Business Brains

Unleash the entrepreneurial spirit, and give it good health coverage

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Energy, environmental, social, financial issues... We face a boatload of crises. Government can only do so much -- it's time to unleash the power of e...

Energy, environmental, social, financial issues... We face a boatload of crises. Government can only do so much -- it's time to unleash the power of entrepreneurship to solve these problems.

Paul Kedrosky, senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and editor of Infectious Greed, an economics blog, says this is a transitional era, just as the Great Depression initiated a transition from the Second Industrial Revolution to a more modern industrial capitalism. As he put it in a recent article in Washington Monthly, "We are going through a similar change now, one that policymakers can facilitate, with financial services set to shrink in importance, while peak oil and environmental worries create new opportunities for clever entrepreneurs to build on a new and more sustainable socioeconomic platform."

This is part of a "new normal" in our economic life, and a time of tremendous opportunity, he adds:

"While [these changes] will be painful and disruptive, it can lead to a wave of entrepreneurial capitalism, with sustainable and necessary change in how we work, travel, communicate, and power our lives. Prior crisis-driven interventions produced some of the longest periods of peacetime economic expansions in U.S. history, driving job growth, wealth creation, and productivity. The same can happen today if Washington acts wisely and intrepidly. Immense opportunities remain ahead, from energy to disease to resources to telecommunications. Yes, new economic powerhouses are emerging in Brazil, India, China, and elsewhere, but the United States has something the rest of the world doesn’t: the foremost entrepreneurial economic culture on the planet. With appropriate assistance, entrepreneurs can drive the next stage of U.S. economic growth, taking us past this current downturn. The resulting opportunities will be legion for these innovators, and therefore for all of us."

Kedrosky warns, however, that healthcare is a major stumbling block to this entrpreneurial spirit that needs to be addressed head on. Why? Because, as he explained in an interview with NPR Marketplace, contrary to popular myths, many entrepreneurs that start innovative new businesses are over the age of 35. "If you look at surveys of entrepreneurs who are outside of the 25-35 demographic, their concern is 'what happens if I get sick,'" he explains. "And that prevents many of those people from going out and being entrepreneurial. They're risk takers, but they don't want to take risks in areas that they can't manage them, and health is one that they can't manage."

Thanks to Christopher Carfi at the recently relaunched Supernova Conversation site for the pointer to Kedrosky's views.

Kedrosky's take is that government needs to be more proactive in fostering entrepreneurial solutions to vexing problems. Others, however, feel government should get out of the way altogether. In fact, a commenter at Supernova suggested that companies look pooled healthcare approaches. Either way, unleashing and supporting entrepreneurial opportunities -- both at a societal level and within organizations internally -- is a smart path for new growth and innovation.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure