Stuck in Neutral: Business and the Politics of Human Capital Investment Policy

By Cathie Jo Martin | Go to book overview

EIGHT
IMPLICATIONS FOR OUR
ECONOMIC FUTURE

THE FUTURE of economic growth and social renewal is fraught with seemingly intractable trade-offs. Heightened world competition, rapid technological growth, and changing forms of manufacturing may set new parameters for economic and social well-being in the postindustrial age. At one level, these trade-offs represent dilemmas for all industrialized countries. The bird's-eye view shows nations struggling with a similar problem: to satisfy the needs of the workforce that are generated by new forms of competition and production, while preserving employment and quality of life.

But national responses to these trade-offs vary enormously, so much so that scholars now suggest that different varieties of capitalism distinguish advanced industrialized states. Legal and regulatory institutions, including broad patterns of social provision, set limits on the competitive strategies available to firms and generate national models of production.1

This book investigates how patterns of corporate deliberation contribute to the regimes of social policy that shape capitalist development. As the case studies document, big American firms have been largely unable to secure their expressed interests in the realm of social policy. Although opinion polls reveal that many managers favor policies for human capital investment, large employers have only rarely joined political coalitions to enact this legislation. Business associations have been insufficiently strong to organize managers in support of their expressed social concerns. The limits to collective political action among potential business supporters may partially explain why policies to expand human capital investment have not enjoyed greater legislative success. The political weakness of big business detracts from the political viability of legislation to promote human capital investment, and the policy landscape is shifting to favor the interests of small companies, low-wage employers, and the service sector.

The political incapacities of big business may also be affecting the private provision of benefits. Many managers have viewed government social initiatives as a last-ditch effort to save the private employee benefits sys

____________________
1
See Kitchelt et al., Continuity and Change in Contemporary Capitalism; Manow, “Welfare State Building and Coordinated Capitalism.”.

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