Posts tagged with: entrepreneurship

At some point in tonight’s foreign policy debate between the two presidential candidates, Governor Mitt Romney should send his very capable inner wonk on a long coffee break and press a big-picture truth that otherwise will go begging: America’s strength on the international stage requires economic strength, and our economic strength cannot long endure under the weight of a government so swollen in size that it stifles human enterprise.

The connection between economic freedom and economic growth is well-established. The connection between the relative strength of a nation’s economy and its strength on the international stage is also well established.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but it’s maybe easiest to grasp by thinking about technology. Our strength rests partly on our position as a technology leader, which allows our military to do more with less. But we’re unlikely to maintain that position of leadership if our government habitually suffocates our high-tech entrepreneurs under high taxes and hyper-regulation.
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At an Acton Institute event on Oct. 3 in Grand Rapids, Mich., Amway President Doug DeVos delivered a talk on ‘Free Enterprise and the Entrepreneurial Spirit’ to an audience of 200 people. He was introduced by the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute.

See the Grand Rapids Press/MLive coverage of the event in “Read Doug DeVos’ take on Amway, the presidential race and Dwight Howard leaving the Orlando Magic” by reporter Shandra Martinez.

DeVos’ Amway bio:

Doug DeVos oversees daily operations of the company and shares Amway’s Office of the Chief Executive with chairman Steve Van Andel. Since 1986, DeVos has spent his career building enthusiasm for the Amway business. His belief in its ability to foster entrepreneurs around the world is reflected in the company’s record of sales growth during his time as president, since 2002.

He also has helped Amway grow into one of the world’s most international enterprises. DeVos has also served in various leadership positions in Asia, Europe and the Americas. DeVos is the youngest son of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos. In 1959, Rich DeVos and his lifelong friend and business partner, Jay Van Andel, started Amway from their homes in Ada, Mich. (more…)

I recently wrote about Hobby Lobby’s billionaire CEO, who, in a recent Forbes profile, made it clear how deeply his Christian faith informs his economic decision-making.

This week, in Christianity Today, HOPE International’s Chris Horst profiles another Christian business, Blender Products, whose owners Steve Hill and Jim Howey actively work to elevate the practices of the metal fabrication business and, above all, operate their business “unto the Lord.”

Their company’s foundational verse? Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

“The metal fabrication business is extremely cutthroat,” says Hill. “Workers are given a singular task, and maximum output is demanded. They’re simply a factor of production. As a general rule, they have no access to management. There is very little crossover between guys on the floor and guys in the offices.”

Hill and Howey aim to subvert the us-versus-them mentality. Many days they walk the shop floor, engaging their workers as peers. Employees on the floor are treated as importantly as the managers, undermining the adversarial culture simmering in many manufacturing businesses.

“The company has tried to abide by a simple philosophy concerning our employees,” Steve said. “Pay them well, provide great benefits, and invest in lives…The guys in our shop… know that I’m a human too. I have many of the same struggles they do. Showing humanness to people is key to disarming those stereotypes.”

And the employees aren’t the only ones who benefit:

The very work that Blender employees accomplish benefits a broader community. On the shop floor, talented metal artisans convert stacks of sheet metal—what looks like an oversized stack of paper—into massive fans that improve the efficiency of machinery by mixing airstreams. Their proprietary mixing designs decrease pollution, reduce machinery fire risks, and improve ventilation wherever they’re installed. Fastened in hospitals, schools, office buildings, and factories, they silently make buildings and machines work better and safer.

But although Hill and Howey’s Christian values inform the way they conduct their business and treat their employees, the approach has impacted far more than employee paychecks, customer satisfaction, and environmental stewardship:
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Forbes recently ran a profile of Christian billionaire and Hobby Lobby CEO David Green. According to Forbes, Green is “the largest evangelical benefactor in the world,” giving “at upwards of $500 million” over the course of his life, primarily to Christian ministries.

Yet, for Green, his strong Christian beliefs don’t just apply to how he spends his wealth; they’re integral to how it’s createdin the first place:

Hobby Lobby remains a Christian company in every sense. It runs ads on Christmas and Easter in the local paper of each town where there’s a store, often asserting the religious foundation of America. Stores are closed on Sundays, forgoing revenue to give employees time to worship. The company keeps four chaplains on the payroll and offers a free health clinic for staff at the headquarters–although not for everything; it’s suing the federal government to stop the mandate to cover emergency contraception through health insurance. Green has raised the minimum wage for full-time employees a dollar each year since 2009–bringing it up to $13 an hour–and doesn’t expect to slow down. From his perspective, it’s only natural: “God tells us to go forth into the world and teach the Gospel to every creature. He doesn’t say skim from your employees to do that.”

Economists have increasingly recognized the ways in which healthy stewardship and property rights are linked—how increased ownership leads individuals to weigh costs and benefits more thoughtfully and effectively. Green’s comments add a slight twist to this approach, calling Christians in particular to reconsider who the “owner” actually is and how we might weigh particular costs/benefits and subsequent action accordingly:
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Blog author: jballor
Friday, September 7, 2012
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Book Note: “Walzer, ‘In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible'”
Michael Walzer, In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.

In this eagerly awaited book, political theorist Michael Walzer reports his findings after decades of thinking about the politics of the Hebrew Bible. Attentive to nuance while engagingly straightforward, Walzer examines the laws, the histories, the prophecies, and the wisdom of the ancient biblical writers and discusses their views on such central political questions as justice, hierarchy, war, the authority of kings and priests, and the experience of exile.

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Check out this video, which is interesting on a number of levels (HT: James R. Otteson):

Hazony points to some really important ideas in this short video. In many ways the culture war, so to speak, really comes down to a clash of worldviews about what work is and ought to be. For a narrative that sets the problem up the same way, but favors the “Leavers” over the “Takers,” see the work of Daniel Quinn, particularly his novel Ishmael.

I’m looking forward to checking out Hazony’s book, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.

Call for Papers: “Our Entrepreneurial Future: East, West, North, and South”

The Association of Private Enterprise Education Annual Conference, Maui, Hawaii, April 14 – 16, 2013. “Our Entrepreneurial Future: East, West, North, and South.” The Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE) invites the submission of papers for its 38th International Conference in Maui, Hawaii, April 14-16, 2013. The Association is composed of scholars from economics, philosophy, political science, and other disciplines, as well as policy analysts, business executives, and other educators. APEE’s annual meeting explores topics related to private enterprise in an atmosphere that respects market approaches. Presentations reflect the latest research in fields such as regulation, public choice, microeconomics, and Austrian economics, as well as development of instructional techniques. The submission fee for the society’s journal, The Journal of Private Enterprise, is waived for papers presented at the conference.

Article: “What is the Philosophy of Law?”
John Finnis, SSRN

The philosophy of law is not separate from but dependent upon ethics and political philosophy, which it extends by that attention to the past (of sources, constitutions, contracts, acquired rights, etc.) which is characteristic of juridical thought for reasons articulated by the philosophy of law. Positivism is legitimate only as a thesis of, or topic within, natural law theory, which adequately incorporates it but remains transparently engaged with the ethical and political issues and challenges both perennial and peculiar to this age. The paper concludes by proposing a task for legal philosophy, in light of the fact that legal systems are not simply sets of norms.

Book Note: “Markets and Growth in Early Modern Europe”
Victoria N. Bateman, Markets and Growth in Early Modern Europe

This is the first study to analyze a wide spread of price data to determine whether market development led to economic growth in the early modern period. Bateman compares agricultural data with less abundant information on cloth, candles and olive oil from numerous European cities. Using a range of economic measures applied to a larger set of goods, she shows that market development occurred earlier than was previously believed.

Book Note: “Limited Government and the Bill of Rights”
Patrick M. Garry, Limited Government and the Bill of Rights

What was the intended purpose and function of the Bill of Rights? Is the modern understanding of the Bill of Rights the same as that which prevailed when the document was ratified? In Limited Government and the Bill of Rights, Patrick Garry addresses these questions. Under the popular modern view, the Bill of Rights focuses primarily on protecting individual autonomy interests, making it all about the individual. But in Garry’s novel approach, one that tries to address the criticisms of judicial activism that have resulted from the Supreme Court’s contemporary individual rights jurisprudence, the Bill of Rights is all about government—about limiting the power of government. In this respect, the Bill of Rights is consistent with the overall scheme of the original Constitution, insofar as it sought to define and limit the power of the newly created federal government.

