Even up to and including the Industrial Revolution (1759-1850), business was small/medium sized, mostly run by the people who owned it, and financed mainly with their own money (1). In large part the entrepreneurs also recognised that business had social responsibilities. “Humanitarian and Fabian preconceptions in our writing of economic and social history have tended to obscure the older tradition of philanthropy and welfare that runs like a continuous thread through the operations of the greatest of the entrepreneurs.”(2)
Plans for the welfare of adult workers and the care and education of child labour were not a monopoly of the humanitarian factory owner Robert Owen. According to Lieberman, Boulton and Wedgwood were not only cultivated men but just employers who regarded a humane code of labour relations as an efficient system of production, and gave a lead to others in such matters as the provision of schemes of social welfare and education.
“[Even after education was taken over by the state] Price’s Patent Candleworks were still running an elaborate and expensive set of schools for their boy and girl employees at Battersea”…”nor was the factory town exclusively a society of juvenile chimney sweeps and cadaverous spinning elves”…”It was not merely their own success but their palpable contribution to material national well-being and their consciousness of social responsibility which drew to [these entrepreneurs] popular esteem and social prestige”.(3)
This commitment to the welfare of the community as a whole distinguishes the small business ethic from the big business ‘rationalist’ ethic which was to overcome it. According to Professor Northcote Parkinson, “What distinguishes the Big Business of today is not so much its scale as its sharp dissociation from other aspects of life. Its functions in our day have been almost purely economic.”(4)
As the industrial revolution progressed, many entrepreneurial businesses became large, but they did not become ‘big business’. There is no natural progression from small to medium to big business. Big business is a different beast altogether.
American journalist Gary Allen in his book ‘The Rockefeller File’ (1976) writes: “A distinction must be drawn between competitive free enterprise, the most moral and productive system ever devised, and cartel capitalism dominated by industrial monopolists and international bankers. The difference is crucial: the private enterpriser operates by offering products and services in a competitive free market, where consumers have numerous choices offered to them, while cartel capitalists use the government to force the public to do business with them. These corporate fascists are the deadly enemies of competitive private enterprise.”(5)
In his book ‘Wall Street and FDR’ Professor Antony Sutton wrote: “[The 19th century monopoly capitalists] were convinced of an absolute truth: that no great monetary wealth could be accumulated under the impartial rules of competitive laissez-faire society (the free enterprise system). The only sure road to the acquisition of massive wealth was monopoly: drive out your competitors, reduce competition, eliminate laissez-faire and above all get state protection for your industry through compliant politicians and government regulation. The last avenue yields a huge monopoly and a legal monopoly always leads to wealth”.
In his book ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’, Dr. Sutton further amplified this point: “The financiers…could by government control…more easily avoid the rigors of competition….Through political influence they could manipulate the police power of the state to achieve what they had been unable, or what was too costly, to achieve under the private enterprise system….Monopoly capitalists are the bitter enemies of laissez-faire entrepreneurs…”
For an account of how a global aristocracy of wealth has developed, which is now pushing “globalisation” to further its interests, the reader is referred to the book ‘The Naked Capitalist’ by W.Cleon Skousen (1970), which is itself a review of another work, ‘Tragedy and Hope’ (1966) by Dr. Carroll Quigley, the man President Clinton claims as his mentor. According to Quigley the super-rich are the ‘hope’ of the world, while the rest are the ‘tragedy’.(6)
Skousen writes: “As I see it, the great contribution which Dr.Carroll Quigley unintentionally made by writing ‘Tragedy and Hope’ was to help the ordinary American people realize the utter contempt which the network leaders have for ordinary people. Human beings are treated en masse as helpless puppets on an international chess board where giants of economic and political power subject them to wars, revolution, civil strife, confiscation, subversion, indoctrination, manipulation and outright deception as it suits their fancy and their concocted schemes for world domination.”(7)
Noam Chomsky said in 1995: “Leading sectors of wealth and privilege taste blood. They think, with some reason, that they have the world’s population by the throat, and are in a position to roll back the hated welfare state for the general population and everything that goes with it: health and safety standards, labor rights and human rights generally, indeed any infringement on their right to pursue ‘the vile maxim’, as Adam Smith described the goal of the masters: ‘all for ourselves, and nothing for the people’.
According to Chomsky, while preaching the virtues of economic rationalism to the masses, the aristocracy of wealth is using its control of governments to protect its own wealth and privilege behind barriers of protectionism and subsidies. He continues: “….major tendencies in the global economy of the past quarter century have at least raised the possibility that the world might be driven to an extreme form of totalitarian domination by wealthy and powerful sectors, with the gains for human rights, freedom, and democracy won in bitter struggle over centuries now reversed….”
(1) Sima Lieberman, Ed., “Europe and the Industrial Revolution’ (1972) esp. p.425.
(2) Charles Wilson in an article, “The Entrepreneur in the Industrial Revolution in Britain” ( in Lieberman op.cit.,p.377 at pp.390-1).
(3) Ibid p.391.
(4) C. Northcote Parkinson, “The Rise of Big Business”(1977).
(5)Gary Allen, ‘The Rockefeller File’ (1976) at p.105.
(6)W. Cleon Scousen, ‘The Naked Capitalist’ (1970), p.5.
(7) Ibid, p.112.
(c) Copyright 1998: Graham Strachan
From The Globalism Column