David A. Koch
Published July 1, 1994 | July 1994 issue
Around the world, people are struggling to find better ways to live and work together. The communist system of the Soviet Union has collapsed. The Chinese have found that their system needs to change dramatically and hope to maintain central control while allowing more private ownership and management of business. Europe is evolving toward a common market.
However, at a time when our country should be a beacon to the world showing how people can live and work together, we are in a state of disarray. We can and should do better. Crime, drug usage, increasing poverty, racism, deteriorating K-12 school systems, immorality and a lack of concern or hopelessness are real life issues for much of our population.
In 218 years, our democratic governmental system along with our market-dedicated economic system have provided the highest standard of living and the most personal freedom of any society in the world. But that is being threatened as we evolve to more government control, involvement, laws and impediments in managing the affairs of our business.
As we consider how freedom and a high quality of life are sustained, we see an absolute need to generate wealth. Then, through savings, investment and sharing of that wealth, we can improve the living environment for the most people possible. This assumes the populace realizes how wealth is generated and that it should be encouraged rather than discouraged.
Business plays a vital role in all of this. Our mission as business leaders is to manage successful, growing, profitable businesses that serve the most people possible. Our goal is to provide good jobs for our employees, excellent products and services for our customers, and a high return on investment for our shareholders. At that point, we share earnings with the government through taxes, and with the broader community through charitable contributions.
Our government representatives set the laws and rules that determine government's share of our success. The leadership of the company decides if and how much they will contribute to non-profit organizations to help serve people.
Our society has a variety of difficult problems. We have learned over the years that government at all levels has only certain capabilities to deal with societal issues, while the private sector has proven capable of performing these tasks much more efficiently through volunteerism and charity.
It seems that there is a sizable amount of wealth available through foundations, corporations and individuals that could be invested to address some of these societal issues. We know from experience that government agencies alone cannot or will not be able to solve these challenges. It takes private leadership, innovation and commitment to make it happen.
Our country has advanced dramatically over the years and is now searching for an improved, safer, more prosperous society. We, in business, can help by sharing our people, our products and our financial resources. Future generations depend on us to preserve the freedom we enjoy and enhance the quality of life for the most citizens possible.
It would seem that what our country needs is:
Koch is on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He also serves on the board of the Minnesota Center for Corporate Responsibility, which is affiliated with the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, where an endowed chair in business ethics has been established in Koch's name.