Big Is Beautiful – The New Yorker

American politicians may not agree on much these days. But they are unanimous in their veneration of small business.

Meanwhile, the countries with the lowest percentage of workers employed by small businesses are Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and the U.S.—some of the strongest economies in the world.

This correlation is not a coincidence. It reflects a simple reality: small businesses are, on the whole, less productive than big businesses, and though they do create most jobs, they also destroy most jobs, since, while starting a business is easy, keeping it going is hard. This is true around the world.

Small may be beautiful. It’s just not all that prosperous.

Source: Big Is Beautiful – The New Yorker


Small business is not that prosperous for *society*. We would all be collectively worse off if we had to rely on 100,000 general stores each owned by a sole proprietor and fed by its own piddling supply chain rather than mostly rely on big box retailers, department stores, and supermarkets for most of our shopping while relegating the sole proprietorship businesses to remote locales or niche markets. It is ridiculous that the in-city corner store charges $2.50 for the same bottle of seltzer that costs $0.49 at the suburban grocery store, and I doubt that the grocery store is using seltzer water as a loss leader or that the in-city store is making a killing with an 80% profit margin. The costs really are that different and collectively everyone in the economy generates (through higher productivity) and receives (through higher wages and lower prices) more material value with the former than the latter in every case where the scale of the enterprise is available.

That said, I’ll agree that it is really hard to beat the work atmosphere and lack of corporate bureaucracy of a small business. Still, the pay is lower and I’m sure I am a less productive employee/member of society (if for no other reason than my work is going to help fewer customers, though I am sure that financing and leverage also play into that). Thus, I agree with the article and the quote:
“Small may be beautiful. It’s just not all that prosperous.”
— Small is more likely to be fun, friendly, inspirational, exciting, etc. but it is also an expensive way to conduct an enterprise and collectively society is materially richer and more productive with larger companies in many if not most cases.