What should we make of large corporations today? ITIF President Robert D. Atkinson, co-author of Big Is Beautiful (MIT Press), argues we should celebrate and promote them—or, at the very least, avoid imposing undue taxation, regulation, or policy restraints on them compared to small businesses. As Atkinson writes with co-author Michael Lind, big firms are more innovative and productive than small ones, which is why they got big in the first place and why they pay their workers better wages and provide better benefits. Big firms likewise have superior track records on progressive priorities such as diversity, unionization, and environmental protection. Yet Columbia University’s Tim Wu, author of The Curse of Bigness (Columbia Global Reports), disagrees. He warns that we live in an age of extreme corporate concentration, with big banks, big pharma, big tech, and other giants like them exacerbating inequality and accumulating power to such an extent that they are inflaming populism, nationalism, and possibly worse. Wu takes his book’s title from former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who warned a century ago about what he called the “curse of bigness.” Wu argues that Brandeis’s concerns can no longer remain the province of specialist lawyers and economists, for they have spilled over into policy and politics, even threatening democracy itself.
Please join ITIF for a spirited debate between Atkinson and Wu on the role and influence of big business in today’s economy and society. Of all that can be said about large corporations—statistics, anecdotes, trend lines, and historical comparisons—which are the facts that matter most, and how should policymakers respond?