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Elizabeth Murdoch: Money not the only “effective measure of all things” or free market “only sorting mechanism”

“As an industry — and indeed as a global society — we have become trapped in our own rhetoric. We need to learn how to be comfortable with articulating purpose and reject the idea that money is the only effective measure of all things or that the free market is the only sorting mechanism.” — Elisabeth Murdoch, executive.

“There is one and only social responsibility of business — to use its resoures and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” — Milton Friedman, economist. 

Friedman’s line of thinking  has informed the beliefs of many of the titans of capitalism who claim that, no matter the negative impacts of their businesses, they are merely playing their part in the capitalist system. Titans such as Rupert Murdoch, the telecommunications giant who is currently #69 on the Forbes Billionaire List with a net worth of $13.8 billion.  Murdoch has found himself in the headlines in the past for engaging in questionable practices in the pursuit of profits as his newspapers were investigated for hacking the cellphones of British celebrities, royalty and even regular citizens.

It is instances like this that cause one to challenge Friedman’s concept that the pursuit of profits are businesses only responsibility. However, there are business leaders who offer an alternative to this concept, some of whom come as quite a surprise. One of them is Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth,  and the CEO of Shine Limited, which stands for more than the pursuit of profits. In 2012, Ms. Murdoch delivered the keynote address at the GuardianMedia Edinburgh International Television Festival and surprised many with the message she sent. Her overall thesis can be best summarized by her quote that, “Profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster.” The speech can be found in it’s entirety here. She said:  “As an industry — and indeed as a global society — we have become trapped in our own rhetoric. We need to learn how to be comfortable with articulating purpose and reject the idea that money is the only effective measure of all things or that the free market is the only sorting mechanism.”  She added:

“Do we have such faith in the imperatives of the market that we need have no will of our own other than to succeed on its terms? It is increasingly apparent that the absence of purpose — or of a moral language — within government, media or business could become one of the most dangerous own goals for capitalism and freedom.”

It is important to keep in mind that in 2011 Elisabeth sold Shine Limited to her father’s News Corporation. She said the sale was necsary to achieve scale in the increasingly digitized media industry. Murdoch is seen as the possible future head of her father’s empire.

 

 

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