In the latest paper for the Initiative on 21st Century Capitalism, Rebecca Henderson and Karthik Ramanna, professors at Harvard, look to business leaders to ask the important question: Do managers have a role to play in sustaining free and fair capitalism? The authors argue that corporations and their managers have a special duty to maintain the conditions that sustain capitalism when operating in sparsely attended political processes where competing voices are seldom heard. In such scenarios, managers have a responsibility to advance the interests of the capitalist system as a whole, even if this entails acting at the expense of corporate profits.
The authors think there are ways to promote a heightened managerial responsibility to the system. These ideas include:
- Design MBA programs to include courses on strategy and political economy that allow prospective managers the opportunity to explore the idea of multiple competing relationships in a comprehensive intellectual framework.
- Promote a richer and more informed understanding of the conditions under which a single-minded focus on profit seeking is no longer consistent with the underlying ethical basis for capitalism.
- Monitor and enforce responsibility to the system.
- Encourage innovation in institutions that promote and enforce business standards that address managerial agency for the market system.