The American Corporation Today

By Carl Kaysen | Go to book overview

1
Introduction and Overview

CARL KAYSEN

"The business of America is business." So said President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 in one of his few memorable utterances, spoken at the height of the post-World War I economic boom. This would hardly have been an appropriate epigraph for the following two decades, when the business of the United States was first socioeconomic experiment in the face of the Great Depression, with business in low repute, and then worldwide war.

In the long post- World War II boom, when the success of the U.S. economy won the admiration and envy of most of the rest of the world, the slogan might well have been revived. The president of General Motors may or may not have been echoing Coolidge when he said, "What's good for our country is good for General Motors, and vice versa." 1 But at that moment, another slogan could have claimed equal time: "The business of the United States is containing communism."

Today, it could be justly said that the business of the whole world is business. More and more of the world's nations are organizing their economies, and increasingly their polities and societies, around the institutions of the market, a market that is rapidly becoming global. What for more than half a century was a vigorous ideological competitor and for some of that period seemed a viable alternative -- the centrally planned economy -- has collapsed in practice and lost its force as an idea. Though the subsistence village economy still provides the livelihoods -- poor as they are -- for a fifth to a third of the world's people, it is everywhere in rapid retreat before the market economy. The characteristic institution of today's market economies is the large business corporation. It is the vehicle for the

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