Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Where is America's entrepreneurial spirit?

Is entrepreneurism dead? It might look that way right now as we see the economy collapsing around us. Risk-taking is "out." Hiding money in the mattress is "in." But we have to remember that this has happened before (and will probably happen again). It always ends the same way - with a burst of entrepreneurial energy that takes the economy and the country in new directions (and makes some tidy fortunes for those who come out on the leading edge of the revival.)

David Brooks captures this perfectly in an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times:

"...the United States will never be Europe. It was born as a commercial republic. It’s addicted to the pace of commercial enterprise. After periodic pauses, the country inevitably returns to its elemental nature.

The U.S. is in one of those pauses today. It has been odd, over the past six months, not to have the gospel of success as part of the normal background music of life. You go about your day, taking in the news and the new movies, books and songs, and only gradually do you become aware that there is an absence. There are no aspirational stories of rags-to-riches success floating around. There are no new how-to-get-rich enthusiasms. There are few magazine covers breathlessly telling readers that some new possibility — biotechnology, nanotechnology — is about to change everything. That part of American culture that stokes ambition and encourages risk has gone silent.

We are now in an astonishingly noncommercial moment. Risk is out of favor. The financial world is abashed. Enterprise is suspended. The public culture is dominated by one downbeat story after another as members of the educated class explore and enjoy the humiliation of the capitalist vulgarians.

But if there is one thing we can be sure of, this pause will not last. The cultural DNA of the past 400 years will not be erased. The pendulum will swing hard. The gospel of success will recapture the imagination."

Think about this as you sit around the kitchen table or coffee bar pondering your own future. Maybe you should be considering starting or buying a small business of your own.

No comments: