The Corporation as a Political Actor
JAMES Q. WILSON
In the quarter century between the early 1950s and the mid-1970s, the American corporation changed dramatically the manner in which it engaged the political process. Most of these changes were born of necessity: declining success in Congress with respect to matters of fundamental importance to corporate management, a profound alteration in the ways in which money and information could be converted into political resources, the resurgence of intellectual opinion favorable to markets with respect to some transactions and unfavorable to them with respect to others, and a steady erosion in the prestige of business executives and the legitimacy of the large corporation.
After the end of World War II, the status of American business was high and its prospects bright. The corporation had fully recovered from the criticisms spawned by the Great Depression. And even these criticisms had never taken the form of a fully developed, popularly supported attack on the legitimacy of capitalism or a market economy. Though there were Marxist parties in this country, they never had the electoral appeal of their counterparts in France and Italy. The legendary feats of wartime production coupled with the rapid economic growth experienced by a nation spending to compensate for years of deferred consumption made the business executive a popular figure and photographs of belching smokestacks a symbol of progress. This is not to say that business interests always prevailed in Washington. Business won decisively on some important matters and lost on others. It scored a major victory with the passage of the Taft-Hartley