Businesses can be creative, productive, and important contributors to the health of a community. They can generate ideas and products that make our lives better. They can provide an environment in which people work and generate value for their communities. This is the kind of business people usually have in mind when they defend capitalism.
Businesses can also be rapacious, monopolistic, abusive, dishonest, and even criminal enterprises. They can rape a community’s resources, foul the environment, squash creative new enterprises that threaten their hegemony, weaken the economy, manipulate governments at all levels, and generally do a great deal of harm. This is the kind of business people usually have in mind when they criticize the excesses of capitalism.
If you believe in the Gordon Gekko creed that “Greed is Good”, that greed is the only honest emotion, and if you subscribe to the pseudo-Darwinian view that “superior” people, society’s cream, will naturally rise to the top if government will stay out of their way, and inferior people would be best off accepting their status and allowing their betters to run things, you are likely to conflate these opposing views of capitalism and business, and see them as two sides of the same coin. You can’t have creative, positive business without greed and abuse.
On the other hand, if you have tremendous faith in government and no confidence in businesses of any kind, if you have been so burned by private enterprise, or are so jaded by the pervasive Wall Street style greed you see described in daily reports of massive bonuses being given to mediocre corporate titans with failing businesses, you may tend to see all business as bad, and look forward to a day when governments run everything.
Most of us eschew both of these extreme views.
We know there are good, creative, supportive businesses that care about the communities they serve and want to act responsibly. These organizations have enlightened leaders who are motivated by a drive to do great things, to help others, to create the most innovative solutions - not to own six homes, two yachts, three private planes and a huge personal collection of priceless art.
We also know there are the other kinds of businesses - predatory, unproductive, vampires that suck the life and resources out of communities and are led by egomaniacs who believe the world owes them - everything. No matter how much they have, it is never enough. They are gluttons with insatiable appetites, and they will suck their businesses dry.
Is it so hard to develop economic and political policies that reward the one while controlling the excesses of the other? Surely there are leaders out there somewhere who aren’t in the pocket of the vampires. Why are they so hard to find?