Is Big Business Really That Bad?


Large corporations are vilified in a way that obscures the innovation they spur and the steady jobs they produce.

In 1952, charles wilson, then the president of General Motors, was nominated by Dwight Eisenhower to become secretary of defense. During his confirmation hearing, Wilson was asked whether, as secretary, he could make a decision adverse to GM’s interests. Wilson assured the chamber that he would always put the interests of citizens ahead of those of his company. He added that he could hardly imagine a situation in which the two would be in conflict: “I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”

To contemporary ears, this may sound like standard C-suite spin. But this sunny view of Big Business was shared by the public. One 1950 poll found that 60 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of large businesses; more than 70 percent had a favorable view of GM. “We believe today, both inside and outside the business world, that the business enterprise, especially the large business enterprise, exists for the sake of the contribution which it makes to the welfare of society as a whole,” the management scholar Peter Drucker wrote in 1952. “There is, in fact, no disagreement, except on the lunatic fringes of the Right and on the Left.”

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