“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
What do 8 of the 10 wealthiest people in the U.S. have in common?Aside from being able to fly in private jets, the common thread is that each of them has made their fortune thanks to a start-up.Let me explain…From tech titans like Bill Gates and Larry Ellison (founders of Microsoft and Oracle, respectively), to […]
In December of last year, I left my career to travel the world for one year.My plan was to visit as many countries as possible on my Star Alliance Around-the-World ticket in the first nine months, then, for the remaining three months, return back to the country that most caught my eye and my curiosity.Nine […]
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”When Capt. Jean-Luc Picard wants a steaming beverage in his ready room aboard the starship Enterprise, he just utters those words. The ship’s “replicator” then assembles the necessary atoms — including those for the cup — and produces it, ready for the drinking. Picard thinks nothing of it — it’s hardly more […]
As much as I love technology, part of me hates being so dependent on a live wall plug wherever I go. You find yourself trapped in some setting without accessible wall plugs and your phone is dying. You charge from you laptop, but that is dying too. You take recourse to your tablet, but that […]
For the last 18 months, we’ve been wrestling with a conundrum: How is it that the U.S. energy industry is unlocking vast new stores of oil and gas… and the U.S. biotech industry is discovering how to turn back our biological clocks… at the same time Washington is setting new debt records and Wall Street […]
“What are you complaining about all the time?” people sometimes ask me. “I’m just about as free as I want to be.”Here’s the problem. How can we really know what we want if we’ve never had it before? The less free we are, the less we know what freedom feels like and how it shapes […]
I’ve noticed a trend with the writings of Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired magazine and the author of a new book on 3-D printing called Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.It goes like this. He comes out with a book, and the highbrow experts say it’s crazy, that this time he has gone too far. […]
Two years ago, I spoke to a gentlemen who had started and sold four companies. He was currently working on a new project that sounded very promising (for all I know, he has already sold that one too). We had just heard a talk in which the speaker told people that the whole key to […]
A contributing factor in the rise of Internet commerce, a feature that gave it a kick-start, was that you didn’t have to pay sales tax on what you purchased out of state. Ah, the glory days of the 2000s, when you could order anything and, for once in your life, not get hammered by the […]
Why is business so often scapegoated for all the problems of society?The term scapegoat comes from the Bible and refers to the goat cast out of the community as part of a purification ritual. Perhaps when people saw that lonely goat walk away and probably into its death, it made them feel better about themselves.Weird, […]
In 1881, Dakota Territory had never sold a bushel of wheat to anybody outside of Dakota. Six years later, it sold 62 million bushels. What happened?I recently read Garet Garrett’s The American Story, which came out in 1955. It is a well-written history of America, unusual because of its emphasis on the powerful economics that […]
For young people facing terrible job prospects and a generally bad economic environment going forward, starting a business sounds very appealing. It has advantages over embedding yourself in a big institution, taking your wages in forms of benefits, and hoping (against hope) to climb the ladder.It’s never been easier to strike out on your own, […]
There’s a jewelry store in town with a long tradition, a devoted client list, and a good record of solid profitability. But during the last year, it’s moved around like the “oldest established permanently floating crap game” from the musical Guys and Dolls.It was downtown. Then it was not. It was reestablished on the other […]
Oh how everyone (of a certain class and income) makes fun of the Twinkie, the ultimate symbol of modern food decadence and phoniness. I don’t get it. Have the critics ever tried one? They are so appealing and delicious: light, spongy, sweet, and creamy, all in a tiny package.The news that the parent company Hostess […]
I was strolling along the wharf in Bodrum, Turkey, and I was intrigued to see some natural sea sponges on a table with a merchant behind the table telling me something about them in Turkish.I vaguely recall seeing an item like this when I was a kid but I long ago dismissed them as some […]
My neighborhood is filling up with political yard signs. Vote for this guy! Vote for that guy!I can’t understand why people are willing to give up precious real estate on their front lawns, make friends mad at them, and put their own credibility on the line to back some politico who will certainly betray them […]
The web is packed with some of the greatest educational material on entrepreneurship and enterprise, material that didn’t exist a decade ago and is now within the mouse-click reach of vast swaths of humanity. Are we taking advantage of it?Doug French and I set out to collect the top 15 videos on entrepreneurship — a […]
