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Unfortunately, Novak (Business as a Calling, 1996, etc.) appears to have fallen prey to the post-communist conservative's infatuation with manufacturing enemies. Explaining the business corporation and its role in modern society would be an important contribution. But, given the realities of wealth, power, and popular values in this country, unleashing Novak on corporate critics, as occurs here, is a waste of intellectual energy, like using nuclear weapons to fend off kids with pea-shooters. In the initial section of this slim volume, war is declared against those who would destroy "public enemy number one, the business corporation." An enlightening but somewhat misplaced discussion of patent and copyright laws follows. The issue of corporate governance is taken up in the final section, however, and here a distinction between the nature and purpose of corporate associations and those of governmental associations is genuinely useful. Novak argues that the benefits of corporations flow from pursuing specific goals through dynamic organizations, whereas the benefits of government flow from pursuing general goals through relatively static organizations. Imposing the norms appropriate for the latter will only prevent the former from providing all that society needs from them. Novak calls for a "philosophy of business" to clarify the purpose of corporations, but rather than proceeding to develop it he reverts to attacking leftists, who are characterized as expecting "employees to receive diamond rings on the day they are hired." Closing with a claim that the "one main purpose" of the corporation is "to create new wealth for the whole society" rather than for stockholders, he confuses his argument by expanding expectations of corporations in precisely the manner he finds objectionable.
This is not the serious work we have come to expect from Novak.
Chapter 1 Introduction: A Spirit Born from the Sea Part 2 Part One: The Future of the Corporation Chapter 3 What Is a Corporation? Chapter 4 The Corporation and Civil Society Chapter 5 The Stakeholder Society Chapter 6 The end of the Republican Experiment? Part 7 Part Two: The Fire of Invention, the Fuel of Interest Chapter 8 The Grand Historical Adventure Chapter 9 From Lincoln to John Paul II Chapter 10 Some Clarifications Chapter 11 Five Disputed Questions Chapter 12 But Isn’t Genetics Different? Chapter 13 Does a Patent Regime Protect Private Interests or Public Good? Chapter 14 Conclusion Part 15 Part Three: On Corporate Governance Chapter 16 What Is the Business Corporation? Chapter 17 Executive Energy Chapter 18 The Ant and the Elephant Chapter 19 Why Do Firms Exist? Chapter 20 Pirates! Chapter 21 Mutual Funds and Pension Funds Chapter 22 Looking for the Right Stuff Chapter 23 A Well-Lighted Place Chapter 24 On Envy: "Thou Shalt Not Covet" Chapter 25 Two Types of Inequality Chapter 26 Justifying Unequal Compensation Chapter 27 Against Appeasement Chapter 28 A Cheerful View at the End of a Sorry Century Chapter 29 Appendix: The Legend of the Bay Steed Chapter 30 Notes Chapter 31 Index