Business Versus Business
By Tibor Machan - May 24, 2012

One of Karl Marx's less notable mistakes was his belief that people in the world of business would promote their self-interest. If by self-interest we include, as I believe we ought to, the most rational social-political principles in support of a sound human institution's flourishing, then clearly people in business, not to mention the wealthy, often act in a self-destructive manner. They promote policies that hurt them economically.

Examples of such self-destructive business conduct are not hard to identify. Consider Ted Turner, the multi-billionaire mogul, who went to Congress some years ago and asked the politicians in Washington to "shove down the throats of" broadcasters a TV violence rating system, unless the broadcasters adopt one pronto. Or consider how New York City's wonder financier, Donald Trump, wanted legal action taken against native Americans who were running gambling establishments, just because they are not forced to pay the taxes he has to pay. Furthermore, consider a decision of the US Supreme Court some years back, followed by some state supreme court rulings, to refuse to place a cap on the amounts of punitive damage money that juries may award to plaintiffs who succeed in proving that some service or product has injured them. (I won't even bother with anti-capitalists like Warren Buffet and George Soros!)

In each of these cases it is people in the business community who are advocating getting the government involved in the operations of the market place or to cut some slack for them from the processes of our system of justice. (What is a fine that fits the crime anyway?)

Turner's advocacy of government censorship of broadcasting is perhaps the most disgusting of the three examples. Ted Turner, who is rumored to have admired the ideas of Ayn Rand earlier in his career, was actually promoting government's intrusion on freedom of expression. He wanted the First Amendment to be voided when it comes to broadcasting. He should, instead, advocate the extension of First Amendment protection to the entire broadcast industry. He should advocate repeal of the federal law that has established the Federal Communications Commission − earlier the Federal Radio Commission − so that broadcasters and cable television operators could be enjoying the same freedom of communication as do the printed media. Instead, perhaps to appease the left wing liberals with whom he has been so socially chummy, he is asking the state to tell broadcasters how to run their business, what to do about its content, etc.

Trump, et al ought to be advocating the reduction of taxation on every front, including when it hurts their immediate, short-term business objectives, but instead they cry "unfair" and ask government to hit up the few people who have managed to escape its thievery. Trump ought to use the example of native Americans to point out that taxation is blatantly unjust and it would be best to recognize this fact not only regarding native Americans but all of us who live in this country. But the wunderkind of New York, Atlantic City and Las Vegas seems to lack the integrity and is proceeding in a truly shortsighted fashion.

Those people in business who want the government to limit the punitive sums juries may award to injured parties evade that such a limitation would be rather arbitrary. No doubt some juries are willing to indulge their collective prejudices against corporations by awarding larger than reasonable punitive sums to victims of corporate malpractice. But the remedy for this is not to subvert the jury system but to embark on a program of giving business a better press, demonstrating to the public that the business-bashing attitudes so typical of the liberals are wholly unjust and injurious to our society. The source of juries' prejudices needs to be addressed, but not by trying to subvert the jury system.

The shortcut method taken by too many prominent people in business ultimately undermines the system under which businesses can flourish in a human community. Such an approach − which includes advocacy of protectionist legislation, begging for subsidies, government backed loans and bailouts, as well as protection of businesses against competition from new entrepreneurs at home and abroad −is surely sabotaging the entire business community even while it may give a few particular enterprises a temporary leg-up.

That business people do not realize how dear a price they are paying for the relief government gives them indicates that they are no less savvy concerning the relationship between politics and business than are academic left wingers who advocate out and out socialism. Marx was wrong − people in business are in fact insufficiently self-interested!

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