To preface this entry, I must add a disclaimer. I am neither hardened, nor arrogant. I give everyone fair consideration before I pass my judgment upon them. I do my best to avoid stereotypes and prejudices. So while many will disagree with what I have to say, I will be forging an argument based upon controversial, yet important social biases. These theories have been largely spelled out by an author by the name of Ayn Rand. Though I have not yet finished her (arguably) greatest work, Atlas Shrugged. These are the foundation for an opinion that, while more extreme than mine, give the best counterpoints to alturism in favor of rational self-interest and what she calls "the virtue of greed."
Ayn Rand's philosophy says that the three most important qualities a person can have are reason, purpose, and self-esteem. To elaborate, one must be driven by logic, goals, and self-satisfaction. She argues that qualities such as greed and wealth are not to be frowned upon. That those who do strive to make fortunes will contribute to the good of all. I agree with this philosophy to an extent. It remains true that there are crooked businessmen. However, they are not all crooked. Unfortunately, it has become common, even fashionable, to be disgusted with those who build up their fortune. People grumble about others not caring about each other. Rand's philosophy does not have room for this. She would argue that by striving to make oneself better, others will benefit from this. Let me now launch into controversy.
Who will gain more from useful money, those who have the means to use it well, or those who will squander it? Of course it is necessary to help people who have genuine need for help for something that has spiraled out of their control, but what of the people who just don't care enough to pull themselves out of their own situation. The idea that someone should do something simply for "the greater good" is, in fact, preposterous. By giving things to people only on altruistic principals, you will have made an unproductive contribution to society. Without individuals who possess the talent, the ability, and most importantly the will to make a productive contribution to society, change will not occur. However, if you gave the same thing to those who can actively utilize it, you will make a much greater contribution to society. A great doctor working at a great medical institution will make far more societal progress than simply working in third world countries his entire life.
So how is this theory applicable? I will take an example from the book. An oil tycoon from the west plays a huge role in all oil produced in America. Smaller companies become jealous of his and other large business's success and lobby with the government until sanctions are passed to allow all companies to share in the wealth. Out of sheer frustration and disgust, this large company simply shuts down, burning all of the oil fields. At first, the smaller companies rejoice and begin making fortunes. However, soon they realize they cannot keep up with the demand, and slowly oil dependent companies begin to shut down. As demand drastically lowers and these small companies begin to shut down simply by inability to find markets, the sale of process level goods such as oil refining equipment loses its market, making those parts' prices soar. As a result, the small companies could no longer afford to stay in business, virtually destroying the American oil industry.
So what's the moral of this story? It is fruitless to force the ideals of "social responsibility" on large companies. Of course, I cannot say that all social responsibility needs to be eschewed, we have obligations to maintain the earth such that we can continue to exist on it. We must assist those struck by disaster, as misfortune is real. But to simply give without motivation other than "the common good" is an unsound decision.
edit: Here's an additional, warm fuzzy link regarding social responsibility. I'm sure you've probably seen it before.
The Human Network.