In my post “Capitalism vs. the market” I argued that while when the market was subordinate to civil society it was a source for enhancing human liberty, when it became independent of, and even worse, superior to civil society it became a totalitarian power subordinating all other human values to making as much money as possible regardless of the consequences to others. To make my point clear I contrasted businesses which were controlled by a human being, and so reflected the complexity of its owner’s values, and joint stock corporations which as institutional sociopaths reflected nothing human at all.
An interesting example are those corporations still controlled or dominated by their founders and their values. Until the logic of the market triumphs over them, as Milton Friedman for one says it should, such companies are still in the realm of human freedom.
NPR reports that Sarbucks’ founder and CEO Howard Schultz put a bigoted shareholder in his place when he objected to the company’s supporting gay marriage in the face of a boycott by other bigots. NPR gives the following account:
shareholder Tom Strobhar suggested that the boycott had indeed bled the company of value.
“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earrings — shall we say politely — were a bit disappointing,” he said.
CEO Howard Schultz shot back that the decision to back gay marriage was not about the bottom line, but about respecting diversity. He said the company had delivered a healthy return last year, boycott or no.
“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much,” he said, to loud applause from the audience.