As America’s experiment with socialism continues to crumble (notwithstanding the lies that are fed to us daily by the media), more and more people are coming to realize that entrepreneurship was the driving force behind America’s widespread prosperity — prosperity that few people could have imagined as recent as the mid-20th century.
Entrepreneurship embodies the spirit of the American Dream. After all, many of the Founding Fathers were entrepreneurs, and perhaps the two most famous in that regard are George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
They also are good examples of just how far apart the results of individual entrepreneurs can be. Though they were both farmers, Washington was one of the richest men in America, while Jefferson struggled financially throughout his life and died broke.
Jefferson’s financial difficulties are a reminder that there are no guarantees for the entrepreneur, who labors away without the luxury of a safety net. In fact, perhaps the single greatest attribute of an entrepreneur is his willingness to take risks — including the risk of losing everythingif he fails.
By everything, I’m not just referring to savings, stocks, bonds, and collectibles. I’m talking about his house, his furniture, his cars — everything he owns — not to mention his credit and self-esteem.
In this vein, last week I enjoyed watching a rerun of a special that Barbara Walters did a few years back on self-made billionaires. The slant of the show belied the rhetoric of politicians who pander to voters by implying that being rich, of and by itself, is evil.
They would have people believe that rich people somehow prevent others from getting ahead financially. The truth, of course, is that most wealthy people achieved their success by creating products and services that others want.
Barbara Walters’ first guest was Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil. Laliberte, an unapologetic billionaire, struggled early in his career as a street performer in Montreal before venturing out as an entrepreneur. Today, his multibillion-dollar business showcases in two hundred seventy–one cities worldwide and employs tens of thousands of people in the process.
When Walters asked Laliberte if he still takes risks, he quickly responded, “Every day.” Wall Street Journal Wealth Reporter Robert Frank, who added his insights throughout the show, then explained, “Part of the risk-taking personality is the ability to overcome failure. … One of the things that makes billionaires successful is their reaction to failure.”
Unfortunately, those who spew out class-warfare rhetoric are clueless about the risks the entrepreneur takes in his quest for mega-success. Or about the self-evident principle: The greater the risk, the greater the potential reward.
As a result, politicians have an annoying habit of stepping in and trying to curb the natural rewards of the marketplace, insisting that “it’s unfair” for the super rich to make so much more than the average working person. That’s right, no other explanation other than “it’s unfair.”
It goes without saying that from a moral point of view, their position is indefensible. If people are truly free, they should be free to become as wealthy as their talent, creativity, and hard work can take them, so long as they do not use force or fraud against anyone else. Freedom is about opportunity, not guarantees.
From an economic standpoint, of course, it’s a no-brainer. Contrary to what socialist would like us to believe, it’s impossible for anyone to become rich without creating jobs. Wealthy folks start and expand businesses and, in the process, employ others — not just by hiring people, but through the jobs that are created indirectly by those who furnish the raw materials, parts, transportation, etc. that their businesses require.
But what about someone who spends hundreds of millions of dollars indulging himself in such luxuries as mansions, private jets, and yachts? It doesn’t take a Ludwig von Mises to figure out that workers are needed to build those mansions, private jets, and yachts, not to mention to produce the materials and thousands of parts and accessories that go into them. Then, once built, it takes people to operate and service those mansions, private jets, and yachts — which means long-term employment.
In addition, great wealth concentrated in the hands of a minority not only does not prevent anyone from becoming successful, it actually gives others the tools to become wealthy themselves. Think computers, hand-held electronic devices, and cell phones, to name but a few of the more obvious of such tools, all of which are easily available to even the most financially challenged among us.
Thus, economic reality makes it clear that the entrepreneur is not the villain some politicians make him out to be. On the contrary, he is a bona fide hero who creates jobs and wealth for everyone who is willing to work, thus giving them a leg up in achieving financial success.
As such, entrepreneurs who accumulate great fortunes should be admired rather than scorned. To vilify someone for having “too much” is the height of asininity and arrogance. The American Dream is not about envy. It’s about getting what you want in life by creating products and services that are valued in the marketplace.
As angry redistribution-of-wealth advocates continue to hammer away at lame abstracts such as “social justice” and “fairness,” those of us who know the truth about the American Dream should take every opportunity to spread the word. We need to explain to those who are not yet comatose that the individual who aspires to great wealth by creating products and services that people want is not the cause of America’s problems, but, rather, the solution to its problems.
When someone focuses on hard work, resourcefulness, and wealth creation — and is willing to take risks — it puts him in a position to achieve the same American Dream that millions of wealthy people have experienced through their own efforts. And, regardless of whose socialist feathers are ruffled, that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.