What Do You Mean By "Pro-Business"?

Don Boudreaux writes about the president's Asian excursion:

The New York Times reports that Pres. Obama's export-promoting trip to Asia is partly "an attempt to ease tensions with America's chief executives, many of whom spent the recent campaign accusing the White House of being antibusiness."

There are two ways for a government to be 'pro-business.' The first way is to avoid interfering in capitalist acts among consenting adults -- that is, to keep taxes low, regulations few, and subsidies non-existent. This 'pro-business' stance promotes widespread prosperity because in reality it isn't so much pro-business as it is pro-consumer. When this way is pursued, businesses are rewarded for pleasing consumers, and only for pleasing consumers.

The second, and very different, way for government to be pro-business is to bestow favors and privileges on politically connected firms. These favors and privileges, such as tariffs and export subsidies, invariably oblige consumers to pay more -- either directly in the form of higher prices, or indirectly in the form of higher taxes -- for goods and services. This way of being pro-business reduces the nation's prosperity by relieving businesses of the need to satisfy consumers. When this second way is pursued, businesses are rewarded for pleasing politicians. Competition for consumers' dollars is replaced by competition for political favors.

The fact that more than 200 American business executives are in India with the President is cause to fear that any pro-business policies he might adopt will be of the second, impoverishing sort.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • SIV||

    Obama saved capitalism!

  • Corduroy||

    No No you're getting it wrong.

    Obama saved capitalism from capitalists!

  • Cyto||

    We must destroy it in order to save it...

  • Ska||

    Well said. I'll just patiently wait to hear how it would be immoral and misguided to let consumers and producers interact without the loving, guiding hand of knowledgeable government figures nudging them in the right direction.

  • C'mon man||

    Non-progressives are too stupid to understand the invisible benevolence of government.

  • Alex||

    I feel like I'm in an echo chamber again...

  • Trespassers W||

    You feel like you're in an echo chamber again?

  • ||

    "NO, no, no; this time I get to be Soot!"

  • ||

    The danged squirrels swiped my "m".

  • C'mon man||

    I visit Cafe Hayek as much as Reason, and fear that Don too, has not embraced the President's mastery of economics and needs to abandon this silly philosophy of the Austrian School of Economics for the Hope and Change School of Obamanomics.

  • ||

    The fact that more than 200 American business executives are in India with the President is cause to fear

    You can stop right there. The guy is such an unbelievably crony-ist that he makes Bush look laissez-faire. There isn't the slightest chance that anything other than "the second kind" will come out of this.

  • Kristen||

    I'm fairly consistently stunned that anyone would believe otherwise of a Chicago politician.*

    *Not you personally, Epi - I mean the Obama-loving populationin general

  • ||

    The guy is such an unbelievably crony-ist that he makes Bush look laissez-faire.

    Epi, I love you like a brother, but let us not forget how terrible Bush was, even on stuff like this (which was his comparative strong point, that's how bad be was.)

    This is in no way an excuse for Obama, however, as he is still absolutely terrible in this matter as well. Even marginally worse than Bush. I guess the key word there is "marginally." He'd have to be a third-year philosophy student to make Bush actually look laissez-faire.

  • ||

    Dude, I hear you. My post was in no way an excuse of Bush; it was to say that if you're worse than him (even marginally), you are phenomenally awful. Nothing could make Bush actually look laissez-faire.

    Can't a guy engage in a little hyperbole?

  • ||

    Obama is pro-business the way Hitler was pro-Russia.

  • ||

    Don Boudreaux is making his mark. I like him.

  • C'mon man||

    Yes. Read George Will's article after the election, specifically the last two paragraphs where he quotes the Don. Very good stuff.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    There is only one "The Don", and any remarks to some other just might end with hostile force.

  • ||

    "Buy this laundry soap, or we'll bomb Calcutta, you stinky wogs!"

  • KPres||

    Your second way of being "pro-business" isn't pro-business at all, it's "pro-some businesses, anti-other businesses."

  • Jesse Walker||

    Well, that's true of the first way too, isn't it? There are businesses that would (and ought to) fail without government support.

  • RyanXXX||

    I'd call the first one "pro-market"

  • ||

    How would businesses know what to invest in without the government guiding them? That's why we have a tax code, right?

  • ||

    you made me lol out loud

  • cynical||

    Fuck pro-business. Separation of business and state all the way.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.