When the National Association of Manufacturers moved rapidly to condemn the events of Jan. 6, I noticed. The Association, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is an old, politically powerful part of the business lobby that loves conservatism and has lately been in the pretty tight embrace of Republican party.
But the Republican party, these days, looks anything but conservative. We saw signs of businesses’ dissatisfaction with its populist wing when business leaders started to openly condemn the NRA a few years ago. Storming the Capitol, the assaults on the vote — these may be the breaking point. Authoritarian regimes driven by populism aren’t good for business.
The business community is up for grabs, politically, more than it has been in decades. At present the Democrats look pretty tightly allied with big labor: President Joe Biden’s campaign support for laws that make it harder for the gig economy to function, and the discussion of a $15 minimum wage, are seen by many as a sign that he would put labor even above freelancers and small businesses, defining people with an entrepreneurial spirit more as victims of big business than as underdogs. Attacking big businesses under the guise of helping small businesses in the service of big labor would be particularly cynical.
If Biden Administration wants to win businesses over — necessary to rebuild after the pandemic — it should avoid the temptation to assault big business on the whole.
Some big companies are bad actors, and, encouraged by the incentives in the stock market today, yield to the temptation of short-term thinking by lobbying for regulations that protect their market share. Anti-trust laws don’t always keep up and need to be adjusted. Things get out of balance (this is one of the arguments Seth Levine and I make in our book, The New Builders, coming out on May 4).
The wise policies that will win allies from the NFIB up to the Business Roundtable are those that support a dynamic economy, in which all kinds of businesses, started by all kinds of people, regularly grow bigger in size or influence, or die, or thrive. That ends up being good for everybody.