Respecting big business

Everybody makes mistakes. They’re forgivable.

But suspected crimes or ethical misconduct are another story. And what a story they’ve made for the media in recent months.

The collapse of Enron did more than put Arthur Andersen in a tailspin. It’s given big business a collective black eye.

The general public historically hasn’t trusted — or even respected — big business. It’s always portrayed as the bad guy. Can you think of a single court case, movie or book that sings the praises of corporate America? I can’t.

Big business shoulders the blame for all the ills of society: pollution, disease, corruption, coffee burns. It’s the whipping boy for citizen groups and overzealous lawyers. It’s the one entity consumers readily hold responsible for all the suffering of the little guy.

I can almost see Joe Q. Public looking smug, pointing to Enron and Andersen and saying, “See? I told you so. They’re all corrupt. Those money-hungry big corporate executives are finally getting what’s due them.”

In the Enron case, one can only hope so. But to judge all corporations based on the actions of a few is more than unfair. It’s plain ignorant.

Sure there are a few bad apples in the business world — regardless of the company’s size. Take the reprehensible behavior of Buckeye Egg the past few years. Still, the vast majority of corporations in this country not only follow the rules, they do a lot to help the communities in which they operate.

Consider how many people these companies employ. The wages at most big companies are more than fair, and the benefits tend to be generous. Large corporations also tend to have a philanthropic arm that gives grants to charitable causes.

Longaberger, Nationwide, The Limited, Wendy’s –they all have impressive records of giving back to the community. Some even loan employees to nonprofit groups like the United Way to help with manpower needs.

So here’s to all you big business executives who are tired of getting a bad rap. I appreciate what you do for our community. I know I don’t stand alone.