Matthew T. Phillips

Why Business? (UG)

'Why Business?': Exploring the role of business in a humane and just society.

The question ‘Why Business?’ calls to mind the questions that friends and family—and perhaps students themselves—often ask of business majors, but also the questions that people consistently ask about the impact of business on our society.

This course examines the proper role of business in a humane and just society through the perspectives of advocates and critics of market-based economies. We will explore the nature of business, as well as the nature of the market economy of which it forms an integral part. We will investigate how business and market economy function, both in theory and in practice, and what the purposes are that they are supposed to serve. We will also look at the moral implications of some specific issues and cases that arise in a market economy, in an effort to understand what limits, if any, there should be on business and markets.

This feeling for the meaning and dignity of one’s profession and for the place of work in society, whatever work it be, is today lost to a shockingly large number of people. To revive this feeling is one of the most pressing tasks of our times, but it is a task whose solution requires an apt combination of economic analysis and philosophical subtlety.

—Wilhelm Röpke, A Human Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market (1960)

The ‘Why Business?’ course concept was developed by a team led by Dr. Jim Otteson as part of the Wake Forest University School of Business commitment to educating students about professional identity and the context of markets. The course was adopted by the faculty of the School of Business as a “gateway” or prerequisite course for undergraduate business majors to add a new dimension to admissions applications and convey the purpose of studying business to students who are deciding on their future path.