I have my thought topic for summer break. School is over, I am finishing up some final meetings, and then I am free to prepare for my Fall classes. The cycle doesn’t end. I usually spend my summers doing research that ultimately informs what I teach in my classes, and this summer is no different, and I have found my topic.
As my last blog stated, my trip to Kazakhstan had an immense impact on me. I am still thinking about the soviet hangover I observed in that country. I am still searching for logical reasons for my assumptions, and this process will continue all summer.
I am also quite concerned about our political situation. We have angry people across our land who are not thinking clearly. We have many people that are feeling the Bern while rejecting an economic system based on the excesses of large-scale corporatism, not thinking through the alternative loss of freedom; and the other side, rejecting the inevitable changes of a multicultural experiment that is becoming a reality. The acceptance of a Fascist nationalism also leads us away from the freedom that we have held dear.
The previous paragraph includes initial thoughts on the subject, but seem to express my emotions and not logical thoughtfulness. My logic wants to focus on the relationship of traditional liberalism and entrepreneurial thinking. In essence what all of us as Americans seem to hold dear. The ability to be free, the ability to do what I want within reason, and the ability to work as hard as I want to earn a living.
I guess I should spend a few moments defining terms before I go any further. Deidre McCloskey makes a claim in her book, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain The Modern World. She states, “I claim that a true liberalism, what Adam Smith called ‘the obvious and simple system of natural liberty,’ contrary to both the socialist and conservative ideologue, has the historical evidence on its side.” The question in my mind is what is meant by a true liberalism?
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Politics “Liberalism in general, the belief that it is the aim of politics to preserve individual rights and to maximize freedom of choice.” I have also read that as a political philosophy liberalism focuses on the ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, and international cooperation.”
Adhering to classical liberalism means taking seriously the role one plays as a member of a free society. The idea emerged from the age of enlightenment as a rejection of the feudalism and the monarchies of old.
When I stood in Red Square in Moscow, Russia and walked around Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan I observed the modern result of the lack of liberalism and its resulting inability for people to participate as free citizens. I think that many today have forgotten what it means to be free and how the ability to produce, and experience its reward, is central to the ability of people to improve themselves.
McCloskey states in Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital Or Institutions, Enriched The World, that the Great enrichment occurred with a revaluation of the Bourgeois life. This life is observed as a dignity enjoyed by commoners as a result of “egalitarian accidents” encompassing both newfound freedoms and “ideas in the heads of entrepreneurs.” In other words, it was the combination of liberalism and the entrepreneurial mind that brought forth the progressive results of history.
McCloskey discusses this as an antagonistic concept to the nationalism or socialism of an elite clerisy. I will define the term clerisy at a later date. Trumpism and feeling the Bern are both leading us away from the freedom to believe and do what was, and is, critical to our advancement as a country.
I have defined what liberalism is, but what is an entrepreneurial mind? I think we need to first revise what we mean by the term entrepreneur. I know that Henry Ford was an entrepreneur, and I know that his company grew very large. However, at one particular time in history it was small. Jobs was an entrepreneur and Apple is a very large company, but it too began small; as did Microsoft, Google, and other large entities today.
Each of the above examples began as creative endeavors that eventually found a customer base, thus enriching their lives. Therefore, the first thing we need to realize is the entrepreneurial mind is a creative mind. Each of the above endeavors were opportunistic in the sense that the originators observed how people did things and figured out a better way of doing the activity. Therefore, the second element of the entrepreneurial mind is innovation. Entrepreneurs are innovative.
According to Roger Martin and Sally Osberg entrepreneurs have the distinct ability to see how a process is occurring and can create a new, and higher performing, way of accomplishing the task. So, the entrepreneurial mind is creative, innovative, and exploitive. However, most importantly, the entrepreneurial way of thinking is a result of a free system that allows creativity and accomplishment. In other words, a result of a liberal society that believes in freedom.
Is there an example of an economy in the world that demonstrates this powerful relationship? Is there a country that cherishes freedom, but also is entrepreneurial? I think you’ll be surprised at my choice. Sweden is an incredible expression of a free society with a strong free market.
According to the Guardian Social Entrepreneurship is on the rise in Sweden. “Swedes are innovators, especially strong on the digital market.” It is very clear that Swedes trust their government to take care of the social issues facing their country, but there is change occurring. Rather than institutions taking care of people social entrepreneurs are demonstrating the power of individuals taking care of people, in other words the entrepreneurial mind.
Sweden has reformed its economy in a way that it has reduced its national debt, maintained low and stable inflation, and created a healthy banking system. This occurred in response to the financial crisis of the 1990’s. “The road back to stability was not easy for Sweden. But by pursuing inventive and courageous reforms and sticking to them, Sweden has transformed its economy and stayed strong in the face of the new global recession.”
I know Sweden has a smaller population than we do, but I do think there is a lot to learn from the Swedes. A strong free market, social safety nets, and the expression of entrepreneurial thinking all demonstrate that we need to look a little closer at Sweden.
In America we have many more issues that Sweden, but I think we have a lot of entrepreneurial thinkers that could help us create new ways of dealing with these problems. Instead of feeling the Bern or following Trump’s fight, we need to re-embrace our freedom and think of new ways to deal with our country’s problems. This is what the entrepreneur would do, and would be free to do it.
And that is my thought for the day!