Global Warming

"We Don't Talk Green Talk in the Company"

|

TJ

One of the best features ever to appear in reason, in my humble opinion, was a three-way debate about corporate social responsibility between Milton Friedman, Whole Foods founder John Mackey, and the guy you see above, Cypress Semiconductors' T.J. Rodgers. All three are libertarians, but they found plenty to disagree about. Rodgers was more Catholic than the pope, citing Friedman to Friedman, and accusing Mackey of letting Ralph Nader ghostwrite his contribution.

These days, Rodgers is also the chairman of SunPower Corp, a manufacturer of solar-power systems. But his stance on the touchy-feely side of corporate social responsibility doesn't seem to have changed:

"We don't talk green talk in the company. As a matter of fact, I get itchy when I hear that kind of stuff."

Then he tells a story about the time he caught the president of SunPower "blathering about ice caps or something like that" and went to great lengths to publicly mock him for being, essentially, a Birkenstocks-wearing dirty hippie.

Rodgers' position these days seems to be something like this: Give the people a product they want, make a profit doing it, and don't feel too high and mighty if you happen to do something "socially responsible." Green is good? Who cares? The important thing, as he puts it, is that "green is green." Like money, get it?

Watch the whole thing at reason.tv

Read more about Rodgers here. More from Rodgers here.

Advertisement

NEXT: Camel Snus in the Smoke-Free Tent

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Rodgers won’t think it’s a big joke when he has to resort to cannibalism.

    The war of all against all always ends with a nice dinner of long pig.

    Or not:

    It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted. It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal. It was mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork have. The steak was slightly tougher than prime veal, a little stringy, but not too tough or stringy to be agreeably edible. The roast, from which I cut and ate a central slice, was tender, and in color, texture, smell as well as taste, strengthened my certainty that of all the meats we habitually know, veal is the one meat to which this meat is accurately comparable.

  2. Then he tells a story about the time he caught the president of SunPower “blathering about ice caps or something like that” and went to great lengths to publicly mock him for being, essentially, a Birkenstocks-wearing dirty hippie.

    He sounds like a real asshole.

  3. He will be the first to go under The New Regime.

  4. This guy ROCKS!

    I wonder what he would say about my C8H18 license plate and the Powered by Organic Hydrogen bumper sticker on the 1972 Dodge Charger?

  5. Give the people a product they want, make a profit doing it, and don’t feel too high and mighty if you happen to do something “socially responsible.”

    Rodgers, if he keeps that up, could get pretty close to what passes for a hero at my house.

  6. Rodgers, if he keeps that up, could get pretty close to what passes for a hero at my house.

    And become the next target of the Democrat party for making money? See: energy companies; drug companies.

  7. SugarFree: That headline is amazing. Ted Turner is one of those people who likes to talk about things, even if he doesn’t really understand the issue.

  8. All three are libertarians, but they found plenty to disagree about.

    Well knock me over with a feather!
    I’ll go RTFA now.

  9. OK, a CEO who thinks his, and by extension his employees, job is to produce profits.

    Despicable.

  10. Yes, he’s despicable.
    And … and … and picable.
    How a person gets to be so despicable on one lifetime is beyond me.
    Goodness knows, it isn’t that I haven’t met a lot of people, goodness knows.

  11. He sounds like a real asshole.

    Sounds like my kind of asshole.
    I’m writing from the Land of Free-Range, Dirt-Worshipping Hippies — Missoula, Montana.

  12. Not our sort of people at all, dear.

  13. I went to all of the links.

    Is there a fan club for this guy?

  14. Not our sort of people at all, dear.

    Speak for yourself, shitstick.

  15. I’ve taken a swig out of a Coke can that was used as a spittoon. It was not the most pleasant experience of my life.

  16. Oops, wrong thread.

  17. I’ve taken a swig out of a Coke can that was used as a spittoon. It was not the most pleasant experience of my life.

    I started using my morning Starbucks cup to avoid that mistake.

  18. Okay, I’m a little confused. This blurb makes this guy appear to be suggesting that corporations (and the people who make up that corporation) should have no motive for their corporation beyond making a profit?

