Chugging along towards socialism?
Are we depending too much on government intervention, instead of entrepreneurship, to pull the country out of recession?
This is a tale of two trains heading full steam down different tracks.Skip to next paragraph
Jeff is the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.
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The first train was called U.S.A. It had pulled out of the station in the city of Entrepreneurship and had been streaming down the tracks toward the little town called Socialism for some time. All of the politicians had given up on the power of the free market. When the Republicans were the engineer of train U.S.A., having control of both the White House and the Congress, there was an unprecedented expansion of government and deficit spending -- expanding entitlements more than any of his recent Democratic predecessors, expanding government regulation with the entrepreneurship stifling Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and beginning the binge of corporate bailouts that continues today. Who can forget President Bush's now infamous quote, "I have abandoned free market principles to save the free market system".
The Democrats soon took over control of the train and stoked the engine with coal to push it to speeds that nobody had imagined possible as it chugged along toward Socialism. In fact, that train gained so much speed that many suspected that it may pass right through that little town of Socialism and right on down to the next stop -- the village of Communism. The Democrats (and in fact most Republicans) believed that it was government that was the economic answer to all problems. For example, one of the stewards on the train, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, said that unemployment benefits are a great driver of economic growth. She said that that unemployment benefits "creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name." I guess the U.S.A. doesn't need small business to pull it out of the recession after all!
The other train was called Iceland, which had begun its journey somewhere between the town of Socialism and the village of Communism. For years, the train called Iceland was considered a socialist utopia -- a gleaming example of what socialism can accomplish when left unfettered by the trappings of free markets. It did not move very far down the tracks from Socialism. They did have big businesses, but these companies were firmly in bed with a very expansive socialistic government.
But over time, the people of Iceland began to question if the town of Socialism was such a great place to live in. It seems that socialism was not helping them deal with a series of economic crises that had rocked their little country. So they turned their train around and started it heading down the opposite track toward the city of Entrepreneurship. The President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, has made public his commitment to conquering their economic crisis through with innovation and entrepreneurship.
Then one day, not so long ago, these two trains, U.S.A. and Iceland, passed each other heading in their opposite directions. While the people on the Iceland train seemed bewildered as to why U.S.A. was heading full speed to where they had just come from, those on train U.S.A. hardly even noticed that Iceland was heading the other way.
The end of this tale has yet to be determined.
But let me offer a little glimpse as to what will likely happen with a quote about Iceland from Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Public Forum Institute, at Kauffman's entrepreneurship.org policy website:
The stream of positive signs I noticed began in March this year when Iceland replaced the United States as the INSEAD world champion in innovation. Then in Dubai that same month, Iceland won the Global Entrepreneurship Congress award for best entrepreneurship movement during the 2009 Global Entrepreneurship Week. And more recently, entrepreneurship was incorporated into public discourse as a main driver of economic regeneration when Iceland's President led a summit in his country on innovation, entrepreneurship, and green energy. With Iceland getting so much attention for being on the brink of bankruptcy, I thought such good news about signs of an entrepreneur-led economic resurgence deserves note.
Choo-choo. The train is leaving the station. Get on board!
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