How Society Creates Entrepreneurs (infographic)

What makes entrepreneurship possible? Entire libraries are dedicated to answering this question on the individual level, but the greater societal level is archived in the historical section more often than business. People who pursue the riches of building a successful company take their current environment for granted. It’s natural for the business owners of America to expect certain conditions like secure property rights, open and competitive markets, and an honest legal system. In societies like America’s, anyone who wishes to innovate may innovate.

But where did these vital pillars of our society come from? As this infographic from EdSmart suggests, the transition occurred when Western society rejected the aristocratic deal (“do what I say and I’ll let you work”) in favor of the bourgeois deal (“leave me alone and I’ll make you rich”). The revolutions, revolts, reading, and reformations that occurred in the early modern era paved the way for a reevaluation of Western values. Traditional bourgeois folk such as shopkeepers, merchants, and innovators went from being suspect to the drivers of progress. Working in one’s own interest went from being a sign of poor character to something expected of anyone trying to make it commercially.

The result? A sharp increase in global wealth and standard of living. Extreme poverty is at the lowest rate ever recorded, dropping from half the globe in 1966 to 9% in 2017. In the US specifically, the country-specific poverty line went from including 22.4% of the population in 1959 to 10.5% in 2019. These reductions in poverty mean an increase in the standard of living for Americans. 90% of modern American households have air conditions, and the average household owns nearly 2 cars. Things that would have been signs of luxury decades ago are commonplace today thanks to the work of entrepreneurs.

Liberty and dignity for entrepreneurs make societies rich. While things such as modern science and strong work ethic are important to have, they don’t account for the “Great Enrichment” of the past century by themselves. Higher income levels and reduction in poverty occur when people are encouraged to innovate. Innovators can only see the success they desire in an environment that lets them retain the profits of their blood, sweat, and tears. Government controlled economies that allow monopolies to prosper, that limit market extent, and that stifle innovation all dis-incentivize entrepreneurs from pursuing their dreams. Certain regulations on the free market can reverse society’s trajectory and take us back to the aristocratic deal. People historically came to America to escape aristocracy, not embrace it.

Free markets are necessary for prosperity, but they aren’t enough on their own. Societies like America also require liberty, dignity, and equality for all; virtues of faith, hope, love, and courage; and values of justice, temperance, and prudence. Recognizing every individual’s right to self-author requires society to extend liberty and dignity to everyone. Prosperity can’t reach everyone unless everyone, including women and minorities, is empowered to innovate.

Today, anyone can be a merchant. Women and people of color can find liberation in creating in ways once restricted to their white male peers. They too are able to embrace the maxim of an entrepreneurial culture: “we are rich because we are free.” Their progress and success in the field of innovation will only lead to greater futures on the horizon.

Society creates entrepreneurs by embracing the self-interested entrepreneurial spirit. As prolific economist Adam Smith once said, “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

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