Big business A love letter to an American anti-hero

Tyler Cowen

Book - 2019

We love to hate the 800-pound gorilla. Walmart and Amazon destroy communities and small businesses. Facebook turns us into addicts while putting our personal data at risk. From skeptical politicians like Bernie Sanders who, at a 2016 presidential campaign rally said, "If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist," to millennials, only 42 percent of whom support capitalism, belief in big business is at an all-time low. But are big companies inherently evil? If business is so bad..., why does it remain so integral to the basic functioning of America? Economist and bestselling author Tyler Cowen says our biggest problem is that we don't love business enough. In Big Business, Cowen puts forth an impassioned defense of corporations and their essential role in a balanced, productive, and progressive society. He dismantles common misconceptions and untangles conflicting intuitions. According to a 2016 Gallup survey, only 12 percent of Americans trust big business "quite a lot," and only 6 percent trust it "a great deal." Yet Americans as a group are remarkably willing to trust businesses, whether in the form of buying a new phone on the day of its release or simply showing up to work in the expectation they will be paid. Cowen illuminates the crucial role businesses play in spurring innovation, rewarding talent and hard work, and creating the bounty on which we've all come to depend.

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Subjects
Published
New York : St. Martin's Press 2019.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
259 pages ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781250110541
1250110548
Main Author
Tyler Cowen (author)
  • A new pro-business manifesto
  • Are businesses more fraudulent than the rest of us?
  • Are CEOs paid too much?
  • Is work fun?
  • How monopolistic is American big business?
  • Are the big tech companies evil?
  • What is Wall Street good for, anyway?
  • Crony capitalism: how much does big business control the American government?
  • If business is so good, why is it so disliked?
Review by Booklist Reviews

Economist and professor Cowen (Average Is Over, 2013; The Complacent Class, 2017) tackles the general public's misperceptions of big business in his latest. He explores a variety of issues relating to how consumers have viewed corporations over the years, including today's soaring salaries for CEOs, the growth of the tech industry and Wall Street, and the implications of all of the above. He argues persuasively that big businesses are in fact necessary and integral to our society, and also that we must shift the thinking of businesses as "people" but rather as legal entities driven by profit. Cowen writes conversationally, making for relatively fast reading about these timely and complex economic issues ranging from globalization, social media, and national politics. Readers seeking information about the relationship between the government and businesses and the role of free enterprise in labor economics and in politics will find many insights in Cowen's arguments. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Cowen (economics, George Mason Univ.) is not completely uncritical of big business capitalism. He recognizes the financial and emotional costs generated by bureaucratic processes. Nevertheless, he argues that these innovative enterprises improve the quality of life over time by generating greater product diversity and availability. He makes the social argument that big business capitalism is the basic source of monetary wealth and social health: it generates income and creates environments of social interaction with an increasingly diverse set of colleagues. Customer relations and advertising (branding) have also trended to socially inclusive imagery. Cowen argues that these positive financial and social impacts more than mitigate negative bureaucratic effects. Big Business is, in part, a response to Bernie Sanders's democratic socialism, which Cowen sees as misguided, and to Milton Friedman, who opposed the notion that corporate executives should deviate from profit maximization. Cowen believes that corporate executives should care about social responsibility. Social responsibility enhances the firm's brand, which impacts its customer base, its present and future stockholders, and its employees. The nature of corporate branding is such that future profit growth is impacted by the perceptions of all stakeholders about underlying firm objectives, including social responsibility. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers.--S. J. Gabriel, Mount Holyoke CollegeSatyananda J. GabrielMount Holyoke College Satyananda J. Gabriel Choice Reviews 57:05 January 2020 Copyright 2019 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Cowen (The Great Stagnation), an economics professor at George Mason University, counters complaints of fraudulent corporate behavior, excessive CEO pay, invasions of privacy, oppressive work culture, and corporate influence on government in this spirited defense of big business. He creatively mines polls, economic data, and even social psychology to argue that big business has, on balance, been unfairly judged. Disarmingly, he acknowledges that it's not perfect—he criticizes the health care industry, notes that corporate cultures have not responded well to sexual harassment, and recognizes threats to privacy from the technology sector—but then he hedges: health care consolidation, he says, is at least partly the result of government regulation; corporations are now responding to sexual harassment; and traditionally generated gossip may well be a bigger threat than breaches of data privacy. Cowen is a smart, original thinker with a knack for reframing criticisms in the context of a larger, utilitarian perspective (drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies save lives, Google Maps gets us where we want to go) that implicitly endorses the current economic system; he comes off more like a lawyer than an ideologue. This analysis is unlikely to convince readers skeptical of big business of its virtue, but it provides food for thought. Agent: Teresa Hartnett, Hartnett Inc. (Apr.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An economist, best-selling author and blogger discusses why the perception exists that big companies are inherently evil and makes a convincing defense of corporations and their important role in a balanced and productive society.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Offers a defense of corporations and argues that they play an essential role in a balanced, productive, and progressive society.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An against-the-grain polemic on American capitalism from New York Times bestselling author Tyler Cowen.We love to hate the 800-pound gorilla. Walmart and Amazon destroy communities and small businesses. Facebook turns us into addicts while putting our personal data at risk. From skeptical politicians like Bernie Sanders who, at a 2016 presidential campaign rally said, “If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist,” to millennials, only 42 percent of whom support capitalism, belief in big business is at an all-time low. But are big companies inherently evil? If business is so bad, why does it remain so integral to the basic functioning of America? Economist and bestselling author Tyler Cowen says our biggest problem is that we don’t love business enough. In Big Business, Cowen puts forth an impassioned defense of corporations and their essential role in a balanced, productive, and progressive society. He dismantles common misconceptions and untangles conflicting intuitions. According to a 2016 Gallup survey, only 12 percent of Americans trust big business “quite a lot,” and only 6 percent trust it “a great deal.” Yet Americans as a group are remarkably willing to trust businesses, whether in the form of buying a new phone on the day of its release or simply showing up to work in the expectation they will be paid. Cowen illuminates the crucial role businesses play in spurring innovation, rewarding talent and hard work, and creating the bounty on which we’ve all come to depend.