Spoiler alert. I have been reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I still am, it is a long book yet it has left me in a dilemma. At times I think it is the most fantastic of books while at others I don’t agree with some of the sentiments it contains. Perhaps that is the point that book is making but I won’t know until I get to the end. It could be that it is forcing me to think of some of the contradictions that exist within our so-called free market.
Should business be free from all constraint? Are the captains of industry the real global motives of power? Are economic outcomes the only true measure of success?
In part three of the book, in the hidden utopian mountain valley there was an inscription above the door of an important building. It says:
‘I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.’
My dilemma is that the inscription flies in the face, for me, of what it means to live within a society. Humans are social animals. We can only thrive by working together and I am convinced that my actions are intended to aid and assist my fellow creatures – if only in some small way.
It is not possible to separate an individual’s actions from the whole. All lives, whether intended or not affect those around them, sometimes in a good way and at others less so. It is the same for business. Businesses cannot divorce themselves from the society in which they operate. Businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail. Like it or not we all have a social responsibility.
This is where my interest in business ethics lies.
On reading the inscription again perhaps it lends itself more to a belief in freedom and indebtedness. I am sure I will find out.