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Author: VirtuallyBob Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 2244  
Subject: Whose Definition? Date: 7/11/2006 11:03 AM
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I am attracted to the idea of 'social responsibility' in investments. As one anecdotal example, I determined several years ago that Altria looked like a great high-yield value play with all of the lawsuit risk already over-baked into the price. I chose not to invest, however, because I simply did not want to own a cigarette manufacturer, no matter how lucrative. On the other hand, my version of 'social responsibility' does not include banning cigarettes, punishing cigarette manufacturers or over-regulation of smoking/smokers themselves. And on the third hand (oops) it does not include the rest of the community paying for smoker's foolishness when the health effects come home to roost.

The real point of this post, though, is to question whether there really is some unified concept called 'socially responsible investing'. Would it be 'socially responsible to invest in abortion clinics because they provide a much-needed social service to women with unweanted pregnancies, or should we eschew those investments since they result in the slaughter of unborn babies? Should I invest in companies with established 'diversity programs' that include 'domestic partner' benefits and other attempts to mainstream same-sex partners? Or should I invest in those that reject societal trends that undermine 'traditional family values'? These are just two of the incindiary topics that are part of our cultural debate and for which advocates on both (or all) sides will want to claim the moniker of 'social responsibility'.

For my part, I think that any attempt to separate 'social responsibility' from any of life's decisions is a vain attempt to be 'amoral'. It is not clear that there is any such thing as 'amorality' ... there are only different definitions of what constitutes a positive moral value. As such, I intend to continue to consider both the businesses my companies are in and the way management runs those businesses, but I will reject the value of any widespread 'good' associated with 'social responsibility.

As a friend of mine once pointed out, there is no intrinsic virtue in a transitive verb ... the virtue (or lack thereof) has to be evaluated in the context of the direct object.

Other thoughts?
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