Sunday, April 4, 2010

High IQ Risk Takers

Friedman has written another of his commentaries on American decline discussing the slow reduction of High IQ risk takers.

He starts by saying:

Message: If we want to bring down unemployment in a sustainable way, neither rescuing General Motors nor funding more road construction will do it. We need to create a big bushel of new companies — fast. We’ve got to get more Americans working again for their own dignity — and to generate the rising incomes and wealth we need to pay for existing entitlements, as well as all the new investments we’ll need to make.

Frankly the key question is who is the "we" that does the creating? We happens to be the individuals who have both the brains and the spirit to seek out the implementation of what they believe. An entrepreneur is one who combines both intellect and the drive to see it implemented. Friedman is a reporter and not to my opinion an entrepreneur. He seems never to have created a job based on his ideas. He tells others what he thinks he sees.

Entrepreneurs are risk takers but seem never to feel the risk is an impediment, rather the risk is the driver which moves them forward. When I started my international company in 23 countries all I had was a handful of plan tickets and my credit cards. I had an idea and went forth as a dream merchant selling the idea and seeking others to join in. It was perforce of the drive and the dream, and not just any financial return. One must have to have been an entrepreneur to understand what drives them.

Friedman goes on:

In addition, because of our vibrant and meritocratic university system, the best foreign students who wanted the best education also came here, and many of them also stayed. In its heyday, our unique system also attracted a disproportionate share of high-I.Q. risk-takers to high government service. So when you put all this together, with our free markets and democracy, it made it easy here for creative, high-I.Q. risk-takers to raise capital for their ideas and commercialize them. In short, America had a very powerful, self-reinforcing engine for growing innovative new companies.

Yes, no one in their right mind would ever go into Government Service. At one time the CIA for example was a home to the best and brightest. Now it seems to have become a haven for well paid GS 13s who would feel just as comfortable in the Department of Agriculture. Why, well who would want to go to Washington. It is mostly a town of game playing, there is always the proverbial career "back stabber" and the like. Why work there, you learn nothing and can contribute nothing. It is all a political game and entrepreneurs generally are not good political game players, look at Google, they hired Eric Schmidt to play that role, and play it he has done well.

Friedman ends with:

We need health care, financial reform and education reform. But we also need to be thinking just as seriously and urgently about what are the ingredients that foster entrepreneurship — how new businesses are catalyzed, inspired and enabled and how we enlist more people to do that — so no one ever says about America what that officer says to Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”: “Son, your ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash.”

Yes in a way the entrepreneur is a kindred spirit of the fighter pilot, yet there is a great difference. The entrepreneur leads a band of followers, and as a leader the band gets bigger and better and the entrepreneur must get the bad to a critical mass so that it can survive. The pilot goes to battle and wins or loses. The entrepreneur must survive and sustain their move forward.

Friedman's points have merit. We need the Entrepreneur, the dream merchant, the individual with a dream who will cover the plant in search of the dream. The Government can do one thing, just stay out of the way! Yet the current Administration is sowing the seeds of destruction of the entrepreneur by placing costs on them which will drive them to other countries. They will not go away, the just will go elsewhere! On that point Friedman is spot on.