The American corporation has been the greatest creator – and distributor – of wealth in the history of the human race. Nothing else even comes close: no government, no individual, no private foundation. In fact, the largesse that governments, individuals and foundations “distribute” would not even be possible without the American corporation. (And Americans gave over $306 billion to charitable causes in 2007).
But you would certainly never know that from the news today. Corporations – and by extension inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs – are being demonized, denigrated and blamed for every social ill – including and especially the social ills that are the fault of well-meaning but brainless government programs like Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and Jimmy Carter’s Community Reinvestment Act.
This is the worst climate I can remember for American business in my whole life. Yes, the oil crisis of the 1970s was bad, and yes, the car companies’ reputation at the same time was not much better. But it was viewed as an economic crisis, not an identity crisis. Never have I seen such worldwide antipathy for business and commerce generally. People smashing bank windows, urinating on buildings, and carrying signs that read “capitalism is terrorism”? (Meanwhile, actual terrorists get a pass; they’re just misunderstood and in need of a great big geopolitical hug.)
Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.