Monday’s Mtg: What’s Killing Our Small Businesses?

I think this is a good topic for Bill to audio-record as part of the “Talk of the Town” radio show that we are trying to put together for next year.  Why?  America’s small businesses –like the rest of us – have taken quite a beating in the last five years.  The obvious reason is because of the worst recession and credit crunch in 60 years and persistent high unemployment.  Yet, conservatives have a different explanation:  The regulatory burden allegedly imposed on them by the Obama Administration and by government more generally.  Even if you come down firmly on only one side of this debate, you have to admit that something needs to be done to help small businesses recover and thrive in what probably will be a persistently difficult environment for years to come.  It’s also worth debating the obstacles that government (especially state and local governments) place in the path of small firms and would-be entrepreneurs.  These can be significant and can matter more in bad economic times.

As I usually do, I’ll open the meeting on Monday with a short introduction to the topic.  I’ll start at 7:15 so Sandra can serve us our food and drinks.  I’ll cover:

  1. What the experts and owners believe is needed to maintain a friendly climate for small businesses (the issue has been studied a lot, and not just in this country); and
  2. What small business owners say the obstacles they face are.

Then, I’ll open us up for our usual discussion.  One thing I want us to focus on is what I brought up last week: The need for a democracy to balance different interests in society.  It’s largely true that small businesses are the backbone of the economy.  They provide most of the jobs and a good chunk of the innovation (technological, managerial, etc.) that drive the economy in the long term.  Public policy must nurture a good environment for them.  However, other things matter, too, like clean air and water, decent wages, health and safety, etc.  Anything we do for small businesses – especially libertarian ideas like abolishing the minimum wage or relaxing basic environmental regulations — must be weighed for its overall impact just as with any other public policy.


  1. What is a “small business?”  How important are they to our economy?
  2. What is needed to foster an environment friendly to small business formation and health?  Are their needs the same as for large businesses?  Do the two sets of needs clash?
  3. Where does the United States rank in international measures of small business friendliness? Why?  Do other countries do anything better than we do?
  4. Can anything other than the 2007-12 deep recession and credit crunch be fingered for hurting small businesses in recent years?    Where is the evidence for this?
  5. Regardless, what could government do to improve the small business climate?  What would be the trade-offs to doing this?  Would it be worth it?


A Final Note:  Let’s remember to follow the basic rules I put in my last post (below) so we can make the audio-recording go smoothly.


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