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The Business of Business is Business

Editors’Note: August 4, 2017
Legitimateobjections have been raised about the independence and integrity of thecommentaries that Henry Miller has written for Project Syndicate and other outlets, inparticular that Monsanto, rather than Miller, drafted some of them. Readersshould be aware of this potential conflict of interest, which, had it beenknown at the time Miller’s commentaries were accepted, would have constitutedgrounds for rejecting them.

The American President Calvin Coolidge once said that the business of America is business. He might have added that the business of business everywhere is to pursue profits, for lately some corporate leaders seem to have lost sight of that elementary precept.

Daniel Vasella, the chairman and CEO of Switzerland-based Novartis, the world's fifth largest pharmaceutical company, recently wrote that multinational companies "have a duty to adhere to fundamental values and to support and promote them." If he were referring to corporate values such as honesty, innovation, voluntary exchange, and the wisdom of the marketplace, he would be right. But what he meant was "collaborat[ing]

constructively with the UN and civil society to define the best way to improve human rights."