by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If you’ve ever wondered why some politicians and pundits seem to exhibit such great hatred for business, you might enjoy the latest Fortune column from Jack and Suzy Welch. The Welches praise business, “a source of great good for society, with the power to create hope and opportunity like no other institution going.”
Those who disagree tend to belong to one of several groups. Some are socialists. Some have been wrongly fired or endured a bad boss. Some trace their hostility to the recent financial meltdown.
Finally, and perhaps most pernicious because of its outsize influence, is the hostility toward business that radiates from the intellectual elite — the opinion leaders in journalism, academia, and government. To them, business is rotten because it’s just so completely unfair. Otherwise, how do you explain the success of the party animal who lived down the hall in college?
You know what we mean. You have a group of people who once took their studies very seriously and protested for social justice in their free time. After graduation, they took jobs where they felt they could fight the good fight. That was all well and good until 10 or 15 years out, when they started hearing stories about the obnoxious loudmouths who majored in playing the angles and minored in beer pong. These “lightweights” (in their view) had struck it rich on Wall Street. And not by making the world a better place. No — simply by showing up and chumming around.
Okay, so maybe that is enough to make you hate business. Except you shouldn’t. First of all, even if Wall Street shows up in movies and on TV as the archetype, far more of U.S. business comprises consumer and manufacturing companies making and selling real stuff, family-run enterprises, startups, farms, corner stores — you name it. American business is what America does every day.
But just as important, you shouldn’t vilify American business, since it’s our only road back to a thriving country. Everyone knows that our economy must improve, but it can improve only in an environment that encourages business — and, yes, even loves it. Atmosphere matters. When hostility reigns, big enterprises worry about the regulations coming down the pike, and most hunker down on the capital-spending front, human and otherwise. Entrepreneurs worry it’s not the right time to expand.