During a recent trip to Chile, Acton’s Samuel Gregg spoke to Diario Financiero about the rights and responsibilities of entrepreneurs. Business’ contributions to the well-being of society are enormous, but explaining the good they do can be a challenge. “Businesses have a great story to tell,” Gregg laments, “but they’re not very good at telling it.” Also contributing to general distrust is that corporate scandals tend to put all the focus of on a few bad players. When one organization does something shady, every organization suddenly seems shady.
Gregg also suggests that businesses should disentangle themselves from politics as there are just too many temptations involved. This is a lesson South America recently learned from a scandal with Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company found guilty of an “elaborate bribe scheme.” Odebrecht paid bribes on dozens of projects in several counties and even had an entire division handling payoffs. Nicolas Casey and Andrea Zarate explain the history of the investigation in “Corruption Scandals With Brazilian Roots Cascade Across Latin America.”
Despite the risk for businesses to engage in bad practices, the individual men and women who run those businesses should be allowed to donate to campaigns and publicly support candidates:
Los empresarios, como cualquier otra comunidad, tienen el derecho y hasta la responsabilidad de presentar sus preocupaciones e intereses a políticos de todos los partidos. Eso es bueno y legítimo, pero hay una diferencia entre eso y pedir a un gobierno o legislador que tome una decisión específica para favorecer a alguien.
Entrepreneurs, like any other group, have the right and the responsibility to speak their concerns or their personal interests to politicians regardless of party. This is good and just. However, there is a difference between that and asking the government for a very specific decision that favors one person or one company.
Despite the temptation, Gregg doesn’t see regulation as a way to keep this relationship between business people and politicians in check. People are very good at finding loopholes in the law or even using the law in their favor. “We need entrepreneurs to understand that they have responsibilities beyond generating profits for their companies,” He explains. “The way they conduct their business and the way they interact with politicians have consequences for the common good.”