classes, and she says that the majority of her students tend to believe that capitalism is broken.  But Professor Henderson tells Abby that capitalism is a fundamentally moral enterprise, albeit one that needs to be held in delicate balance with a strong society and a democratically accountable government. They discuss the dramatic pivot point created by the charismatic economist Milton Friedman in the early 1970s. According to Professor Henderson, Friedman’s fervent free market beliefs created the moral, political, and legal arguments for abolishing ethical boundaries in business practices in the name of maximizing profits. Then, using their political clout, unchecked business leaders spend the next decades undermining protections for workers, healthcare, infrastructure and the environment. Professor Henderson urges listeners to lean into their power as consumers and voters as the engine of business cultural change.

Find Professor Rebecca Henderson on Twitter: @RebeccaReCap

Reimagining Capitalism In A World On Fire (Rebecca Henderson)
The Business Case For Saving Democracy: Why Free Markets Need Free Politics (Rebecca Henderson)
A Friedman doctrine‐- The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” (New York Times, 9/13/70)
The Powell Memo: A Call-to-Arms for Corporations” (Moyers On Democracy)

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