Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Doing Good to Do Well

Google, perhaps suspecting that the government of China is behind hacking into the accounts of human-rights activists, had indicated that it may pull out of the country if the government doesn't agree to allow it to post uncensored results. As no-one expects the Chinese government to agree, Google China may well be closing up shop. One would expect that this would be greeted with cheers - after all, human rights activists were outraged that Google agreed to do business by the rules of the nations it operates in, and Congress drafted legislation that could have made their lives more difficult. The actual result? A nearly 2% hit to the company's stock price. And so far, we haven't heard much from members of Congress lining up to congratulate the company.

Now, Google is, after all, a business, and so we can be fairly certain that they're doing this for their own purposes, and not simply for the human rights stand. But if it's important that businesses act in "socially responsible" ways, it's just as important that they be rewarded for doing so. "Don't be evil" shouldn't translate into "No good deed (even if a little self serving) goes unpunished."

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