This morning’s reading was informative and stimulating. Asmus and Grudem, “The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution,” were discussing the European Welfare state. “The continent is now populated with people who believe their governments owe them a list of human rights: education, secure jobs, long vacations, early retirements, generous pensions, subsidized housing, and free health care.” This is very similar to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second bill of rights. However, FDR did not propose generous pensions, subsidized housing, and free health care.
I do think a government’s responsibility over and above protection from enemies, clean water, and waste disposal, involves a good educational system and supporting an economic system that provides opportunities for people, but providing long vacations and early retirement, although nice, is not its responsibility. I think we see the results of excessive government fiscal promises in the city of Detroit and now San Bernardino, Calif. Detroit has declared bankruptcy and San Bernardino has been cleared by the courts to declare the same.
Niall Ferguson, who is fast becoming one of my favorite economic writers notes in his book, “Civilization: The West and the Rest, that “Europeans not only work less; they also pray less – and believe less. There was a time when Europe could justly refer to itself as Christendom. Europeans built the continents loveliest edifices to accommodate their acts of worship. . .As pilgrims, missionaries, and conquistadors, they sailed to the four corners of the earth, intent on converting the heathen to the true faith. Now it is Europeans who are the heathen.”
Don’t get me wrong, European colonialism and forced adherence to the faith is not a good expression of what a missionary is, but the move from achievement and initiative to entitlement can have a huge cultural impact.
On the other hand, more and more business people as they take initiative to build their business to provide higher value for their customers recognize they must look at the triple bottom line of sustainability. These new business leaders create business models that focus oon people, planet, and profit. They know they must be economically profitable. If they are not they will not be in business long. They also recognize that the earth is warming, ocean temperatures are rising, thus as they pursue economic results they must be environmentally sensitive. And, they intuitively recognize they have a responsibility to care for the social needs of society.
In the WSJ this morning there was an article entitled “Startup With A Cause.” A Venture Capitalist, and two business owners discuss how to design social good into a small business’s plan right from the beginning. Rather than trying to add it later, social good becomes a part of the business plan.
Kevin Colleran discusses that many large companies struggle with social good, but argues small companies today are being led by people who see social good as important and have a strong desire to leave the world a better place through their business. Thus these business leaders are creating both social and economic value for society. Not relying on entitlements.
Liz Elting, co-CEO of Transperfect New York, says “infusing social good into your operations model unifies teams, gives employees a sense of greater purpose and helps them to form strong ties to their local communities.” And Maynard Webb, founder of Webb Investment Network, states, “Any startup can – and should – incorporate social good into its business model.”
What is my point? A free market that allows perfect competition can and should create systems that enhance social good. European systems of excessive entitlement can lead to loss of leadership, innovation, and initiative. The government’s role is to provide educational systems and economic systems that allow people to take initiative. There are many people who have been marginalized by life’s circumstances. These are the ones that we need to create systems that allow them to learn how to take the initiative to move forward, instead of allowing someone else to take care of them. I think this is what most people want, they want a chance, and I think we need to help them get there, not make them dependent on social entitlements.
And that is my thought for the day!