May 242010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on philosophy in business:

It’s hard to be pro-business since few (none?) are actually in favor of freedom and individual rights, but rather lobby to twist big government to their purposes which mostly conflict with individual rights. Thoughts?

I’m pro-business for the awesome products they produce that make my life better — not for their politics, nor for their pull-peddling.

Sadly, it’s not reasonable to expect businesses to be any better than the culture as a whole. And the culture is solidly behind a mixed economy.

Why don’t companies/firms hire staff philosophers?

Most philosophers would be destructive to business, as they’re hostile to the self-interested pursuit of profit.

Good philosophers could be useful, but likely only as occasional consultants, not full-time employees. However, most businessmen today are extremely pragmatic and somewhat altruistic, so they wouldn’t see the value in a principled approach to business.

Can you think of a good, specific example of how a consulting philosopher might be of value to a business? Especially assuming the business owner was already an Objectivist and had a basic grasp of rational selfishness and the danger/evil of altruism.

The fact that a business owner is an Objectivist doesn’t mean that he will create a corporate culture that supports the virtues. (For an example of what that looks like, see what John Allison did with BB&T.)

A philosopher could help do that. It’s not trivial, for example, to see what justice requires in compensation. Or whether the business should be involved in charity. Or how to deal fairly with an employee suffering from personal problems. Or how to maximize productivity. Or how to ensure that employees are rewarded for facing problems rather than evading them.

Via the Ayn Rand Institute, Objectivist intellectuals have done that kind work with Hutchinson Technologies; they’ve put together training seminars and the like for management.

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