The National Government and Social Welfare: What Should Be the Federal Role?

By John E. Hansan; Robert Morris | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Reviving an Affirmative Concept of Corporate Duty: The Public Corporation

Howard Schweber

One of the persistent themes in discussions of American industrial policy and future economic development is the role of corporations in the nation's economic life. America's political economy is built around a philosophy that identifies the private sector as the engine of prosperity, a conception that has taken serious hits in recent years as a result of evidence that corporations' search for profit at times contradicts the idea of playing a role in securing the nation's economic health. Emphasis on immediate profit, much heralded by shareholders and corporate raiders in the 1980s, has been blamed for American industry's failure to create an economic infrastructure capable of supporting long-term national growth. Particularly when compared with the Japanese or Western European patterns, it appears that American industry is driven by short-term thinking.

Unconstrained by guiding principles imposed under a national industrial policy and lacking an internal motivation for long-term planning, it seems that time and again in the last thirty years, American industry's aggressive pursuit of immediate profit has resulted in gypped consumers, unprotected workers, and local and even regional economies held hostage to the whims or speculations of twenty-five-year-old MBAs (Masters of Business Administration). There is a feeling of betrayal in the realization that the private sector, intended in the American myth to be the engine of progress, has instead become a source of uncertainty and economic peril. The degree of rage that this issue has aroused is most evident in the negative emotions that are focused on the class most blamed for the conduct of modern business: the much-despised Yuppies.

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