By Eleanor Haas
Heiferman, an iconic entrepreneur, tweeted something that led me to seek out and read a post by Zack Exley – http://revolutioninjesusland.com/index.php/2009/03/16/untitled. Here's a paragraph:
"During a 'crash' like the one we’re beginning to feel now, there are
few jobs. When the factories, stores and offices in our communities
start shutting their doors, then there is a terrible sinking feeling.
Suddenly it’s perfectly clear that we don’t control our own means of
making a living. Suddenly we realize that even though we worked as a
part of an interdependent society of producers, we are unable to stop
the destruction of our means of producing. Suddenly it’s clear that the
one calling the shots is that “abstract owner” of the economy — or, as
it’s called in polite society, 'the market.'”
This has bearing on a question a friend
asked at lunch yesterday. Three of us
got into general conversation about the socio-economic-political
situation. My friend said some people were
suggesting we need to overhaul the system.
I quickly – perhaps too quickly – said no, we just need to enforce
existing regulations. The Exley blog
post goes deeper. Although it’s written from
the perspective of a Christian, it has far broader implications and seems to me
to lay out fundamental issues about the “absent owner” and capitalism that go
back more than 300 years to the start of the Industrial Revolution.
intuitive feelings of mine made this resonate with me. One is that we as a society have lost
adherence to the Golden Rule of fairness – treating others as we would like to
be treated ourselves – and, as part of this, to the principles of candor and honesty.. In the absence of transparency and ethics,
those who choose to abandon integrity get away with actions that harm others to
varying degrees. In the absence of candor
and integrity, trust is lost. In the
absence of trust, peaceful society is in jeopardy.
The other is that we as a society have failed
to accept individual responsibility and accountability as an essential
corollary of a free, democratic society of equals. GM’s Chairman/CEO and Board have both been
deposed because they needed government money as an alternative to bankruptcy,
failed to act with fairness and honesty, and the government made their departure a condition for survival – with the probability that
the money would be no more than a bridge to bankruptcy in the end. But shareholders could and probably should have
done the same thing long ago. Health
care costs have spiraled out of control, jeopardizing not just individual life
savings but the viability of the principle of universal protection against the
consequences of catastrophic illness.
But most individuals accept little or no responsibility for their
personal health or for the effect of their actions on the system.
So,Exley has no answers, but he may have cut a path through
the jungle of complex issues by suggesting a fundamental question. What can we do to overcome obstacles to the principle
of “pursuit of happiness” by one and all promised by the Declaration of
Independence – now not just for the US but for today's
To this, I add three more. It was as a nation of entrepreneurs that we envisioned a society that supported "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Entrepreneurs constitute a sector of our society that can capitalize on the crash as never before, thanks to the capabilities of the Internet. The crash motivates people to start their own businesses and the combination of the crash and Internet reduces the cost of starting them.
- Might the growing trend to entrepreneurship be a key step in the right direction?
- Might self-reliant entrepreneurs be more likely than "absent owners" to maintain a commitment to fairness and integrity?
- Might a nation of business owners be more likely than a nation that perceives itself as largely powerless to accept personal responsibility and accountability?