Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero
An against-the-grain polemic on American capitalism from New York Times bestselling author Tyler Cowen.
We love to hate the 800-pound gorilla. Walmart and Amazon destroy communities and small businesses. Facebook turns us into addicts while putting our personal data at risk. From skeptical politicians like Bernie Sanders who, at a 2016 presidential campaign rally said, “If
For whatever reason, I never expected economist Tyler Cowen to show up as a bleeding-heart apologist for Big Business. His book of that very name is a fawning, treacly adoration of corporations and extremely highly-compensated CEOs. The syrup fairly drips from the pages.
He loves to compare corporations’ behavior to individuals, with all their deficiencies (but then gives an entire chapter to how corporations are not people). His diversions include: “Just look at ...more
But the bad: first, Cowen repeatedly reverts to explaining why Bad ...more
“Personally, I would be hard-pressed to find a big business that lies to me as much as—presumably—my friends, family, and closest associates do. […] Shell may send me misleading information on a few big things—say, about climate change—but in my regular interactions with them and their retailing agents they are telling...more
In particular, I thought that CEO compensation and Crony Capitalism chapters were very tightly argued. Elsewhere, I enjoyed his framing of business as being more honest (less fraudulent) than either the government or our fellow citizens. I didn’t buy the idea of big tech ...more
This book is a good exploration and rebuttal of common anti-business and anti-capitalist themes that go around. Examples include "Big business control Washington" and the exaggerated claims on monopoly and market power.
Given the current state of young people professing their interest in socialism (mentioned in the book), I think a chapter of the benefits of the for-profit institution and system was the biggest miss of this book.
Also, I don't ...more
Cowen writes a pro-business manifesto, writes how CEOs are not paid too much, writes on how the US is not subject to new monopolies, praises the big tech firms, praises finance, makes the point that control of congress by corporations is a myth and then tries to explain why corporations are ...more
1. Cowen posited that Big Business can do no wrong, and had been vilified by progressives, Occupiers, Millennials and Democrats. They actually want socialism!
2. Big Business provides jobs for us, and service and products for us. Even if some frauds are discovered, it is only because businesses are run by people who commits fraud and tax evasion. Of course he did not mention that multinationals pay minimal ...more
As an example, Tyler goes totally off the rails when discussing whether work is fun. He ...more
Cowen attempts to write a reappraisal of “big business”, i.e. multinationals. Much deserved in my opinion, because American businesses have been a whipping boy of press and politics in general, and big tech and banks in particular. So far so good: for all the criticism, say, Google, Facebook and Amazon get, we must never forget how much their products and services have improved our lives.
Cowen does make some weird comments defending big ...more
Cowen uses inductive reasoning to argue that big business and it's many flavors have been and continue to be a force for good. He gives loads of examples for how they appear to be less corrupt, are more fair tax payers, compensate their employees well and their CEO's justifiably, and are not too short-term oriented.
There's interesting ideas throughout:
- The financial ...more
I like the idea of how we should stop seeing companies as "people", thereby being "loyal" to them and being disappointed when they "let us down". However, he also explains how this is difficult because we, as humans, tend to anthropomorphize because we've been dealing with other humans for our entire existence, but corporations have only existed for around 100 years.
I'm not sure if I agree with his criticism of ...more
But at the same time, I felt like I needed this book. It's too easy to forget that corporations and markets are in fact responsible for the vast majority of the goods ...more
He has some funky ideas for why he judge businesses the way that we do. Believe it or not, he does ...more
This book pushes back against commonly negative narratives about business, and Tyler does come at this with much stronger arguments than I was anticipating. Most of the negativity towards business does seem to be sourced more in "feeling" than "thinking", and Tyler Cowen does think fairly deeply about ...more
In 3/4 of the book, very sadly, Cowen seems to choose his arguments to counter very carefully, and seems to be choosing the easiest arguments to counter rather than the most significant. For example, his defense of facebook against charges of undue and harmful political influence is full of easy cases, and doesn't mention Myanmar, Sri ...more
I'm the choir Cowen is preaching to with this one so I'm probably not the most critical of his readers. That said, he provides extensive notes and a selected bibliography full of news reports, economics studies and books so you can check out his claims for yourself.
Big Business is a short and easy read. Perfect for the ...more
Cowen's primary research interest is ...more