Coolidge didn’t actually say that first part. What he said was this,
There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise. Rather, it is probably that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences. After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of opinion that the great majority of people will always find these are moving impulses of our life.
This evening I was wondering how many people in America have never met, don’t know, a person who owns a business. If you know people who have created a business, then you know how much of that person went into the creation, not just how much money, but how much thought, how much hope, how much time, how much effort, how much of a life (or more usually lives) goes into making a business happen. People of an entrepreneurial frame of mind can be varied in their politics and attitude towards government, and yet what they have in common is that they all understand business as a creative and productive act. To be successful, their lives are tied up in what they do in a way that some employees understand, but no employee must understand. I suppose some business owners are merely investors in a business, but for that business to thrive, someone not only has invested money, but is personally invested. That’s just how it works.
Of course, I am thinking about this in relation to the president’s unfortunate remarks this week about business owners. I was reading Kim Strassel’s “Four Little Words” and like everyone else have been reading about or hearing about those words all week long. Then, I was reading about the rioting in Anaheim, California, protesting police shootings, but destroying businesses in the process. I am also thinking about the political attacks on Chick-Fil-A over the principles of its owner. In all cases, what I find shocking is a callous disregard, a lack of sympathy from the president and the press, for the efforts of people who create businesses.
Which lead me to thinking about what Coolidge said and I had forgotten the part, “it is probably that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences.” Do people in the press maintain an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation? If so, how do they seem so out of sympathy with business?
I am married to a small businessman who specializes in financial planning for small businesses. Through him and through living in a small town that has grown into a city, I could not count the number of people I know who have businesses, mostly small, but some that have become large. I’ve watched businesses grow and watched as others failed. I’ve seen businesses passed on to children or sold to larger businesses. I know young people who are just starting computer-related businesses and men who have been running their business for over over forty years, having started when they were young. There are all sorts of circumstances and every business is different, because the people involved in the businesses are different. What they do have in common is “producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.”
They are not simply concerned with prospering, although they are happiest when they do. As Coolidge also said, “the great majority of people will always find these are moving impulses of our life.” I hope that is true, but it seems to less true than it was when I read the news. Yet it must be mostly true because of the disgust of so many Americans over the president saying, “You didn’t build that”. Perhaps it is still the case that the chief business of the American people is business.
As Strassel notes, the president and the press are doing their best to control the obvious damage of those words. They say the words were taken out of context. I don’t know about you, but I have subsequently heard the context of those words and the context is just as damning to anyone whose first concern is business and not government. If the president doesn’t know that, if his supporters don’t know that and if the press doesn’t know that, maybe that is because they do not know many people who have created and maintained businesses. They lack sympathy.
Call it pro-market populism, call it anything you like, but there are still an awful lot of people in America whose chief business is business or who would like their chief business to be business, especially if it includes producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering. They all have cause to be concerned about the political climate in re business. However, they might not notice; they are busy running their businesses.