In this provocative new book, Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind argue that small business is not, as is widely claimed, the basis of American prosperity. Small business is not responsible for most of the country’s job creation and innovation. American democracy does not depend on the existence of brave bands of self-employed citizens. Small businesses are not systematically discriminated against by government policymakers. Rather, Atkinson and Lind argue, small businesses are not the font of jobs, because most small businesses fail. The only kind of small firm that contributes to technological innovation is the technological start-up, and its success depends on scaling up. The idea that self-employed citizens are the foundation of democracy is a relic of Jeffersonian dreams of an agrarian society. And governments, motivated by a confused mix of populist and free market ideology, in fact go out of their way to promote small business. Every modern president has sung the praises of small business, and every modern president, according to Atkinson and Lind, has been wrong.
Pointing to the advantages of scale for job creation, productivity, innovation, and virtually all other economic benefits, Atkinson and Lind argue for a “size neutral” policy approach in both the United States and around the world that would encourage growth rather than enshrine an anachronism. If we overthrow the “small is beautiful” ideology, we will be able to recognize large firms as the engines of progress and prosperity that they are.
“Atkinson and Lind’s deeply researched book is a needed corrective to current unexamined assumptions about job creation. While acknowledging that the power of giants can bring abuses, they make a compelling case about the virtues of size and scale for innovation and national enrichment. Agree or not, their economic prescriptions are sure to be discussed widely by policy makers of all political persuasions.”
— Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor, Harvard Business School; author of Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead
“Atkinson and Lind present a well-researched and thoughtful correction to the widely held view that it is small business alone that is the engine of economic progress. Their focus on the importance of scale is both historically grounded and eminently relevant to today’s connected and information-driven global economy. Big Is Beautiful should be read by business leaders and policy makers around the world.”
— Sam Palmisano, Chairman, The Center for Global Enterprise; former Chairman and CEO, IBM
“Atkinson and Lind reconstruct the history of economic development to document the role of large enterprises in driving technological innovation and growth. Their nuanced analysis shows how monopoly profits—however transient they may prove to be—are essential to motivate and to fund R&D at the frontier. From Kodak and DuPont through IBM and Xerox to Google and Amazon, the giant firms have been central to this history, outweighing the much hailed but largely sentimentalized celebration of small business.”
— Dr. William H. Janeway, Senior Advisor, Warburg Pincus; Affiliated Member of Economics Faculty, University of Cambridge
“In an age of mindless partisanship and chronic groupthink, Atkinson and Lind are just the kind of antidote that we need. Whether you agree with their thesis or not—and especially if you disagree—you should read this book. You will not have wasted your time.”
— Edward Luce, Washington commentator, Financial Times, and author of The Retreat of Western Liberalism
- “Is It Time To Break Up Big Tech?” interview by Fareed Zakaria, CNN's GPS, May 14, 2019.
- “Why the Small Business Administration Should Make Startups a Priority,” interview by Leigh Buchanan, Inc. Magazine, April 2, 2019.
- “The Case for Big Business,” interview by Mene Ukueberuwa, The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2019.
- “Knowledge@Wharton,” (audio) interview by Dan Loney, Wharton Business Radio, March 5, 2019.
- “Episode 15: Chain Stores,” interview by Jason Feifer, Pessimists Archive Podcast, February 8, 2019.
- “Big Business Will (Probably) Save Us,” review by Corbin Barthold, Forbes, September 26, 2018.
- “Big Business Fights Back in the Battle for Millennial Talent,” by Andrew Hill, Financial Times, September 10, 2018.
- “Startups are Declining: Is It Good or Bad?” discussion with Robert D. Atkinson on WGN Radio, September 1, 2018.
- “Can Business of Any Size Be Good?” review by Christine Bader, Current Affairs, July 24, 2018.
- “The Benefits Of Big Business,” discussion with Robert D. Atkinson on WGHB’s Innovation Hub, July 13, 2018.
- “Upside of the Upsized,” review by Ike Brannon, National Review, May 24, 2018.
- “Should the U.S. Break Up Amazon?,” interview by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic's Crazy/Genius podcast, May 17, 2018.
- “The Conundrum of Corporate Power,” review by Walter Frick, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018.
- “‘Big Is Beautiful’ Questions the Virtues of Small Business,” review by Jonathan A. Knee, The New York Times, April 30, 2018.
- “Are Small Businesses Really the Backbone of the Economy?” by Liz Farmer, Governing, April 20, 2018.
- “The Case for Big Business in America,” conversation with Robert D. Atkinson, by Lydia DePillis, CNNMoney, April 7, 2018.
- “The Role of Big Business,” discussion with Robert D. Atkinson on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, April 6, 2018.
- “Rob Atkinson on Small and Big Business,” interview by Carol Massar, Bloomberg Radio, April 6, 2018.
- “National Developmentalism: From Forgotten Tradition to New Consensus," by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, American Affairs,
May 20, 2019.
“Airline Monopoly Fears Are Bunk," by Robert D. Atkinson, Arc Digital, February 14, 2019.
- “Don’t Believe the ‘Monopoly’ Hype," by Robert D. Atkinson, The Hill, December 1, 2018.
“Progressives’ War on Big Business Hurts Workers,” by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, Bloomberg, October 10, 2018.
“The Number of New Startups Is Down—and That’s OK,” by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, Entrepreneur, July 25, 2018.
“Be Grateful for Big Tech,” by Robert D. Atkinson, RealClearPolicy, June 6, 2018.
“The Myth of the Roosevelt ‘Trustbusters’,” by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, The New Republic, May 4, 2018.
“Why Not Declare National Big Business Week?” by Robert D. Atkinson, Inside Sources, May 1, 2018.
“The War on Big Retail Is Nothing New,” by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, National Review, April 20, 2018.
“Thinking Small Misses the Bigger Productivity Picture,” by Robert D. Atkinson, The Telegraph, April 12, 2018.
“Stop Propping Up Small Business,” by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, The Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2018.
“Is Big Business Really That Bad?” by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, The Atlantic, April 2018.
“Who Wins After U.S. Antitrust Regulators Attack? China,” by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, Fortune, March 29, 2018.
“Progressives Should Think Twice Before Demonizing Big Business,” by Robert D. Atkinson, The Hill, November 12, 2017.
“The Neo-Brandeisian Attack on Big Business,” by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind, National Review, October 2, 2017.
Join the conversation on Twitter: #BigBizisBeautiful.
Special thanks to the Smith Richardson Foundation for providing financial support to make this book possible.