Listening to almost any presidential candidate these days–Democrat or Republican–you’d think that America’s biggest problem was the businessman, especially really successful ones. Whether it is the provider of medicine, the oil producer, the landlord, or the Silicon Valley entrepreneur, we are repeatedly told that their “greed”–their success–is the cause of America’s woes. This comes as no surprise. As long as governments have existed, there have always been scapegoats. We saw this in Nazi Germany, where the scapegoat was the Jew, and in Soviet Russia, where the scapegoat was the “bourgeoisie.” Today, we see it in collectivist America, where the scapegoat is the businessman. But we should check our premises about businessmen before we set out to destroy them.
In the free market, the businessman deals with his consumers and workers by the principle of voluntary trade. A businessman does not force his good or service on anyone. Consumers inevitably determine the success of a business. Every good or service purchased by a consumer is a vote towards the success of that business. If a businessman fails to provide good quality products and services, he will inevitably go out of business. So isn’t the businessman’s greed good? Doesn’t his greed cause him to keep improving the quality and cost of his goods and services, thereby serving as many of us consumers as possible? Indeed, greed plays a fundamental role in protecting consumers from low-quality and costly goods and services.
It is this mentality–that profit-making and wealth-creation are somehow immoral–that has legitimized the countless controls and regulations government imposes on businessmen and businesses alone (ever heard of a maximum wage law?). Government makes it difficult for the businessman to keep and enjoy the income and wealth he creates, not remembering that individuals have the right to their own effort. Government is prodded on by interest-group lobbyists, who persuade politicians to put a stranglehold on businessmen to punish their “greedy” methods and force them to “care” better for their workers–all at the point of a gun.
Take the politicians’ classic promise of “protecting” workers from the so-called “evil” businessman through government regulations. How can the government, who tries to protect the rights of workers, justify the fact that by helping these workers, they are depriving the rights of the businessman. This is a huge flaw that cannot be explained by collectivists.
These regulations take the form of minimum wage laws, family leave mandates, health insurance mandates, union mandates–the worker’s wish-list of goodies goes on and on. What a collectivist bromide! Regulations like these violate the individual rights to freedom of contract and use of property. Moreover, they tend to reduce the quality of goods and services by forcing the business to “pay” for mandates through cost-cutting measures that impact investment and production. Just take a stroll down a street in communist North Korea or Cuba and compare the goods and services offered there, where the worker is supposedly king.
The notion that the government, whose only task is to protect the rights of individuals, should be allowed to control and expropriate the efforts of individuals, is immoral and even criminal. If an individual–even the businessman–cannot keep and use his property, his wealth, and his profits, then how can he be said to be free at all? How can he be said to have rights? We should reject any politician who promises to destroy the engine of our economy and of our standard of living–the businessman.