Available Today in Paperback From The MIT Press: “Big Is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business”

February 19, 2019

Available Today in Paperback From The MIT Press:
Big Is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business, by Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind

Amid increasing public and political scrutiny of some of the country’s largest businesses, Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind debunk one of the most time-honored assumptions in public discourse: that small business drives economic growth, job creation, and social progress.

(The MIT Press) February 19, 2019 — It is an assumption accepted almost universally in public discourse: small businesses are the wellsprings of innovation, job creation, and economic growth. They are the basis of American prosperity, even though big business exerts disproportionate power and control by orchestrating a system of “crony capitalism” in Washington. Every modern president, regardless of political party, has sung the praises of small business on these grounds—but a careful analysis shows every modern president has been wrong.

In a provocative new book, Big Is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business, available today in paperback from the MIT Press, Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind overthrow many of the myths that have attached themselves to small businesses over the years. Small businesses are not the font of jobs, Atkinson and Lind argue, because most small businesses fail, thereby destroying nearly as much employment as they create. Virtually all big firms are more innovative and productive than small ones—which is why they got big in the first place. It’s also why they pay their workers better wages and provide better benefits. In fact, the only kind of small firm that contributes to technological innovation and the job creation and economic growth that comes with it is the technology-driven start-up—and its success depends on scaling up.

Big firms likewise have superior track records on virtually all progressive priorities as diversity, unionization, and environmental protection. Yet governments, motivated by a confused mix of populist and free market ideologies, continue to go out of their way to favor small business. For example, public policy showers lower tax rates and looser regulatory requirements for firms under a certain number of employees. Big businesses, by turn, suffer not only in the public eye, by being cast as the dark agents of American capitalism, but in the policy arena as well.

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 to business taxation, financing and subsidies, procurement, and regulation. They conclude that the focus should be on new, high-growth businesses—that is, dynamic start-ups, not small businesses whose owners don’t engage in innovation or strive for growth.

Against a rising tide of antimonopoly fervor, Big Is Beautiful makes an economic and political case for big businesses. It is a message that should resonate in the run up to the 2020 elections and beyond.


  • 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 policy makers; in fact, they are favored unfairly.
  • The decline of startup firms in recent years has been concentrated in “mom and pop” firms, not in technology-driven startups with high growth potential, and that is a positive trend.
  • Despite impassioned claims of anti-monopolists, big firms’ market power has not been growing significantly, and there is no basis for reorienting U.S. antitrust policy away from its current focus on ensuring consumer welfare.


Dr. Robert D. Atkinson is founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C., and coauthor of Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage. Michael Lind is a visiting professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Atkinson and Lind are available for interviews in Washington, DC, nationwide by arrangement, or by telephone.

CONTACT: Lindsay Bednar, Communications Director, ITIF, (202) 626-5744 or [email protected]
                Jessica Pellien, Communications Manager, The MIT Press, (617) 253-5646 or [email protected]

Big Is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business
By Robert D. Atkinson and Michael Lind
Hardcover | US $29.95 | ISBN: 9780262037709
Paperback | US $19.95 | ISBN: 9780262537100
The MIT Press | Boston & London | MITPress.com
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