Business: The Short and Long of It

When people assert that they are pro-business we really don’t know what they mean.  It all depends upon what they believe the purpose of business is.  Is it to maximize profit for its owners?  Is it to provide its executives with as much material gain as possible? Is it to provide people with quality goods and services?

If we look to what’s practiced as a means of determining which of the above applies we find examples that fit each. That said we also find that the most prevalent is maximizing material gain for executives, particularly in publically traded corporations.  This is evidenced by the tremendous growth in the gap between what the average worker earns and what the top executives of organizations are paid—it’s multiples of a hundred times more—irrespective of the organization’s market performance.  Demand for the organization’s products and services could fall but the compensation of its’ executives climb.

It is not that they are for business as much as they are for what allows them to gain as much as they can in the short term.  Likely, if something other than business afforded them the same material gain then they’d be for that instead.  Business is just the instrument it is not the focus of their favor, personal gain is.

So supporting the common pro-business cry may not really be support for the wellbeing of society and its businesses at all.  Rather it is enabling those in authority of businesses to extract whatever they can from whomever they can and as quickly as they can in order to increase their personal gain, even though business is not a private affair.

However, if the purpose of business is to provide quality to society in general, and to people in particular, then being pro-business means advocating for enabling the flow of the human spirit and the emergence of potential through the conduct of business with a different aim.  This requires taking the long view as well as thinking in terms of (living) systems.  In this way it is not business versus society but business for society.  It means pursuing progress for the benefit of everyone and in more ways than just materially.

Aren’t we all here for the long term?  Shouldn’t we (all) be proponents of this different way of business?

5 thoughts on “Business: The Short and Long of It

  1. As normal I can only comment from an observer’s view point, rather than of some one who has done serious study and reading.

    As you have commented on in a number of post’s there is now a massive disconnect between the earnings of the very few and the many. I feel it is not just confined to difference between workers and a few very senior executives pay. These top guys are actually taking in bonuses of such massive proportion that it is leaving very little for the ordinary shareholders. We have recently seen this with a number of well known banks on both sides of the Atlantic, where the combined bonuses paid to groups of senior executives are actually measured in Billons rather than Millions and where there is very little dividend left for the normal investor. In some cases the normal investor is loosing their life’s savings.

    In the UK it is directly affecting the ability of pension funds and other institutional investors to operate. (In these the same problem exists as well). The returns now on many UK pension funds do not now even reflect in straight forward arithmetical terms the amount of cash contributed by the employee and the employer over a life time of work. For many it would have been a better proposition to have stuffed the money under the mattress.

    We can discuss the lack of control, lack of regulation etc, but I believe what we are actual seeing is straight forward moral break down and loss of moral compass on the part of a top strata. They are actually taking on a third world leadership mentality. The mind set we see in some of the worn torn African Nations, which are rich in natural resources but where 99.99 % of the population remains poor.

    Pro business was the theme of your post, and you correctly ask the question what the purpose of business is and what being pro business means. For people like me on a simple level, the purpose is to make a living and provide long term security and if I have a surplus of cash to invest in other businesses to do similar. I would once have said that I am completely pro business and understood the need not just for there to be small and medium sized businesses but for large corporations to exist as well that have the resources to partake in the grand endeavours which not just benefited them but society in general.

    I now see something very different at work; they are now numerous corporations whose turnover now exceeds the GDP of many of Europe’s small but once prosperous nations and whose influence on a global scale now exceeds the dreams of the most ambitious politician. These organisations are in effect stateless and operate outside the laws of individual nations. More over we are beginning to see that some of these companies have structured their constitutions so that control has been seized from shareholder, such that even the combined efforts of institutional investors fails to exert influence. These companies see the wiping out of any competition no matter how small as key to their continuance.

    Some attempt to control the world’s food supplies others the energy supply etc. etc.

    In science fiction in the past we have seen the scenario of Robots out of control, that resist any attempt to control them.. Companies in English law are entities and that is similar the world over. In other fiction we have seen the super corporation which seeks to dominate the world. Combine these scenarios and we have the situation we have today. A few people at the top sense the opportunity to seize long term power and wealth beyond the calculation of any African or South American Dictator.

    The Pity is that it is being allowed to happen in front of our very eyes.

  2. John what you describe is not an aberration. Your observations and interpretations are congruent with what economist James K. Galbraith describes in his book “The Predator State.”

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