The Meaning of Being ‘Pro-Business’

Words, these days, lack straightforward meanings, but the meanings are nevertheless there, and you can understand the meanings if you try. Consider the loaded phrase “pro-business.”

When a politician claims to be “pro-business,” it means “anti-worker.” Do you work? If so, why would you vote for a politician who opposes your welfare? “Pro-business” means:

  • supporting millionaire CEOs;
  • using government to slant the bargaining table to the advantage of corporations rather than employees;
  • defending corporate profits overseas at the expense of the welfare of the societies they may be either serving or pillaging (incidental details of business tactics and no concern of American voters).

It follows that if you design a government to support CEOs who become wealthy, you are unlikely to jail those CEOs when they defraud their workers or stockholders or customers. Most corporations, unlike the famously far-sighted Henry Ford, focus on hiring low-cost labor rather than stimulating the growth of a wealthy customer base, so the politicians they support financially will be those who break unions and give away the nation’s resources. When the corporations decide that setting up shop overseas is more profitable than breaking unions at home, they do not do so in order to help the new host country develop its economy but to bled that economy dry for corporate profit; a pro-business regime in Washington will assist that pillage rather than helping a friendly country to become a well-to-do and stable democracy. If people are superfluous in the eyes of corporate leaders, why not countries?

American voters need to understand a couple fundamental things about all this. First, there is nothing “American” or “un-American” about any of these policy choices. After the 1980s S&L scandal, hundreds of corporate criminals were jailed in a pro-society policy (under Reagan!!). After the 2008 financial scandal, essentially no high-level corporate criminal suspects were even brought into court and given the opportunity to clear their names, in a pro-millionaire policy (under Obama).

Second, a “pro-business” policy is a logical (if selfish) and coherent program with very real and serious consequences for every citizen…everywhere. A given corporation may choose to focus domestically or internationally. If popular demands for reining in particularly egregious corruption, say murdering too many foreigners or giving dirty drinking water or defective armored vehicles to “our boys in uniform,” makes things a little hot for a corporation and it decides to change its name or move its headquarters overseas, that is simply a tactical decision. If a corporation wants domestic natural resources badly enough to buy an election, that is another tactical decision. Corporate patriotism is a contradiction in terms. Corporations are in no sense people; they do not have feelings. Corporations are organizations, and as we know them today, they are organizations designed to serve their leaders and only their leaders. Whatever else they do is only a momentary tactical step in pursuit of service to their corporate officers or in response to force majeure from government or an otherwise organized public. None of this should surprise anyone. Millionaires and wanna-be millionaires do not form corporations to help society or support democracy; they form corporations for wealth and power.

It follows, then, that it is impossible to be “pro-business” and “pro-society” simultaneously. A government that supports the emergence of a healthy society will no doubt see the emergence of healthy businesses, but a government that is “pro-business” is necessarily “anti-society.” If the emphasis is on helping millionaires, everyone else will be harmed. Being “pro-business” inevitably means slicing the pie so that CEOs get bigger pieces by making everyone else’s pieces smaller. Being “pro-society” means slicing the pie evenly, which forces businesses to bake a bigger pie in order to get a bigger piece. Baking a bigger pie means developing the economy and creating a comfortable, secure society…which is a society composed of individuals who are good customers, thus producing profitable businesses over the long term, and that is why corrupt corporate leaders who defraud mortgage-holders or stock owners or employees or customers to become millionaires are, over the long term, the enemies of capitalism.

Everybody obviously includes businessmen; they can and should get a bigger slice right along with all their neighbors–as long as they are compelled to design their businesses to serve society rather than pillage it–but never, ever first because once a corporate leader gains the advantage of a bigger slice up front, he will inevitably let some crumbs trickle down…not to the people but to the politicians he wants to buy, and they will inevitably smile as they nibble. That leads to what I trust is an obvious reinforcing feedback loop that undermines the welfare of the population and transforms democracy into rule by the elite with elections as gladiatorial games.

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