Corporations play a vital role in society
“Private business creates the vast majority of jobs and drives social progress by funding essentially all social services…”
One of history’s most powerful lessons is how Marxist-socialist theory inspired the subjugation and impoverishment of half the world’s population while free-enterprise capitalism saw the other half achieve historic levels of prosperity, social progress and personal freedom.
A starkly clear example is Germany. When the Berlin wall came crashing down in 1989, West Germany had risen from the ashes of war to become the world’s second-largest economy, while socialist East Germany was an impoverished wasteland. Yet in recent years the principal conveyer of the benefits of free-enterprise capitalism, the corporation itself, has come under attack. Increasingly, the words “corporate” and “profit” are being used as derogatory adjectives.
Sadly, very few students are being taught these colossal 20th century lessons. Indeed, many teachers and university professors expose students to the same left-wing anti-business rhetoric espoused by their union leaders.
Some even see sinister motives behind well-intended corporate philanthropy. University professors decry putting donor’s names on plaques recognizing support for the construction of classrooms or laboratories and some even believe that corporate recruitment literature should be banned from campus. Where do they think jobs for their students will come from and who pays the taxes that help pay their salaries?
Assuming the education system hasn’t done enough to make “corporation” a derogatory adjective in the minds of students, along comes Hollywood. Movies such as James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster Avatar features a greedy corporate boss intent on destroying the forest home of native humanoids on the distant planet of Pandora to mine a precious mineral called unobtanium. The hugely popular LEGO Movie features President Business as an evil tyrant out to destroy the world. There’s even an organization called “Counter Corp” that sponsors an annual “Anti-Corporate Film Festival” in San Francisco. Add to this the anti-corporate pronouncements of numerous pop-stars and it’s indeed a miracle any positive thoughts about the private sector survive the teenage years.
When those with a public voice portray “corporate” as a derogatory adjective, they must not go unchallenged. Thoughtful, clear public communication from business leaders is vitally important. And rather than being defensive, leaders should remember they have a great story to tell.
Driving social progress
Private business creates the vast majority of jobs and drives social progress by funding essentially all social services – both directly and through taxes paid by employees. Successful profitable corporations also bolster private and public sector pension plans through share price growth and dividends.
A widespread misconception that corporate leaders must address is that small business is good and big business is bad. In fact, big businesses provide the core economic base for small and medium-sized businesses. It’s a vital symbiotic economic ecology. Large corporations are also the prime philanthropic contributors to social agencies, healthcare, education, amateur sports and the arts.
CEO’s have an agenda full of priorities, but they need to remember that investors, employees and regulators aren’t their only stakeholders. If corporate leaders don’t tell this tremendously positive story, who will?
Every chief executive must recognize that public thought leadership is crucial, both to the future and their enterprises and our country. They should communicate and demonstrate the contribution free-enterprise business makes in providing the young with opportunities to achieve their career potential, and generate wealth. Remembering those lessons will help Canada remain one of the world’s best places to live.
Gwyn Morgan is the retired founding CEO of EnCana Corp. This column is distributed by Calgary-based Troy Media.
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