Business and The Public Interest

Business and The Public Interest

Business and the Public Interest

There are four criticisms to the equilibrium model. First, it implies there is no such thing as "the public interest" and that business decisions are merely an amalgam which reflects the relative power positions of contending interests.

This is a proposition which many political scientists would not accept. Second, there is no assurance an equilibrium achieved in this way maximizes the total welfare of all groups affected by the decision. There may be undue consideration given to the most articulate groups. Third, managers are pictured as being much weaker and accommodating than they actually are. They are subject to the influence of external pressures, to be sure, but they have enough autonomy to resist them with vigour when deemed necessary.

Fourth, the equilibrium approach to decision making has no ethical content. Management bases its decisions not on moral principle but on expediency, and expediency can never be offered as a moral reason for a particular action or decision. All that the plea of expediency does is to describe why something was done, not what ought to have been done.

Closely related to the equilibrium model is the incremental model. The manager approaches his task of making socially responsible decisions humbly, but he does attempt to move the world in some small measure in the direction of an optimal state. He does not explicitly sort out values involved in the decision and rank them, because this would confuse rather than clarify matters.

Relying on intuition, he assesses the current situation and attempts to make a decision which improves things slightly. This is a conservative approach. Political factors are taken into account, but the manager is also actively involved in the moral aspects of the situation. By avoiding extremes he is not likely to commit a serious moral error, except perhaps by omission.

An example of this approach might be the impact of the civil rights movement on hiring and personnel practices. The manager might be besieged by various groups concerned with civil rights to take steps regarding the hiring of Black workers. Some groups would want more Black workers hired, readier access to management positions for Black workers, and so on, while others might want the company to maintain the status quo or even become more discriminatory in personnel practices.

The manager who makes a decision on this matter according to the incremental model might decide to throw out any existing discriminatory practices and make hiring and advancement strictly a matter of ability.


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