This week’s “Daily Journal” guest columnist is Michael Moore, Program Specialist for the John Locke Foundation.
If you ask someone on the street today what they think is a humble and worthwhile profession, they might say a doctor, teacher, missionary, fireman, or community organizer. Now those are good professions, and I admire anyone in those fields, but one profession that may never get mentioned is that of an entrepreneur.
Over the last few years in America, there has been a shift in the mindset of people to eliminate risk and personal responsibility, and we are seeing the effects of that today. The theory is, if you are an individual who has created wealth you have probably mistreated or abused someone to get that wealth. It is kind of scary that America has started to demonize the entrepreneur. Over the last few months, I have heard from a few entrepreneurs in church who are starting to ponder if they are truly moral because they have been entrepreneurs most of their lives.
With all the bad press that business is getting today, I thought I should say a few words to honor entrepreneurship. Since the beginning of civilization, there is probably not a more worthy profession then accepting the call of being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are visionaries who take on a number of factors, take risks, and combine the resources needed to create value for themselves and their consumers. According to the Reverend Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute, “Entrepreneurs drive the economy forward by anticipating the wishes of the public and creating new ways of organizing resources. They are men and women who create jobs, reduce human suffering, discover and apply new cures, get food to those without, and help dreams become realities.”
Now more than ever, we need people to have a vision. King Solomon’s words in Proverbs still hold true: “where there is no vision, the people perish.” The entrepreneur develops a vision of what can be, when the right amount of resources can be applied to achieve a particular end. As Leonard Read states in his book Vision: “Where there is vision, the people prosper materially, intellectually, morally, and spiritually. My aim: to acquire Vision!”
We hear over and over that being an entrepreneur and striving to create wealth is immoral and will make you greedy. The only way wealth will make you greedy and immoral is if your vision is pointing toward that direction. I like the way C.S. Lewis put it: “Aim at Heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
Being creative and wise with what you have to work with is similar to a story in the scriptures. Matthew 25 includes the parable of the three servants, who are entrusted with their master’s silver while he is gone on a long trip. Verses 16-18 sum it up this way: “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master's money.”
When the master came back, he was joyous with his two servants who had invested wisely and created wealth, but he called the third servant wicked and lazy and banned him. Now the parable is not a biblical endorsement of capitalism, but it does show us that we as individuals have talents that will provide benefits to us as well as to those around us. First, we have to determine our comparative advantage. Then we can use them or sit on them. Successful entrepreneurs take the risk and bear the consequences and probably aren’t doing much sitting.
In the classic free-market book The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith hits the nail on the head when detailing how the goals of one individual will affect those around him. Smith writes: “As every individual, therefore, endeavors as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestick industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the publick interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it.” Entrepreneurs set their own course and really never know who they will have an impact on until they are well on their journey.
If you need some inspiration in these trying times to build your support of the entrepreneurial spirit, I encourage you to watch the documentary: The Call of the Entrepreneur by the Acton Institute. It will give you real hope about the future of America!