The UArizona Freedom Center Justice, Law, and Capitalism Talk Series presents an in-depth examination of ESG through the insights of nationally renowned scholars. They will explore the multidisciplinary dimensions of ESG, as an instantiation of private law embodying justice concerns, and address both its legitimacy and broader social and economic implications. These talks are open to faculty, students, and the public, but space is limited.

Topic: Measuring the Mission

In this essay, I provide a further defense of the somewhat unfashionable view that institutional actors should aim to increase the long-term market value of their firms. In section 1 I argue that the efficiency argument for profit maximization is often sufficient to justify the practice on consequentialist grounds. In sections-2-5, I argue that there are also compelling non-consequentialist arguments in favor of profit maximization. In section 2, I argue that firms with a profit-maximizing orientation are, surprisingly, more likely to promote the personal sovereignty of their worker than firms that pursue other values. In section 3, I argue that profit-maximizing firms are more respectful towards consumers as well, because they do not paternalistically limit consumer choice. In section 4, I argue that profit-maximizing firms are typically more honest and accountable than firms that purport to pursue other socially desirable values alongside long-term market value. And in section 5, I argue that alternatives to profit-maximization in firms are often inegalitarian in ways that critics of the profit-maximizing firm often overlook. To close, I argue in section 6 that this case for profit-maximizing industry can also explain why the nonprofit sector is often so dysfunctional and socially destructive. Section 7 concludes. 

Jessica Flanigan teaches Leadership Ethics, Ethical Decision Making in Healthcare, and Critical Thinking. Her research addresses the ethics of public policy, medicine, and business. In “Pharmaceutical Freedom” (Oxford University Press, 2017), she defends rights of self-medication. In “Debating Sex Work” (Oxford University Press, 2019), she defends the decriminalization of sex work.

Flanigan has also published in journals such as Philosophical Studies, The Journal of Business Ethics, Leadership, The Journal of Moral Philosophy, and the Journal of Political Philosophy. She is currently writing a book about the ethics of pregnancy and a book about language and ethics. She is a proponent of effective altruism.

The FC Justice, Law, and Capitalism Talk Series is curated by Saura Masconale, Freedom Center Associate Director and Assistant Professor of Political Economy and Moral Science, and Simone Sepe, Freedom Center Faculty, Chester H. Smith Professor, and Professor of Law and Finance.

For more information, contact Saura Masconale.