    Is this what anybody else pulls from this? And if so, do you guys really support that kind of thinking (and even praise it)?

    I always thought that this kind of attitude was merely a straw man stereotype put forth by anti-corporate types to argue about why capitalism is bad. I always argue that most, if not all, capitalists do have ethics that encourage them to do the right thing, even if it might cost them a few bucks. In other words, that profits aren’t the only motivation for a capitalist.

    I personally have no respect for anyone who blatantly says “screw the public good” and cares only about profits (and I am a big fan of profits — just not profits that come at the expense of the public good). I can’t believe that’s what Rodgers actually believes, but that kind of seems to be what this blurb suggests, and also seems to be what some people are condoning.

  19. Sounds like my kind of asshole.

    That says it all. He is an asshole, but if there were more assholes like him who were willing to invest and lead in doing things which ultimately are “socially responsible,” we’d be better off. I don’t understand why there seems to be such a reluctance to start large scale production and technology of “green” tech, mostly because it would be so profitable.

  20. J sub D | April 14, 2008, 2:07pm | #
    Oops, wrong thread.

    And yet, so strangely appropriate.

  21. Okay, I’m a little confused. This blurb makes this guy appear to be suggesting that corporations (and the people who make up that corporation) should have no motive for their corporation beyond making a profit? etc, etc…

    To me, it’s the difference between long term and short term self-interest. Profit isn’t a bad motivator if we’re able to look a few steps beyond what we’re doing. “Green” tech seems to do that, while year-end profits as the motivator leads to exploitation, pollution and everything else people hate corporations for. I’d say looking into the long term will always lead to social responsibility, whether it’s the intent or not.

  22. I always argue that most, if not all, capitalists do have ethics that encourage them to do the right thing, even if it might cost them a few bucks.

    Who or what decides what the “right thing” is?

    I personally have no respect for anyone who blatantly says “screw the public good” and cares only about profits (and I am a big fan of profits — just not profits that come at the expense of the public good).

    Who or what decides what the “public good” is?

    Here’s a wacky idea…

    Have government limit its laws such that the profitable approach is to do the “right thing” in the interest of the actual “public good.”

    Then you’ll bloody well want corporations working to maximize profit — which is, after all, what corporations are designed to do.

  23. One of the only folks in business who knows he is running a business and not a charity, so of course, the Leftleaners have to start calling him names since rotten fruit won’t fit thorugh the intertubes.

  24. Green is good? Who cares? The important thing, as he puts it, is that “green is green.” Like money, get it?

    We get it, all right. We’re in the utilities construction business and we specialize in directional drilling. It’s fast becoming our cash cow thanks to the AGW hysteria. We’re pitching it as “green” and, as AGW deniers, we’re laughing all the way to the bank.

  25. I eagerly wait the day when Walmart can drive the price of solar or wind generation equipment into the dirt.

    Corporate Americal is the salvation for AGW.

  26. Sounds like my kind of asshole.

    birds of a feather

  27. brad: you are very confused. the market decides which companies make profits and which ones don’t (in pure capitalism). your ‘public good’ is probably not my ‘public good’ and profits are THE motivation for a capitalist. The only thing that should be illegal is direct injury to other parties which is for the courts to sort out.

  28. Who or what decides what the “right thing” is?

    Who or what decides what the “public good” is?

    Who or what decides how to define any value?

    Have government limit its laws such that the profitable approach is to do the “right thing” in the interest of the actual “public good.”

    Whatever happens in the absence of government activism must necessarily be what is in the public good?

    Sure. That makes perfect sense. It has the advantage of not requiring one to define anything as good before hand, so that any outcome can be defined as the public good.

  29. The only thing that should be illegal is direct injury to other parties

    Says who? Who decided that is what is good?

  30. Brad,

    What are you, 22?

  31. So, joe tell us who you think should define what is or is not “public good”.

    That’s an honest request, not snark.

  32. Whatever happens in the absence of government activism must necessarily be what is in the public good?

    To a first order, a corporation’s public good is serving customers. If it does that well, it makes money. If it does that poorly, it loses money. That should be the principal motivation of a company, and it is directly related to the profitability of the company.

