The Impact on All of Us
Every one of us will be forced to become more entrepreneurial. Without taking a stance on the current administration, that single sentence may explain what President Bush means when he talks about the "the ownership society." Each of us will have to take more control—we will each need to "own" more—of our working and personal lives. The ultimate responsibility of what happens to us will depend on us in a way that characterized the self-reliant men and women who settled the West.
The notion of the "ownership society" imposes new levels of responsibility on us personally and new levels of risk taking on the economy as a whole. Everyone is naked in the new world. No government can be rich enough or impose significant enough barriers—such as trade restrictions—to protect all of its people from economic insecurity. No institutional force such as unions can protect against the rigors of world competition.
We individually improve our chances of economic security by encouraging a world market in which hundreds of millions of people equip themselves with education—especially in math and the sciences—and respond to an increasing level of global competition in a way that best suits their own individual abilities to thrive in this new environment. This ability to anticipate and adapt to the future is what has always made America great.
Responding to challenges and taking individual responsibility lie at the core of our national character. Perhaps living on the frontier helped to shape these traits, but their origin may be further back: centuries of immigrants needed great faith in themselves to leave home for America.
While self-reliance partially defines Americans, we simultaneously believe in the importance of learning from our mistakes. This characteristic helps explain many parts of our democratic capitalist system, including bankruptcy laws that allow people to make a mistake and move forward.
The Impact on Universities
Universities must make learning about entrepreneurship—a trait that is a central component of the American character—part of the educational experience of every student. Perhaps the best way is for universities to become entrepreneurial themselves. I would even suggest that universities should be encouraged to own and operate businesses, especially high-technology businesses, much like medical schools own hospitals. Becoming entrepreneurial in the truest sense—that is, risking their own time, money, and resources—will be critical to the creation of a risk-taking capacity within the university environment.
I'll go further: the market should decide whether a university itself stays in business. Universities should be permitted to fail and go out of business if they don't truly serve a need. The creation of new engineering schools and new "fusion" schools such as engineering and economics or engineering and environmental protection should be emerging, as they are at Arizona State.
The Impact on American Foreign Policy
If we seek to spread democracy, our best interests lie with encouraging successful entrepreneurial economies to make the entire world wealthier.
Entrepreneurial capitalism produces expanding economies: as the pie grows, more people benefit from expanding wealth. More people own their own businesses and shares in growing businesses. More ownership will secure and strengthen democratic government. Expanding economies, as a rule, produce stable democracies, thus increasing the chance for peace.
When ideas, capital, commerce, and technology flow easily over borders, when we are increasingly linked together in reciprocal ways, and when times are good at home, people ask, Why risk what we have by going to war? If expressed as a mathematical formula, it would look like this:
entrepreneurial capitalism + widespread economic participation + stable democracies = a better chance of peace!
The inarguable conclusion is that entrepreneurial capitalism is our single most important export! If others copy our economy and if we assist them in doing so, we can expect our own wealth to grow. A network of democracies practicing American entrepreneurial capitalism will become a virtual common market more powerful than the European Union. The cluster of new democracies in Eastern Europe, if they settle on the U.S. model, will eventually force Old Europe toward new growth and stronger democracy. The apparent power of France and Germany to thwart American foreign policy will decline as other countries catch up to them economically.
All Content Copyright © 2006 Carl J. Schramm, All rights reserved.