The Political Power of Business
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From a professor of Business and Public Policy at U. Cal.-Berkeley's School of Business Administration, author of Lobbying the Corporation (1978)--a comprehensive history and sober analysis of the rise and fall of the political power of business over the past three decades. Vogel argues that the political power of American corporations is strongest when their economic power is threatened. The economic boom of the 1960's saw a shift in industry's main antagonists from organized labor to the nascent environmental and consumer movements led by organizations like the Sierra Club, the Friends of the Earth, and Ralph Nader's numerous public-interest groups. These activists successfully pushed Congress into adopting the Highway Safety Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air and Water Acts, etc. As Vogel notes, "Ironically, the period of industry's greatest political vulnerability--at least in the areas of social regulation and tax policy--coincided with the presidency of Republican Richard Nixon." The 1973 oil embargo began an era of economic stagnation and, paradoxically, the increase in the wounded business community's influence in Washington. Corporations established numerous political-action committees and hired many more lobbyists and so began to press their case more effectively in Congress. Subsequent softening of environmental and auto-safety legislation occurred under the administrations of Carter and Reagan in an effort to give relief to industries, particularly automobile and steel, harmed by the energy crisis and foreign competition. Since the beginning of the 1980's, the business community has increased its influence, but Vogel believes that it nevertheless "is likely to remain highly divided and fragmented." Cogent and convincing, with Vogel concluding--perhaps to the surprise of some--that the ongoing "adversarial relationship between government and business" is in no danger of disappearing.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1989
ISBN: 465-02470-X
Publisher: Basic
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