Boston University Political Scientist Refutes Myth that Big Business Opposes Social Policy Contrary to Popular Belief, Large Corporations Support Social Policies

in College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Humanities/Social Science, News Releases
October 19th, 2000

Contact: Sarah Godbout, 617-358-1240 | sgodbout@bu.edu

(Boston, Mass.) — Cathie Jo Martin, professor of political science at Boston University, refutes the myth that big business opposes all social policy. In her new book, Stuck in Neutral: Business and the Politics of Human Capital Investment (Princeton Paperbacks), she argues that most large firms actually support many government social initiatives, yet they lack the political organization to develop collective positions in favor of these bills.

The book combines hundreds of in-depth interviews with a quantitative analysis. Martin shows that there is strong support among business managers for government sponsored job training, health benefits, and work-family initiatives to enhance workers’ skills and productivity. This support does not translate into political action, surprisingly, because most large firms are not organized to intervene effectively. These companies have their own staff to deal with government affairs, but overarching organizations lobby ineffectively for the collective interests of big business in the social realm.

“By contrast,” says Martin, “small firms, can’t afford to lobby the government directly, so they rely on representative associations to speak for them. The unified voice of small business comes through much more clearly in policy circles than the diverse messages presented by individual corporations, ensuring that the small business agenda of limited social policy prevails. Many managers and economists I’ve spoken to say they’re worried that this shortage of policies, employee benefits, and job training will lead to a future dearth of skilled workers that could hamper our current ‘wonder economy.’”

Cathie Jo Martin has previously written Shifting the Burden: the Struggle over Growth and Corporate Taxation and published articles in journals including the American Political Science Review, Polity, Politics and Society, Governance, and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.

Boston University is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States, with an enrollment of nearly 30,000 students in its 15 school and colleges. The university offers an exceptional grounding in the liberal arts, a broad range of programs in the arts, sciences, engineering, and professionals areas, and state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research.

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