Bob Thomas: Once again, we entrepreneurs are self sufficient
September 20, 2012
“Why can’t people who are supposedly intelligent take off their blinders?” — Gaius Phlebitis In my Aug. 16 column, I went to extraordinary lengths to show you why entrepreneurs don’t need help from President Obama or anyone else because entrepreneurs are born out of solving all kinds of problems for people who are willing to pay. Then, over time, new products and services grow out of those solutions, evolving into great companies. General Electric, Raytheon, Motorola, Proctor & Gamble, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Apple were all born of entrepreneurs who had ideas and could perfect and sell them. But their companies didn’t become the huge bureaucracies they are today without acquiring smaller entrepreneurships along the way. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d bet that GE today represents the acquisition of more than 200 entrepreneurships, all starting from scratch.Following the publication of my column, I was bombarded by acquaintances who sided with Barack Obama when he said that we entrepreneurs really didn’t build our enterprises ourselves, we had plenty of help from outside … I found that to be not only insulting, but inflammatory! He also was implying that lots of help came from government via infrastructure, highways, power, water, etc., all paving the way to our success. I will now prove them wrong.Let’s take a hard historical look by going back to when society had zero electricity, autos, natural gas, oil, paved roads, piped water or whatever. Light came from burning whale oil in lanterns. Heat came from burning wood or surface coal. Roads were not paved and everyone rode horses or in horse-drawn conveyances. No indoor plumbing. Absolutely nothing came from government other than military protection. And yet we had entrepreneurs: railroaders, blacksmiths, storekeepers, lumber mills, wagon builders, furniture builders, seamstresses, boarding houses, restaurants, hotels, miners, farmers, grain mills, bankers and on and on, all doing their crafts without infrastructure or government assistance. Government services were limited to sheriffs, fire departments and schools.Later, when we began seeing inventions we now take for granted such as utilities, here again government had nothing to do with it except regulations and taxation. The Army Corp of Engineers built some dams to better distribute water over hundreds of square miles of arid land, but that had nothing directly to do with entrepreneurial farmers making that land productive.In the beginning stages of electricity, power companies were all private. Natural gas and oil companies were all private. Water-distribution companies were all private. No government involvement except for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which came much later. Yes, it can be argued that all of this utility development supplied entrepreneurs with the wherewithal to push the technical envelope, but it was the entrepreneurs’ tax dollars, plus their employee tax dollars that made it happen, not government.Every road, aqueduct, highway bridge, man-made irrigation canal, dam and any other infrastructural project you can think of was paid for by tax dollars raised as a result of entrepreneurs demanding and developing those improvements in order to conduct, expand and otherwise serve the public by solving their problems. Government responds to needs after the fact. Government’s only “innovations” are congressional pork barrel political projects.OK, so now I’m going to contradict myself and admit that we entrepreneurs do need and did have help in creating and growing our enterprises. What help? You! Our customers! If you don’t buy our products and services or allow us to solve the problems that you can’t solve for yourselves, then we are out of business. In that sense, and only in that sense, can Barack Obama or anyone else say that we entrepreneurs are not 100 percent independent.Please, don’t allow yourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that dilettantes in government are responsible for innovations of any kind because they squander taxpayer money on failed technologies (Solyndra) while trying to play “entrepreneur.” Even military products are developed and produced by entrepreneurs, albeit to government specifications, but even the technology creating those specifications comes from privately funded research. There is nothing left to say. • Bob Thomas is a retired high-tech industrialist who later served on the Carson City School Board, the state welfare board, the airport authority and as a state assemblyman. His website is http://www.worldclassentrepreneur.com.