Contrasting Ethics: Drucker and Friedman
Peter F. Drucker and Milton Friedman were two immensely successful men who made a huge impact on the business world during their lifetimes. As a matter of fact, their contributions in both theory and practice are still felt today. Both men were well-educated, leaders in their field, teachers, award winners, and published authors. One noted difference, however, was their backgrounds which were vastly different.
Peter Drucker was born in Austria during the early 1900’s of wealthy parents who were both professionals. His father served in a high government position as a lawyer and economist while his mother studied medicine (Beatty, 2005). Because of their affluence and influential place in society, Drucker’s parents surrounded themselves with the intelligentsia of their day, and thus, exposed young Drucker to some of the most profound thinkers of the period. For instance, he came into contact with Freud during this period. His parents often hosted gatherings for groups of modern thinkers in which lively discussions related to the arts and sciences was the rule of the day. Being privy to the musings of such intellectuals introduced Drucker to new ideas and ways of thinking (The Drucker Institute, 2011). Such an early introduction to genius and ingenuity made him a keen observer of people and paved the way for Drucker’s educational and professional achievements. Ultimately it was his fascination with people that lead him to the field of management.
Milton Friedman was also born in the early 1900s. Unlike Drucker, however, he was born in the United States to poor parents of Eastern-European background. Instead of spending time in the company of the intellectual elite, his family spent their time and effort in meeting their physical needs. Although poor, the family unit was close and placed a high value on education. Friedman completed his college degree in mathematics and economics with the help of scholarships and working odd jobs. (The Nobel Foundation, 1976)
When contemplating the questions, what is business ethics, what role, if any, should ethics play in business and to what extent is a business to assume responsibility in meeting social needs, one quickly realizes two things, a) these are age-old questions that countless others through centuries past have grappled with, and b) to date, one definitive answer has not been found. Different theories abound and many methods have been put forward and practiced; business ethics are practiced and social needs are met or not based on long-standing traditions and beliefs, with or without the profound theories of business ethicists. While Drucker and Friedman are both recognized experts in the field, they came to markedly diverse conclusions. It is probable that the pronounced differences in their backgrounds played a significant role in shaping their views on the subject of business ethics and how it relates to social responsibility.