Pro-Business and Pro-Market are Not the Same

Steve Jobs reportedly warned President Barack Obama that he would not be back in the White House for a second term unless he adopted more business-friendly policies, according to a new biography of the Apple Computer co-founder. “You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” Jobs bluntly told Obama during a meeting in San Francisco in the fall of 2010.

Actually, it’s not a president’s job to be business-friendly. It’s a president’s job to be market-friendly. There’s a difference.

You cannot be all things to all businesses. So any attempt to be “business-friendly” will result in friendliness towards some businesses at the expense of others. “Country club” Republicans have been accused of this for generations. They provide subsidies, favors or exemptions from regulations for businesses that they favor, often with a nod and a wink. Democratic presidents do the same, as Obama has done with ObamaCare. Reform legislation in Congress over the years has done nothing to change any of this.

Obama has been business-friendly — to certain businesses. Solyndra is a case in point. Millions of tax dollars went to this company, and other ‘green’ energy companies, merely because he likes them. It turned out to be a massive waste of money, but it was still business-friendly of him to do this.

A market-friendly approach would have been different. It would have left the marketplace free to decide whether Solyndra can or should survive, or not. “Green energy” is actually not very marketable, which is why it needed to turn to government in the first place. “Marketable” means that a company delivers a product or service to satisfied customers at a profitable price. Solyndra and other companies like them cannot do it. Obama thinks it’s unfair, so he chooses to be friendly to them, via the power of government and other people’s money. A conservative president might do the same thing with a company he likes.

Let’s be clear: No company requiring government help should be getting any. Government should not be rewarding and subsidizing failure.

Let’s be clear again: No company that could otherwise flourish in a free market needs government help. That’s why the answer is hands off, free market capitalism — not “business-friendly” policies.

The issue is deeper than economics. A free market economy is one in which minds are left free to think. Leaving minds free to think, create and produce? Now there’s a business-friendly policy for you!

The geniuses and achievers who bring successful products to market cannot do so under government compulsion, and won’t do so with government incentives alone. A mind cannot think when it’s compelled to be concerned with all manner of government edicts, regulations and stipulations that are part of any government subsidy or favor. Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs are much more likely to create and produce something worthwhile, as well as profitable, when left alone.

Was the automobile a product of government subsidies? Did Uncle Sam create the light bulb, and make oil from the ground profitable as fuel? Did result from a government board empowered to make the Internet more user friendly? Did Steve Jobs invent his products because a “technology friendly” president decided to invest millions of dollars in “smart technology”?

The best way for Obama (along with Congress) to become business-friendly would be to eliminate, across the board, all subsidies and favors given to businesses at the present time. While they’re at it, they must deregulate businesses — equally, not as special favors to some — and both lower and flatten the tax rates, permanently. Keep in mind that the government will save billions of dollars by ending all subsidies to businesses.

Neither Obama nor Congress will ever do this, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re stuck in the mess we’re in. People like to blame the problems on ideology. “If it weren’t for Democratic and Republican ideology, then the government could fix things,” they keep saying.

Not so. You see, government already operates on a very specific kind of ideology. It’s the ideology of government intervention in the economy. Both parties do it — in slightly different ways, and with different beneficiaries. But they both do it, and the people currently in office (including those running to replace Obama) are not going to stop it. Nor are the American people demanding that they stop it.

We need ideology, but just a different kind. That ideology’s name is: Hands off, pro-market capitalism. There is no other solution, and yet nobody prominent is embracing it.