    There are externalities to the corporation’s behavior. Under well-structured law, the costs of those externalities are internalized into the company’s finances, so they too directly impact the profitability of the company.

    Outside of these considerations, questions of “right thing”, “public good”, or “any value” are really quite irrelevant: They are fully subsumed in the corporation’s relationships and decided by the particular participants in the respective associations.

  33. I used to work as a stock analyst in late 90s/early 00s, and Cypress was one of the companies I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. Even at the height of the technology bubble they went way over the top with options, and they kept the impact of exercising these options off their cash flow statements. Given how dominant T.J.Rodgers was in the company, he very quickly made it onto my list of people I wouldn’t trust.

  34. It’s clearly not true that a corporation making a profit always serves the public good; if a corporation uses buddies in Washington to take my property and bulldoze it, it very well may make a profit without serving the public good. If a corporation operates in an economy with legally held slaves, it may be able to make a profit without serving the public good. If a corporation can make a profit spewing out pollution that makes other peoples’ lives worse without having to offer them any form of compensation, it can turn a profit while harming the public good. Corporations operating in a world with properly defined and protected rights are going to improve public welfare most by making a profit, but corporations operating in a world where some rights are not protected can seriously harm the public good when profitable activities include trammeling other peoples unprotected rights.

  35. There are externalities to the corporation’s behavior. Under well-structured law, the costs of those externalities are internalized into the company’s finances, so they too directly impact the profitability of the company.

    I don’t see that happening. If business had to account for all the externalities, it would probably eliminate profits, at least under the current structure we have. In an ideal sense, you’re right, but externality accountability by corporations are currently at a minimum.

  36. Adamness,

    I think your impression of what minimum corporate accountability of externalities actually might be is quite jaded. See Jorgen’s comment for a number of examples of externalities and outright rights abrogations that are rare or unheard of in the US.

  37. I personally have no respect for anyone who blatantly says “screw the public good” and cares only about profits (and I am a big fan of profits — just not profits that come at the expense of the public good)

    Please define “profits that come at the expense of the public good.”

    I’ve never heard of such a thing, except from people who have no idea what “public good” and “profit” means.

  38. Incidentally, the greatest factor in the divergence of corporate profit and the actual public good is government legislation ostensibly passed for the public good.

  39. joe: That is the only rule of capitalism. Don’t encroach on the natural rights of others. (life, liberty, pursuit ..)

    And the only proper function of government is protection of those rights.

  40. He sounds like a real asshole.

    Rodgers, or the guy blathering about ice caps?

    Who or what decides how to define any value?

    You get to define value for yourself. Ditto for the “right thing.” As to the “public good,” well, road to hell, etc.

    There are externalities to the corporation’s behavior.

    Not all externalities are negative. Some, perhaps many, perhaps even most, are positive. If you’re going to attempt to internalize externalities that don’t cause direct harm to someone else, you really should be internalizing the beneficial ones, too.

  41. “Missoula, Montana”

    We played there. Place called the Cantina.

  42. So are there people who sincerely think that it’s perfectly okay for a company to do anything at all to increase their profits, as long as there isn’t a specific law against it? You consider this behavior you condone?

    And I’m not suggesting that Rodgers thinks this — I don’t know if he does or not. But some of the responses to my question seem to state this idea, and I have a hard time believing anyone can actually hold that position in a sincere way.

    I personally believe that corporations should both make a profit and be socially responsible (meaning, in the simplest of all terms, that they should try to minimize the harm they do in the world and maximize the improvements they can make to the world, within reason).

    And I think most everybody can identify at least a few examples of “harm” and “improvements” that would be virtually universal.

  43. I think your impression of what minimum corporate accountability of externalities actually might be is quite jaded.

    In the current system we have now, how can you not be? Rights aren’t being protected and corporations take full advantage of that, whether it be labor exploitation, pollution or whatever else.

    I believe that free markets, capitalism and protected rights would be best, but you can’t have one without the other. Currently, externalities are rarely absorbed by corporations and generally fall to the taxpayer. The corporation as a legal person, which I guess is fine in theory, is not held to the same standard of the law as an actual person and they don’t have to be accountable to anyone.

  44. brad: hypothetical for you..

