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BIG BUSINESS by Tyler Cowen


A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero

by Tyler Cowen

Pub Date: April 9th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-250-11054-1
Publisher: St. Martin's

A paean to large business corporations.

Many Americans are anti-business—especially young people, Bernie Sanders supporters, the media, ordinary (distrustful) citizens, and Trump supporters—because they have “negative misconceptions,” writes Cowen (Chair, Economics/George Mason Univ.; Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals, 2018, etc.). In viewing corporations as “apparently selfish, profit-maximizing, even sometimes corrupt entities,” writes the author, such critics underrate the benefits of American business, which “makes most of the stuff we enjoy and consume” and “gives most of us jobs.” Indeed, “we don’t love business enough.” A popular blogger ( and free-marketeer who admires Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, Cowen offers a highly accessible polemic touting the wonders of corporate America, which has “never been more productive, more tolerant, and more cooperative” and provides “a ray of normalcy and predictability” at a time of “weirdness” in government. He continues, “business helps carve out spaces for love, friendship, creativity, and human caring by producing the resources that make our lives not just tolerable but comfortable.” Beyond such praises, the author offers chapters on specific areas—“Are Businesses More Fraudulent than the Rest of Us?” “Are the Big Tech Companies Evil?” and “Crony Capitalism”—in which he dismisses concerns about business monopoly, political power, and fraud, insisting that “limitations of human nature” (not inherent flaws of capitalism) drive corporate behavior. “The propensity of business to commit fraud is essentially just an extension of the propensity of people to commit fraud,” he writes. Cowen makes some concessions to critics, noting the “problematic” invasion of privacy by tech giants like Google and Facebook and the “ripping off” of consumers by entire sectors of the corporate economy. But on the whole, business remains “one of the most beneficial and fundamental institutions in American life.”

A 2016 Gallup survey ranked big business as second only to Congress as the country’s least-trusted institution. This fawning book won’t change many minds.