Lectures: “Theology of Mission”
Edmund Clowney, Westminster Theological Seminary

These are 37 audio lectures from Edmund Clowney (1917-2005) of Westminster Theological Seminary from his course, “Theology of Mission,” within a broader biblical and historical study of mission and the “theology for the city.” This is one of the offerings from WTS made available via iTunesU.

Ismael Hernandez responds to President Obama’s “You didn’t get there on your own” speech with a piece titled “Obama’s Assault on Entrepreneurship: An Economic Roadmap to Nowhere,” on Crisis Magazine’s website. Hernandez, founder of the Freedom & Virtue Institute and regular Acton lecturer, employs Catholic moral teaching to determine just how much credit the government deserves for an entrepreneur’s successes. The President’s statements, Hernandez reasons, fail to account for the freedom of the individual to make sound economic and moral decisions. For the sake of example, Hernandez looks to public schools:

If a public school graduate goes on to accomplish great things, the number of antecedent and influential intervening factors is so great, so difficult to quantify, that the high school experience itself also becomes an increasingly indeterminate factor in his later achievements in life. In effect, the same teacher who encouraged a student may have another student who goes on to become a hardened criminal. Other teachers might have failed in preventing bad behaviors of students who later on wreck their lives. The incommensurability of such remote influences is simply too vast. It is like me taking credit for your literary masterpiece because I sold you the paper it was written on. When we survey the scene of entrepreneurial success, we see that the state’s cooperation is so remote that it is not worth mentioning at all.[4] Since the state offers only a remote material cooperation with the work of entrepreneurs, we ought to focus our praise on the entrepreneurs themselves and the proximate causes of their success.

Moreover, when the human person, made in God’s image, creates and acquires property, there is a metaphysical reality at play. Human creativity springs from our divine nature. Each creative act does not depend on any analysis of social usefulness. Property and creation are identified with the person. Those who insist only in social usefulness identify right with the purposes of the state and may think that the common good is the only value (with the state the primary instrument). They might be tempted to say that private property really belongs to everyone. Entrepreneurship, regardless of the myriad antecedent influences, is a holy sanctuary against pagan statism precisely because it flows from the person. There is, in short, a self-justifying right to it.[5]

The entire article is linked here.

For more Acton perspectives on the President’s comments, click here and here.

John Kennedy, President and CEO of Michigan-based Autocam, responded in an MLive.com editorial to President Obama’s recent remarks regarding business owners and their success. Obama stated, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Kennedy responded:

As a business founder, I particularly object to the claim, “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” I benefited from my dad, who helped instill the entrepreneurial spirit, when I founded Autocam. Our employees’ efforts enable us to offer high quality products. Many people have contributed, directly and indirectly, to our success. But it was my vision and leadership that allowed us to navigate troubled waters and to thrive.

Kennedy also noted a more general attitude about the government’s role in business that underlies the president’s remarks:

The president seems to indicate that the government (“somebody”) creates success through the services it provides for citizens. He fails to acknowledge that the government allocates funds taken from others, primarily from successful businesses and individuals. The government typically redistributes this money such that it only temporarily relieves some misery while creating dependency on government programs. In contrast, I believe that we are each called to contribute from our resources to build a healthy community. We should support those who, through no fault of their own, have suffered setbacks or need assistance to receive the education necessary for success.

Read the entire editorial here.

For more on this, see “Somebody else made that happen: tell it to an entrepreneur” and “Acton Commentary: It takes a village to raise a business”.

A Holland, Mich., teenager is being stopped from opening a hotdog cart due to city zoning laws. It’s really disheartening when you consider the fact that this young person was trying to be responsible and work to help his family and build up savings for his future.

In Work: The Meaning of Your Life, Lester DeKoster writes that work is a way in which we provide service to others—a service this teenager has been denied the chance to provide.

The Mackinac Center has a video up about this story.

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