Let’s Not Lose Our Nerve

Aug 21, 2013

No product or service is sold, no job is created, and no opportunity arises until someone—somewhere—takes a risk. Taking a calculated risk to pursue a business idea—even if it exists only in one’s head or on a crumpled cocktail napkin—has long been the bedrock of our free enterprise system.

With risk inevitably comes failure. Show me a successful entrepreneur, and I’ll show you someone whose first three business ventures never got off the ground. The beauty of our free enterprise system is that it allows people to make repeated attempts at success, rather than punish or stigmatize them when they fall short. Several towering figures in American history, from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs, have capitalized on second, third, or even fourth chances.

Faced with the weakest economic recovery since World War II, we need more risk takers. Economists have noted recently that more businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals are hunkering down and playing it safe, choosing security and caution over hiring, investing, and pursuing the next big idea. What’s missing from the economy, they say, is the dynamism that can help spark a much stronger recovery.

Nobody in business expects a risk-free decision. Opening a new plant, hiring a new employee, or forgoing a steady paycheck to start your own business has potential downsides. But what should be expected, or at least hoped for, is a government that mitigates risk by establishing clear rules of the game, creating an environment for growth—and then getting out of the way.

Unfortunately, Washington discourages innovation and business development as it lurches from one budget crises to another, fumbles to implement Obamacare, struggles to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would establish a stronger talent pool, and adds layer upon layer of regulation on the very people we depend on to create jobs. Until that changes, the economy won’t be firing on all cylinders, and we won’t continue to be the dynamic and innovative people we have always been. 

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