    ACME corp sells a cure for a rare form of cancer that only affects billionaires. Each dose of cure requires them to cut 4000 acres of the Amazon rain forest (they own plenty of rainforest). billionaires pay a hefty premium for this cure and ACME is doing very well.

    Is what ACME does against the ‘public good’? Should they be forced to shutdown? Do we force the billionaires to die from cancer? Are billionaires part of the public? Do they have a smaller say in what is good? Do you like mob rule?

  45. Adamness,

    I am not seeing a whole lot of externalities or rights abrogations listed in your comment.

    Without further elucidation, I must dismiss “labor exploitation” out of hand. “Pollution” is a big word, and most of it in this day and age is well internalized. See 19th century Britain or pre-1970 US rivers for some real externalized pollution.

    Then you have the catch all “whatever else.” Please give some examples of actual externalities that are not internalized by either producer or consumer and not actually caused by government. I think the total dollar cost of those to society will be far, far below what could be imagined or even what they have been in the past.

  46. adrian: Kinda sounds like someone trying to justify torture by citing an episode of “24.”

    Further, that one hypothetical means nothing in this case … I’m not talking about billionaires and rain forests … we are talking about a general philosophy.

    And this has NOTHING to do with mob rule or even the opinions of people outside of the corporation exerting any influence on the corporation at all (and certainly not about government mandates). It’s a matter of the kind of ethics you would prefer to see in a CEO. Would you rather they care exclusively about profits, or would you rather they balance their desire for profits with a concern about what impact their actions will have on others?

    Are you saying that you cannot think of a single instance of a situation in which you would not condone a company making more money by doing something that harms others … as long as that harm is not illegal (which would, of course, mean that you have full faith in our government to make the right things illegal).

    Or do you actually agree that you think that corporations should take matters beyond exclusively looking at profit into consideration when making their decisions?

  47. “Then he tells a story about the time he caught the president of SunPower “blathering about ice caps or something like that” and went to great lengths to publicly mock him for being, essentially, a Birkenstocks-wearing dirty hippie.”

    Because nothing ensures corporate creativity like ridiculing subordinates in front of their co-workers.

  48. So are there people who sincerely think that it’s perfectly okay for a company to do anything at all to increase their profits, as long as there isn’t a specific law against it?

    Brad, as long as you’re not violating someone else’s rights, yes, you can do whatever you want, whether you’re acting in the name of a company or not. If you violate someone’s rights, well then, of course, that’s different.

    Now, in most cases one’s rights, to self and property, are easy to define, though sometimes not, such as in the case of what I’d call an inevitable commons, such as the atmosphere. Those are the only cases where I would make an exception, only because, as I said, the rights involved are inherently difficult to define. Still, addressing such issues should be done in a way that sticks as close to principles of personal rights as possible.

    Aside from such cases, how do you define “public good” apart from a collection individuals’ rights?

  49. So are there people who sincerely think that it’s perfectly okay for a company to do anything at all to increase their profits, as long as there isn’t a specific law against it? You consider this behavior you condone?

    They don’t just condone it, they celebrate it. In fact, they consider it a moral failing to include any other ethical consideration even in the operation of your own small business, be it employee standard of living, community improvement, or anything else. If you are paying your workers anything above the lowest point the market will bear, you are a moral cretin who hates success, despises money, and wishes for Socialist revolution.

    Oh sure, they’ll tell you you have the “right” to do it, but nonetheless it’s worthy of mockery.

  50. Brad –
    maybe you should get on the case of the public who buys goods. If the corporation’s customers wanted the corporation to be more socially responsible or green or whatever, it would likely change its practices because that IS a profit maximizing activity. Otherwise, your customers might go elsewhere.

  51. fyodor: I agree with you general thesis … and I take it you agree with mine.

  52. Brad
    Ever hear of “Fiduciary Duty”? ya bonehead

  53. I mean, for crying out loud. The man in question heads a company that makes solar-power systems. What does that tell you right there?

  54. RC:

    IMHO, Rodgers sounds like an asshole for the reason that I quoted, not because he wants his company to be profitable. Profitability isn’t assholish in and of itself. Making fun of your company’s CEO for expressing concern about the ice caps is assholish. YMMV.

  55. …you are a moral cretin who hates success, despises money, and wishes for Socialist revolution.

    I believe that the argument is actually that you aren’t maximizing the wealth of society.

    But your strawman is certainly more colorful. Does he also wear a top hat?

  56. I mean, for crying out loud. The man in question heads a company that makes solar-power systems. What does that tell you right there?

    I would be more impressed if he made solar systems. But that’s just me.

    Wait, if Al Gore claims to have invented the Solar System I will have to retract.


  57. Ever hear of “Fiduciary Duty”? ya bonehead

    Ever hear of the difference between normative and descriptive?

  58. Reinmoose: I totally agree with everything but your first sentence (as I reject you suggestion that I should ignore the CEO side as that’s what we are talking about). Consumers should make their purchasing decisions based on something more than exclusively looking at cost. The same basic theory applies to everyone.

    By suggesting that one side of the equation should do so in no way suggests that the other side shouldn’t as well.

    One limitation that consumers have is that they don’t always have perfect information about the inner-workings and decisions of the corporation whose products they are considering.


  59. I believe that the argument is actually that you aren’t maximizing the wealth of society.

    But your strawman is certainly more colorful. Does he also wear a top hat?

    He’s a wonderful strawman – white (natch!), with a dark cape, big cigar, and menacing glance, as he cracks his whip on a minimum wage employee’s ass.

    But don’t think I haven’t heard these premises articulated by libertarians over and over again. Witness some of the comments already accumulating.

  60. Brad
    Thanks, I know that consumers don’t always have perfect information. But why should a company CEO engage in activities that his customers and shareholders don’t want him to, even if you happen to think it’s in the public interest or whatever that is? Engage in behavior your customers don’t like (i.e. – costing more than your competitors for reasons they don’t understand nor will they take the time to research) and you will lose. And then you won’t be able to engage in those socially responsible activities anymore. Is that moral?

  61. brad: stop dancing and answer the question. ‘public good’ has no meaning. What’s good for you may not be good for me. Individual rights are all we have. As long as you don’t take mine away i don’t care what the hell you do. And we have courts whose job it is to decide if you have had your rights taken away.

    pendulum: I’m sorry we aren’t all Statists. Capitalism increases standards of living, capitalism is production. How were those communities in Soviet Russia? Business owners can pay their workers whatever they want. That is their right. If they can stay in business paying high wages more power to them. They will probably attract the best talent. But don’t cry to me if someone undercuts them. Remember the easiest way to full employment is no minimum wage.

  62. I do find it really entertaining that I have already received several personal insults on this thread for having the audacity to state something that I prefer CEOs who make their decisions based on more than just maximizing profit.

    In reality, setting aside a few rote rhetorical arguments, I suspect that everyone actually agrees with me on this point.

  63. Brad,

    Reading the three-way debate cited in the original post may give you an understanding of the alternative.

    The bottom line: If you want to maximize the amount of wealth that will go to your favorite non-profit-maximizing cause, you should invest your money in a profit-maximizing corporation and donate the proceeds from that investment.

  64. Brad,
    Please delete any reference to your degree from your website. It’s embarrassing us.

    Sincerely,
    Your Alma Mater

  65. that was funny. lol

  66. OK, freemarket gone wrong class time.

    A. A chairman of the board who refuses to endorse his companies biggest marketing chip, because?

    B. If you owned/worked for a company who elevated a man to chairman who opposes using the biggest marketing chip available, because of “personal” values, would you believe the board was 1. Nuts or 2. Nuts?

    So, if the market is working, how does a guy who essentially opposes his own marketing department, actually become chairman?

    He didn’t get there by any measure of the freemarket I know.

    One usually hires tennis players to play tennis, in his case it is like hiring hockey players to play water polo.

    Makes no sense. Unless you assume that his position has nothing to do with the “market”. Which it prolly doesn’t. He will, after all, get paid well whether or not the company does well under his watch or not. Sort of the way feudalism works.

    But definitely not the free market.

  67. So Rodgers is horrified that the president of a solar energy company cares about the polar ice caps? Dude is going to totally hate his customers if he ever meets them.

