By Jack and Suzy Welch
Sept 14 With the first, a revealing gaffe, and
the second, a wildly cheered campaign refrain, one party has
certainly made it clear how it feels about American business
It ain't good.
Well, big surprise, we don't agree. We consider
entrepreneurs American heroes and, as we've opined recently, we
think many corporations brim with humanity. Business can't
operate unfettered, of course, without any form of oversight or
control. But our view, essentially, is that business is a source
of great good for society, with the power to create hope and
opportunity like no other institution going.
Indeed, the positives so outweigh the negatives that lately
we've been trying to identify why some people hate business so
fervently. After all, the risks of this movement's efforts to
demonize business are frighteningly high.
Here's where we've landed.
First, there's clearly a group of people that disdains
business because they support some or all of the fundamental
leveling tenets of socialism. This ideology is too multifaceted
to summarize here and is well-known in any regard, but suffice
it to say that its adherents believe, as the president once put
it, "You've got to spread the wealth around."
Then there are people who hate business not because of
ideology but because of personal experience - they've been
wrongly fired, endured a dreadful boss, or watched a schmoozer
get the promotion that, by rights, belonged to someone better.
Whatever the specifics, these individuals see business as a
place where good people get burned.
For still others, their hostility derives from the recent
financial meltdown, when the sheer negligence of many financial
institutions and rating agencies, they believe, resulted in
blameless Americans losing their jobs and their homes and
threatened to bring down the entire economy.
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
You know what we mean. With the intellectual elite, you have
a group of people who, once upon a time, took their studies very
seriously, ran their college newspapers and clubs and protested
for social justice in their free time. After graduation, they
took jobs where they felt they could fight the good fight, even
if it meant financial sacrifice. That was all well and good
until 10 or 15 years out, when they started hearing stories
about the obnoxious loudmouths in their college dorms who
majored in playing the angles and minored in beer pong. These
"lightweights" (in their view) had, horrifyingly, struck it rich
on Wall Street. And not by making the world a better place. No -
simply by showing up and chumming around.
O.K., so maybe that is enough to make you hate business.
Except, you shouldn't. First of all, even if Wall Street
allows some former party animals to make a fortune, Wall Street
is but a piece of American business. It may show up in movies
and on TV as the archetype, but far more of U.S. business
consists of consumer and manufacturing companies making and
selling real stuff, family-run enterprises, startups, farms,
sports teams, ice cream shops, art galleries, summer camps,
record labels - you name it. American business is what America
does every day.
But just as important, you shouldn't vilify American
business because it's our only road back to a thriving country,
free of the noose of debt and offering opportunity to all who
are willing to work, create, compete and grow.
Everyone knows that our economy must improve, but it can
only improve 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
that might crimp operations and profits, and most hunker down on
the capital spending front, human and otherwise. Entrepreneurs
worry it's not the right time or climate to expand, borrow on
their credit line or hire, and they do the same.
Look, if you want jobs - and who doesn't? - you have to come
to terms with reality. Hating business doesn't just hurt
It destroys the way forward for everyone.