There is a common assumption that advocacy of free-market ideas is funded in large part by big corporations. As much as I wish the many great organizations and projects that are educating in liberty received financial support from large corporations, almost none of them do, and when they do it is in very small amounts when compared to the other things such firms support.
But why? Businesses are constantly hampered and harassed by government regulation, taxation, and the uncertainty of the legal landscape one day to the next. Don’t they stand to gain from laissez faire? Well, yes, businesses stand to gain tremendously from market freedom. Entrepreneurs, owners, employees, consumers, and every other market participant stands to gain. Businesses of all sizes stand to gain, provided they can produce what consumers demand.
Aye, there’s the rub.
You see, while business stands to gain from free exchange, nobody knows which specific businesses will be most successful in a competitive environment. Consumers are a tough bunch to please. It takes a lot of work, and there’s a lot of uncertainty. The creative destruction of the market is a little daunting to a businessperson who dwells on it for long. It’s easier, for those who can afford it, to cozy up to the state and ensure that it’s restrictions and interventions hurt you a little less than they harm your competitors. If you have resources enough and play your cards right, you might even be able to get policies that make you more profitable or put your competitors out of business entirely.
The result? Bigger businesses tend to support state intervention, because they have the lawyers and money and can hire the guns of government. It is entirely possible that some of these very businesses would fare better under economic freedom, but they don’t know for sure, so they go the somewhat safer route of state cronyism. Smaller businesses typically aren’t organized enough and lack the resources to manipulate policy in their favor. Worse still, the unimaginable number of new ventures that would have been created were it not for government impediments have no voice at all; we don’t even know who would have created them.
In short, freedom is good for business, but scary to businesses.