The Founding Entrepreneurs: America's Prosperity

By Gunderson, Gerald | Social Education, March 2007 | Go to article overview

The Founding Entrepreneurs: America's Prosperity


Gunderson, Gerald, Social Education


The American economy has had the fastest and most dramatic development of all the world's major economies. Four hundred years ago, the economic output of the area that became the United States was negligible by world standards. Yet only 250 years later, the U.S. economy had become the largest in the world, surpassing all other countries, including those that had a head start of thousands of years, such as China and Britain. And since that milestone in the mid-1800s, the U.S. economy has grown by about 50 times, remaining well ahead of economies such as Japan and Germany that at times appeared to be closing the gap.

This is too long and consistent a record to be a matter of happenstance. Nor can it be explained, as some have suggested, by the fact that the United States has had a rich endowment of natural resources. Americans have made good use of what nature has provided--the deep topsoil of Iowa, for example--but large areas of the West (witness Wyoming) do not receive enough rain to grow anything other than sagebrush. And the areas that Americans have now made useful are comparable newcomers. For thousands of years they lay idle, because people did not know how to put them to work. These resources became productive only within the broader pattern of human energy and ingenuity that was driving the entire economy.

The critical factor that explains America's exceptional growth is human creativity. The only force that could have enabled people to find productive uses for resources that had previously lain idle is knowledge. And knowledge has to be created by people--people known, in this role, as entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the specialists who focus on innovation, developing new products and services and expanding the supply of resources that people can use to produce more of what they value.

Much of this effort is incremental and thus not obvious, but it can cumulate into huge increases over time. Innovation is seldom a Eureka experience in which the new product appears full blown. More typically, success requires the entrepreneur to work through several iterations in an effort to smooth out the multiple connections that innovations almost always require. All these steps require numerous trials, and the output at each point along the way has to be adjusted to other components in the process. In fact, the organization that will deliver the new product or service may itself have to be reshaped. The automobile, for example, required gas pumps, service hoists, and the stores, each of which dictated new retail outlets.

Everyone assumes that entrepreneurs are motivated by money, and of course the prospect of making money does provide an important incentive. But other motives are also important. Innovators also enjoy creating productive solutions that provide better services for others. They enjoy solving problems and creating new organizations, within which they and their associates often establish something akin to family relationships. Interests of this sort help to explain the large amount of successful innovation that occurs in nonprofit firms, the arts, and other sectors where participants do not expect to earn much income, even in return for important advances.

The motivation of entrepreneurs is often misjudged in another respect as well. One familiar characterization of entrepreneurs is that they are risk takers--people who thrive on big projects and uncertain outcomes that most folks cannot stomach. But it is a mistake to view entrepreneurs as flat-out gamblers who just throw the dice. Most entrepreneurs assume no more risk in launching their initiatives than an average person does in the course of everyday routines.

This point becomes clear when we look closely at how entrepreneurs work. Risk is a result of what you know and control. Most of us would consider jumping out of an airplane in flight to be very risky, but skydivers who understand parachutes and jump procedures consider the activity fun--they pay to do it. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Founding Entrepreneurs: America's Prosperity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.