    Yeah, yeah, he has the right to hate his customers, and he has the right to insult them, and they have the right to go elsewhere, but he also has the right to keep his mouth shut in front of them, and maybe that will work, and all that.

    Still, I can’t help but think that if he really dislikes the sort of people who are most interested in his product then he’s going to have problems.

    The Whole Foods guy gets something that Rodgers doesn’t: Customers like all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. If you like the same things as your customers, and translate that enthusiasm for the product into stuff that customers will really like, then you can make money and have fun at the same time. The best part of the article with the Whole Foods guy and Rodgers and Friedman was where the Whole Foods CEO compared the profitability of his company with the profitability of Rodgers’ company. That was after Rodgers accused him of being some sort of anti-capitalist.

  68. When I teach physics, I don’t belittle my students for liking math and science and engineering.

  69. By the way, the “The important thing” as Katherine puts it, is this man opposes his companies likeliest path to profit. For personal reasons. (bias against hippies, did his mother sleep with one, or what?)

    This is not green (as in cash), this is joyfully demonstrating that he, and the free market, have little in common.

    Free marketers rarely turn down perfect marketing strategies.

    Unless they are doing something else, other than participating in the free market, entirely.

  70. I do find it really entertaining that I have already received several personal insults on this thread for having the audacity to state something that I prefer CEOs who make their decisions based on more than just maximizing profit.

    Your portfolio must do real well.

  71. I recently discovered that some of my colleagues enjoy working with students. Don’t they realize that the paycheck is the only thing that matters, not the enjoyment of the job?

    They should learn to hate everything about the job except the paycheck. Only then will they be worthy of praise from Rodgers.

  72. In reality, setting aside a few rote rhetorical arguments, I suspect that everyone actually agrees with me on this point.

    Nope.

    In fact, up above you wrote:

    Are you saying that you cannot think of a single instance of a situation in which you would not condone a company making more money by doing something that harms others … as long as that harm is not illegal (which would, of course, mean that you have full faith in our government to make the right things illegal).

    On Rainbow Puppy Island, things that harm others are illegal. And everything else is legal.

    Thus, when the government is behaving properly, it is impossible for a company to do something that harms others that is not illegal.

    In the real world, I apply the same system. The LAW doesnt matter. Its harm. But, if they arent harming others, fuck the “public good”.

  73. robc:

    is it impossible to act in a way to the detriment of others (which is what I suspect was meant by harm in this context) that is not illegal?

    I suspect you will agree that it is not impossible to do so.

  74. He said harm, not detriment.

    And, if he meant detriment, I have no problem with that. When Ford sells a car, it is to the detriment of GM. Is that a problem?

  75. innominate,

    I more timely example:

    When you default on your mortgage, it causes my bank stock to drop. However, I invested knowing the risk, as long as you didnt commit fraud on your mortgage application, you didnt “harm” me. It was a risk that I understood and it went the wrong way. Sucks to be me.

    Since its in the “public good” for everyone to pay their mortgage, anyone who gets foreclosed on should go to debtors prison. Brad may not admit to it, but thats what his argument implies. (Unless its only wrong for one side of a business transaction to not consider the public good).

  76. robc:

    It is not required to pay employees more than minimum wage, but it is to their detriment. Are you trying to argue that companies shouldn’t try to take into account the good of their employees? That is what one could take away from your argument, though it’s a bit of a strawman. Similarly, many people’s representations of Brad’s argument and comments are also strawman arguments.

  77. It is not required to pay employees more than minimum wage, but it is to their detriment.

    Perhaps you haven’t looked at the wage distribution in the last 60 or so years. It is absolutely required for more than 95% of jobs to pay employees more than minimum wage.

    Or do you think that requirements are not imposed by reality — only by government?

  78. MikeP

    I was referring to what is legally required, as is the context of the conversation. I am aware of the laws of supply and demand.

  79. Doesn’t it go right to your point though? Companies must take into account the good of their employees to the extent required to acquire and retain them. They need not take their good into account any more than that.

    Ignoring other considerations of the employees is not to the employees’ detriment. If it were, they would simply walk.

  80. MikeP

    Presumably, the companies are paying employees more than minimum for the company’s benefit, hiring and retaining worthwhile employees, not the benefit of the employees per se.

