Big Business Is Not Conservative


Stephen Moore, of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, reported Friday that the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Arizona, Congressman Jeff Flake, has little support among some powerful big businessmen in Arizona:

“In his razor-tight race for Arizona’s open Senate seat, Republican nominee Jeff Flake — a six-term U.S. congressman — recently met behind closed doors with about a dozen leading businessmen in the state, including two powerful and respected CEOs: real-estate developer Mike Ingram and former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo.

“Both businessmen supported Mr. Flake’s opponent in the Republican primary (Mr. Flake won by 40 points), and both are pushing for federal financing of a road project that would stretch from Phoenix to Las Vegas. In the western part of the state, the 300-mile highway would bisect their 34,000-acre Douglas Ranch, where they have plans to develop a luxury hotel and upscale homes. A person who attended the meeting recalls that the two asked Mr. Flake: ‘We need to know. Are you going to be an Arizona senator or a U.S. senator?’

“I’m told that Mr. Flake responded by saying that with the country facing a $16 trillion debt, dealing with that problem was his priority.

Good answer; wrong audience. The two CEOs still haven’t endorsed Flake. In an interview Ingram confirmed the meeting and explained that the business executives in the room ‘worry that Mr. Flake may not support business compared to [Rich] Carmona … ‘”

This report should surprise no one. Big business has often been at ideological odds with conservatism.

For example, many big businesses did business with the Soviet Union. A well-known example was Occidental Petroleum’s Armand Hammer — a major donor to the Republican Party, no less — who did business whenever possible with Soviet dictators. And Pepsi-Cola began selling its product in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

How is one to explain the lack of conservative principles among big businessmen? There are two things at work here.

One is an absence of thought.

Whenever I read about multi-millionaire and billionaire businessmen advocating and financially supporting left-wing causes, I am reinforced in my belief that most businessmen are proficient at one thing: making money. I hasten to add this not a criticism. Most doctors are only proficient at practicing medicine, most lawyers are adept at practicing law and most baseball players know more about baseball than anything else.

That is the nature of most excellence. Nearly all people who achieve great success in their field do so because they have been preoccupied with succeeding in that field.

That is why it is foolish to take seriously any statement on public policy signed by “a hundred Nobel Prize laureates.” Why would one care about what a Nobel laureate in, let us say, chemistry, thought about capital punishment? Or, for that matter, global warming? We should care about what a Nobel laureate in chemistry has to say about chemistry and only chemistry. Unless the individual is known for his wisdom, in addition to his mastery of chemistry.

This is not to say that there are no wise businessmen, baseball players, physicians or chemists. Of course there are.

But, if a businessman has made hundreds of millions of dollars, the only thing we can be sure he knows about is how to make hundreds of millions of dollars. How else explain people who have made large amounts of money thanks to the free enterprise system supporting left-wing candidates who wish to undermine that system?

The other problem with big businessmen and big businesses is that the bigger the business, the more likely it is to be removed from conservative values. Profits trump conservative concerns — especially if the business is publicly owned.

Last year, US Airways allowed a man who was dressed in a bra and women’s underwear to board one of its planes and to remain on board for the duration of the flight.

It is safe to say that the overwhelming majority of men and women who work at US Airways — including its owners and directors — find such behavior lewd, unacceptable and harmful to society. But, as a rule, the bigger the business, the more politically correct it becomes.

The point of all this is to make it clear that, left-wing claims notwithstanding, conservatism is not the home of big business. That is why some of the biggest businessmen of Arizona are not supporting the Republican candidate for senate, Jeff Flake. He asks, “What is best for America?” The businessmen ask, “What is best for my big business?” And Flake’s Democratic opponent asks, “What is best for big government?”

Dennis Prager’s latest book, “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph,” was published April 24 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.Com.

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