Acton Institute Powerblog

Knowledge, Power, and the Element of Entrepreneurial Surprise

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In his new book, Knowledge and Power, the imitable George Gilder aims at reframing our economic paradigm, focusing heavily on the tension between the power of the State and the knowledge of entrepreneurs — or, as William Easterly has put it, the planners and the searchers.

“Wealth is essentially knowledge,” Gilder writes, and “the war between the centrifuge of knowledge and the centripetal pull of power remains the prime conflict in all economies.”

In a recent interview with Peter Robinson, he fleshes out his thesis:

Quoting Albert Hirschman, Gilder notes that, “Creativity always comes as a surprise to us,” continuing (in his own words), “if it didn’t, we wouldn’t need it and planning would work….Entrepreneurial creativity is almost defined by its surprisal —  by its unexpected character.”

Making room for such surprise requires a dose of Hayekian humility, but as for the shapes, contours, and origins of the surprise itself, Christianity has plenty to say.

knowledge-and-power-gilderGiven the Fall of Man, a Knowledge Problem Kick-Off of sorts, plenty of obstacles persist. Yet if, as King Solomon writes, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” a path remains.

As we stretch our social and political imaginations to make room for entrepreneurial surprise, Christians have a unique opportunity to demonstrate what that should look like. Ours, like many entrepreneurs, is a pursuit filled with risk and creativity. Yet ours, unlike many, is one in solid submission to the call of the Holy Spirit. “Gospel entrepreneurship,” as Owen Strachan calls it.

Gilder does a great service in stretching the frontier of economic analysis, and as Christians, we should be eager and prepared to contribute accordingly.

Call of the Entrepreneur

Call of the Entrepreneur

A merchant banker. A failing dairy farmer. A refugee from Communist China. One risked his savings. One risked his farm. One risked his life.

Why do their stories matter? Because how we view entrepreneurs - as greedy or altruistic, as virtuous or vicious - shapes the destinies of individuals and nations.

Visit the official Call of the Entrepreneur website for more information.

Joseph Sunde Joseph Sunde is a writer and project coordinator for the Acton Institute, serving as editor of the Letters to the Exiles blog and content manager of the Oikonomia channel at He is the founder of Remnant Culture and was a longtime contributor to AEI's Values & Capitalism project. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Mission:Work, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.