  81. Exactly.

    What was the debate about again?

  82. Ah … another personal jab. Great!

    But I am quite sure that nobody at MSU actually disagrees with what I’ve said, either.

    Virtually every person on earth (including 99.9999% of CEOs) would agree that there is (and should be) more that goes into a CEOs decision process than merely the amount of profit involved.

    If there isn’t, then it reinforces the leftist argument that capitalism is evil. I don’t think it is. I believe that these other considerations (and the ethics of those making the decisions) is actually a vital part of capitalism, and that adverse impacts of a decision or non-monetary positive impacts of a decision are valid “costs” and “benefits” that weigh into every CEOs decision. That’s just as capitalistic as any perverse “big evil uncaring money-grubbing corporation” straw man scenario that any anti-corporate person could devise.

  83. MikeP

    I was disagreeing with robc’s characterization of Brad’s comments. You were arguing against a strawman.

  84. I hope I won.

  85. robc: Sorry to break this to you, but your post actually agreed with what I am saying.

    I was making the point (to counter what somebody else said) that doing harm to others/violating the rights of others is not a range of situations that is covered by the laws 100% (nor would we ever trust the government to try to cover 100% of those situations, as they would have a lot of unintended consequences in the process), and therefore the assertion of another person that a corporation can do no harm as long as it doesn’t break the law is not accurate.

    In case this point is not being heard … I am in favor of more trust in, and repsonsibility from, corporations, as opposed to more government oversight of corporations. But that only works if people think that corporations aren’t solely and exclusively interested in making profits to the exclusion of all other impacts of their actions. If that was the case, then we would need more, rather than less, regulation of corporations, because corporations (per the arguments of many on here) would apparently take full advantage of each and every opportunity to harm somebody else as long as there was profit in it.

    In reality, this is not the case, as well it shouldn’t be. Corporations can be, and generally are, quite ethical and mindful of the impact of their actions beyond the P&L.

  86. By the way, the “The important thing” as Katherine puts it, is this man opposes his companies likeliest path to profit.

    Really? I suspect his company’s only path to profit is to produce solar power systems that produce electricity that is economically competitive. I suspect that one of the great dangers that his company faces is staff that lose sight of this because they are hypnotized by doing things for the “greater good” instead.

    Keeping people focussed on the hard cold facts of long-term corporate survival and eventual profitability strikes me as an excellent thing for leadership to keep in mind.

    At the end of the day, the company that achieves real market share and delivers trainloads of real, useful solar power systems creates more of that “greater good” than the one that goes out of business because they thought that being socially responsible was the main thing, and not just a nice perk.

  87. Seems to me that the only way to measure the ‘public good’ is to see who can make the most money (aka profit) by delivering stuff that people want to buy. If selling the public what they want to buy isn’t a ‘public good’, what is?

  88. I’ve been donating a tiny bit of appreciated Cypress stock to the Reason Foundaton the last couple of years. Take that, TJ, you bastard! Society will benefit, despite your evil nature! Bwahahahah!
    (I’ve also made a few bucks myself off CY. And I shall spend it on puppies and rainbows!!! Bwahahahaha!)

  89. Speaking of greenieness and niceieness, what is reason doing for Vladimir Lenin’s Birthday, er, tree hugger Festivus Earth Day?

  90. R C-

    Yes, they need to be profitable, but there’s nothing wrong with liking what you do for multiple reasons. It shouldn’t be surprised if somebody in a technology firm thinks it’s neat that his technology might be good for the environment.

    More importantly, regardless of what sort of code of discussion a CEO enforces inside the company, publicly dissing something that a lot of customers regard as a cool feature is a bad way to do business.

  91. thoreau,
    That’s cool if the company execs think what they do is “neat,” but not at the expense of profits. As a shareholder, I want the most bucks I can get, in part so I can do “neat” things like give them to the Reason Foundation, Nature Conservancy, ACLU, et al.
    And maybe TJ figures his customers and shareholders will like his hard-assed approached. I mean, it worked with me.

  92. there is (and should be) more that goes into a CEOs decision process than merely the amount of profit involved.

    If there isn’t, then it reinforces the leftist argument that capitalism is evil.

