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Struggling Business Owners Aren’t Selfish For Wanting to Preserve Their Livelihoods

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

It’s heartbreaking to see countless small businesses, the backbone of this great country, closing their doors on account of the coronavirus.

Roughly a quarter of restaurants are expected to permanently close nationwide. As of this writing, over 100,000 small businesses have ceased operations altogether. Many business owners are filing for unemployment or are on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife found 43 percent of polled respondents could shut down their stores within six months. 

Instead of being empathetic and charitable towards our fellow Americans, many blue-state politicians and their Acela Corridor newsmaker friends are accusing them of being selfish. Seriously? It’s rich to complain, judge, and even threaten struggling businesses deemed “non-essential” when these boisterous naggers, with their cushiony jobs and unaffected salaries, remain far removed from their plight. 

Is it selfish for business owners to resume operations within the confines of reopening guidelines? No. Self-interest, misrepresented as selfishness here, is justified so they can preserve their livelihoods and that of their employees. 

Carol Roth, small business expert and creator of the Future File Legacy Planning System, said the selfishness charge assigned to small business owners desiring to reopen is a bad faith argument. 

“It is no more selfish to want to provide your goods and services to others who want them—and possibly also to employ others as a part of that process—than to deny that business the opportunity to do so for your or a third-party’s benefit,” Roth said. 

“What gets lost in this discussion is the basics of agency and freedom of choice,” she added. “You can suggest to businesses that they remain closed, but forcing them, without appropriate compensation, is a violation of their rights. And, if you are worried about your grandma or your own health, you also should have the free choice not to engage with such businesses for any reason, including that of health concerns. These options are not mutually exclusive.”

As for whether or not businesses should be deemed “essential” or not, Roth said “...asking for an infinite shutdown is beyond the realm of selfishness” and added “it is also arbitrary.” She stressed deeming businesses in this manner constitutes the “picking of winners and losers by the government officials making these rules.” 

Much to the chagrin of Democratic politicians and progressive pundits, research reveals free market societies tend to produce more selfless and self-interested individuals compared to collectivist ones. For example, neuroscience professor and The Fear Factor author Abigail Marsh wrote:

Relative to any reasonable frame of reference, modern human societies are generous, peaceful, compassionate, and continually improving. We can only be considered selfish and violent in comparison to a utopian society in which no violence or cruelty takes place—a somewhat unfair comparison considering that there is no evidence of such a society as ever existed.

Inc. Magazine also noted business owners aren’t selfish and often place company needs before their own “with employees to manage, investors to find, and the reputation of your brand at stake.” 

Mises Institute similarly argued, “...self-interest, whether selfish or not, is what allows social cooperation to be enhanced, and others benefited, by voluntary market behavior. That is why even if someone involved in markets was selfish, it does not follow that markets made them more selfish, nor that markets expand the realm of selfishness in human affairs.”

Michigan barber Karl Manke isn’t selfish. Neither is Shelley LutherLindsey Graham isn’t, nor is music shop owner Steve Walker

The next time someone suggests business owners are selfish, ask them this: Would they jump through hurdles to start a business? Would they take risks and bet on an idea that could possibly fail? Would people be able to depend on them for pay and support? Highly doubtful they can confidently answer “yes” to any of these hypothetical questions.

The future for many small business owners looks dismal and bleak—especially with many struggling so-called “non-essential” businesses unable to qualify for loans or get relief money. While original social distance measures were necessary to flatten the curve and offset overcrowding in hospitals, I believe these remaining obtuse measures in place are inflicting insurmountable pain and suffering onto them. Worse, the government can’t continue to send out money it lacks on account of assistance becoming susceptible to fraud

Those lambasting struggling small business owners need to check their privilege and stop being so callous towards them. Instead, find ways to help and support these entrepreneurs. Every small business and the people behind them matter. They are, without a doubt, essential. Let’s remember that.


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