/Henderson on Cowen on Big Business, by David Henderson

Henderson on Cowen on Big Business, by David Henderson


Tyler Cowen’s latest book, Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero, is excellent. Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, makes a strong evidence-based case that big business in America is an important—probably the most important—contributor to our well-being.

In a heavily footnoted book with references to scores of high-quality articles and books, Cowen argues that:

  • Businesses are less deceptive than many other actors in society.
  • CEOs are not, in general, paid too much.
  • Most people like their jobs and often find them a safer haven than their homes
  • Big business is not particularly monopolistic.
  • Big tech companies are not evil.
  • Wall Street and finance companies in general are responsible for much of our prosperity.
  • Cronyism by big business is not a major factor in government policy.

His case on each of these is persuasive and, as a bonus, he often has fresh insights and occasionally brings dry humor to his writing. My main criticism is that he is a little too “politically correct” at times.

If I were to lay out all the things I learned from the book, I would almost restate it. Instead, I’ll note some of the best and most insightful arguments.

This is the opening of my “A Love Letter to Tyler Cowen,” my review of Tyler Cowen’s latest book, “Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero,” Regulation, Summer 2019. If you click on the link, which I recommend doing, scroll about half-way down.

Although Tyler is a long-time friend, that has never stopped me from being critical when I thought his work deserved criticism. I was very critical, for example, of his earlier book The Great Stagnation.

This book is head and shoulders above The Great Stagnation. His mastery of the literature is incredible. I’m a footnote reader and found huge value in the footnotes.

One other excerpt:

The biggest surprise, though, is that, as one partner in a Swiss law firm put it, “America is the new Switzerland.” American laws, writes Cowen, have evolved to produce a high level of secrecy for some asset holders in this country. And South Dakota seems to be our own Luxembourg. With only 850,000 people, South Dakota “is home to more than $226 billion in assets held in trusts.”

Who knew?

Read the whole thing.