    No, it merely reinforces the leftist ignorance about the invisible hand.

  93. More importantly, regardless of what sort of code of discussion a CEO enforces inside the company, publicly dissing something that a lot of customers regard as a cool feature is a bad way to do business.

    Well, perhaps Rodgers actually IS trying to do something beyond profit, something he believes to be in the public good: mocking Birkenstocks-wearing dirty hippies.

    And I’m not just making a joke. Perhaps he thinks he is serving a higher cause by using his platform to decry what he sees as a harmful mindset.

    Or, alternately, perhaps it actually is cold profit calculation: Perhaps he has reason to believe — accurately or not — that there is more money for his company marketing solar power to people who think melting-ice-caps talk is foolish.

    In other words, your “The Whole Foods guy gets something that Rodgers doesn’t” isn’t necessarily true.

  94. Tom-

    What if a pharmaceutical company manager said something about how great it was that they were curing a deadly disease? Should this person who is clearly enthused about his product and its uses be shouted down for talking about something other than the profit?

    Yes, yes, Rodgers runs the company, he can shout down anybody he wants. I think it’s just kind of idiotic to shout down people who are enthused about the product. As long as the person who’s enthused about the product is making something that’s useful and profitable, what’s wrong with being enthused about the coolness of the product and the problems it might solve?

  95. “Okay, I’m a little confused. This blurb makes this guy appear to be suggesting that corporations (and the people who make up that corporation) should have no motive for their corporation beyond making a profit?

    Is this what anybody else pulls from this? And if so, do you guys really support that kind of thinking (and even praise it)?

    I always thought that this kind of attitude was merely a straw man stereotype put forth by anti-corporate types to argue about why capitalism is bad. I always argue that most, if not all, capitalists do have ethics that encourage them to do the right thing, even if it might cost them a few bucks. In other words, that profits aren’t the only motivation for a capitalist.

    I personally have no respect for anyone who blatantly says “screw the public good” and cares only about profits (and I am a big fan of profits — just not profits that come at the expense of the public good). I can’t believe that’s what Rodgers actually believes, but that kind of seems to be what this blurb suggests, and also seems to be what some people are condoning.”

    The responsibility of a private firm is to turn a profit. This doesn’t mean that such a motivation cannot benefit the public good; from lowering costs to maximizing profits so as to be able to expand ones business and create jobs to even introducing things onto the market that ‘Birkenstock wearing smelly hippies’ would approve of. At least the guy is honest about what his primary goal is, as opposed to other companies that tout ‘public good’ as a means of selling their products. If CEOs are going to tout the ‘public good’ (whatever the Hell that means) as a driving force behind their company they should at least have the decency to be honest about the fact that the interest in the public good is part of their brand image and as such it is being used to maintain customer loyalty and turn a profit.

    Anti-capitalists often place the importance of intention with the importance of results. I don’t have to morally agree with the guy placing a primacy upon profits as opposed to giving a shit about ice caps to believe that his results will likely be as beneficial towards society as the Whole Foods guy’s actions. The main disadvantage someone like Rodgers has is that he doesn’t work to advertise those benefits; he’s too busy making money and creating jobs etc.

  96. I love this. somehow, sandal wearing hippies have been granted a protected minority class status and any joke about them is some sort of offense that deserves a lynching.

  97. Paying homage to hippie values can fit in with capitalist business- it’s called “marketing”.

    Patchouli-stinkin’, Jerusalem-cruiser-wearin’ dirty hippies can realistically form a core demographic that will support a natural foods grocery chain. There just aren’t enough of them to completely support a capital intensive business like a manufacturer of photovoltaic power systems- in fact, marketing focused to that demographic might/will turn off other demographics that can support that kind of business.

  98. Having recruited my fair share of semiconductor executives, I can tell you that the one thing every one of them knows is that TJ Rodgers is a real asshole. That is the primary thread in his reputation among the people in his field. And it makes Cypress a great place to recruit people away from. The only other thing people generally know is that he’s paying less and less attention to Cypress and more an more at playing Lord of the Manor at his winery. And while Cypress is profitable, all his decades of assholery never did help it outperform other chip companies.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.