Every country has a set of great companies and trusted brands. But among those companies, there are always an elite few that not only stand head and shoulders above the competition, but have become part of the country’s history. Think of the great American car manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors, investment banking titans such as JP Morgan, and nostalgic retail brands like Coca Cola. These companies are inseparable from America’s national identity, and have a place in every patriotic American’s heart.
In addition to preserving historically significant brands, another compelling argument for protecting a nation’s best companies is the maintenance of financial stability. When the question of whether to bail out key financial institutions such as AIG and Fannie Mae came up during the financial crisis of 07-08, the argument that these companies are the bedrock of America’s financial system prevailed over conservative opposition. Since then, many of the world’s financial institutions have been classified as Systemically Important Financial Institutions, or SIFIS, indicating that their failure is likely to trigger a financial crisis, and that they should therefore be protected.
Yet another strong case for protecting established companies is the preservation of jobs. In 2009, our government made a strategic investment in GM, in order to prevent the bankruptcy of one of America’s most treasured companies, and this rescue package is estimated to have saved 1.2 million jobs. Again, the argument prevailed that losing this company would be a tragedy for both America and the company’s employees and shareholders.
Die-hard conservatives argue that no company should be immune to failure, but this does little to address the concerns of millions of Americans about what would happen if we were to lose our most valued and instrumental companies. Americans want to know that their bank deposits are safe, and that their jobs are protected. They want to know that great American brands such as Kelogg’s and Apple and American Express will continue to serve their children and grandchildren, just as they have served us. Average Americans are consoled by the knowledge that although some failures are allowed, our most cherished companies and brands have been immortalized, and will continue to live and thrive for decades and centuries into the future.