Editor's note: This paper was read at the eighth annual University of Dayton Philosophy Colloquium, held in 1979.

In this paper I shall make three arguments. First, I shall argue that while society tends to hold corporations morally responsible, and while one might argue that corporations should be morally accountable, corporations, as formal institutions, are so structured that such accountability is philosophically inappropriate. I shall criticize certain recent suggestions offered to make sense out of corporate moral responsibility because these suggestions either confuse corporations with other kinds of institutions, or they tend to confuse the concept of social responsibility with moral accountability.

Second, I shall claim that my conclusion that corporations are not structured as moral agents does not support Friedman's argument that in a free society the only responsibility of business is to its stockholders. This is because social responsibility and moral accountability are not interchangeable concepts, and because profit maximization and social responsibility are not contradictory corporate functions.

I shall conclude the paper by arguing that Friedman's notion of a free society involves the notion of moral accountability, and that corporate moral agency is a condition for the proper functioning of a private free enterprise system. Thus if economic freedom and autonomy are important, corporations might wish to examine what the notion of institutional moral agency entails.



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