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Entrepreneurship is America’s key to prosperity

Henry Ford is shown on his first vehicle, the Quadricycle, in a 1896 photograph. The vehicle led to the original Model T, which was Ford's first product, and then to the Model A. The original Quadricycle is now on display as part of the "100 Years of the Automobile in American Life" exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. (AP Photo)

“What opportunities will the fresh winds of tomorrow bring?” wonders the entrepreneur — contemplating, day-in and day-out what the future has in store. Not much credit typically goes to the business owner, the inventor, the innovator. Our lives wouldn’t be the same without the valiant efforts of these unsung heroes. The average citizen lives their life dazed by flashy politicians and idols of modern media, forgetting that the true essence of this country is its entrepreneurial spirit… not undeliverable, “on the house” promises. Entrepreneurship gives us freedom, innovation and ultimately the upper hand.

Ironically for the free market economy to thrive, it must have regulations that incent and do not deter. The great father of economics, Adam Smith, spoke about what he called the “invisible hand”. He spoke about the social benefits of an individual’s self-interest and how stifling this would lead to downturns in the economy. So, what has driven the United States of America to be the world’s top superpower? This can be traced back to the industrial revolution days from about 1760 to 1840 which marked a period of industrialization never seen before with new technological advances and the mechanization of industry. The nascent republic had outlined provisions in the U.S. Constitution that protect our right to do business — and our right to economic liberty. Our most basic rights, like entering into contracts and possessing private property, are protected in the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

I think we can all agree that regulations are necessary, mainly those that encourage perfect competition. The United States’ government has a wide array of tools to promote a healthy economy. Among these are laws to protect businesses and consumers – most notably the Antitrust Laws administered by the Federal Trade Commission, which include: The Sherman Act, The Federal Trade Commission Act, and The Clayton Act. All address, in one way or another, anti-competitive practices like attempts at monopolizing to reduce market competition, colluding to fix prices and rigging bids.

Moreover, it is vital to make note of the great American inventions and technological advancements throughout the years. The Industrial Revolution brought the steam engine and set the stage for the mechanization of industry. Investments in essential infrastructure throughout the country laid the groundwork for a more connected and cohesive economy. Early on, it was the extensive railways that made transportation and response times smoother and more effective. The great American inventions — the cotton gin, telephone and the lightbulb — are just some key examples of what this country can achieve. Connectivity and automation have brought us a long way. In 1908, the Ford Motor Company began production of the T Model which was the first of its kind to be mass produced in the United States.

Our successes of course, didn’t stop there. Through the 20th and 21st centuries, we mastered the space shuttle, spatial rovers, personal computers, the internet, email, cellphones, digital cameras, medical advances like anti-cholesterol medications, disposable contact lenses, wi-fi, search engines and many other life changing inventions. Now, more than ever, is the time to dream big and bold. If the last 200 years have taught us anything, it is that our future well-being hinges on what we do today. What will our legacy be for our children and other generations to come? We have had our own successes here in Marshalltown, too. We have had inventors and companies that began and stayed here – when most of these lands were just fields and pastures. Our drive for innovation and success has always been present, so we must continue to choose greatness before failure and novelty before conformity and in the end we will realize, if we have not yet, that entrepreneurship is America’s key to prosperity.

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Carlos Jeer is the economic development director for the Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce.

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