It’s fashionable to put down commercial culture, but, when you think about it, this makes no sense. Commerce is the driving force of human progress, in more ways that we often realize. Americans in the 19th century knew this and celebrated this. Our commercial culture was a source of pride and the envy of the […]
What’s great about POM Wonderful? Sure, this pomegranate juice tastes great. POM is one of the few drinks that seems to have the same scrunch-up-your-mouth effect that you get with a bold dry red wine.When I was a kid, it didn’t exist. Like everything wonderful in this world, it comes to us because of the […]
The great recession continues in so many ways but online commerce is booming as never before, increasing in the last quarter of 2011 at the fastest rates in six years.Before you know it, the retail side alone will account for $300 billion in sales per year. We click and pay, and if it’s not a […]
The organization Campaign for Safe Cosmetics doesn’t just want you to be able to have new choices about the makeup or other products you buy. It wants the FDA to be able to ban and recall products. It will decide for you what is and isn’t safe.And it is prevailing against the industry itself, which […]
The functioning of millions of our consumer products has been wrecked by government regulations in ways that are extremely hard to detect and difficult to narrow down. The other day, I wrote about discovering the reason lawn mowers have mysteriously stopped working and stopped improving over the last decade or so. (I now have a […]
I was reading a wonderful set of small biographies of Gilded Age entrepreneurs and took note of something we all know once we think about it. These men and women worked in productive labor from an early age.They universally credit these early work experiments for instilling an ethic to stick to the job, be alert […]
The web is packed with some of the greatest educational material on entrepreneurship and enterprise, material that didn’t exist a decade ago and is now within the mouse-click reach of vast swaths of humanity. Are we taking advantage of it?
Doug French and I set out to collect the top 15 videos on entrepreneurship — a totally subjective list, of course, but these are the ones we have found most compelling. Watching all of these provides a great overview of the contribution that enterprise makes to the quality of life.
They illustrate, too, the dangers of government rules, regulations, taxes, and trade restrictions. They kill creativity and prosperity, making life harder for entrepreneurs and capitalists to serve society through innovation and expansion.
We sought to pick videos that show the real stuff at work — not just academic lectures, but the real heartbeat of human action in an enterprising world.
Please share this set with people who need to understand!
1. The LEGO Story
This is an amazing short movie about the history of one company, covering the dream, the setbacks, the innovations, the development, the achievement, and so much more. It is also very beautifully made. Every kid in the world ought to see this wonderful video!
2. Caine’s Arcade
This is a heartwarming story of a child with an idea. But it is more than that. It is a look at the dream of commercial achievement and what it takes to see it realized. We see in Caine the traits that made a Rockefeller or a Carnegie or any of the greats. There is a certain fanaticism about what they do, a deep love and belief in the idea and the desire to serve others.
3. Matt Ridley: When Ideas Have Sex
Matt Ridley may not have set out to illustrate the power of economic thinking, but that is what he does here. He shows how a developed, complex economy is all about sharing, cooperation, service, and learning. He re-characterizes the commercial spirit as community minded and deeply connected to public service. It is a brilliant presentation from one of the finest writers and thinkers working today.
4. Johanna Blakley: Lessons From Fashion’s Free Culture
This lecture sweeps away a profound confusion about commerce: that it is due to the containment and privatization of ideas. On the contrary, a true enterprise economy is about the spreading and sharing of ideas, just as entrepreneurship itself relies on innovating from existing knowledge. Great creators are great students too. This video uses fashion to show how it works.
5. Hans Rosling and the Magic Washing Machine
Hans Rosling is a demographer with a passion for explaining what the numbers mean, as a way of countering ideological bias in the population. He uses amazing tools to show how economic forces are all about the quality of life: longer, healthier, wealthier lives. He is a dedicated believer in the cause of human flourishing, and this comes across in his beautiful tribute to the washing machine.
6. Rory Sutherland: Perspective Is Everything
Rory Sutherland is one of the most-perceptive marketing experts in the world today. He has a keen mind, and he traces his own economic influences to Ludwig von Mises. His many examples of how real-world commerce differs from what you find in textbooks make for an interesting corrective. As Mises himself said, the difference between capitalism and socialism comes down the principle of marketing. Sutherland is the great specialist in consumer behavior.
7. Richard Branson’s Advice for Entrepreneurs
Richard Branson is a legend in his own time, an extraordinary entrepreneur and a breaker of every rule in the book. He does not give systematic lectures or write detailed essays, but he will sit for spontaneous interviews. This short video packs a powerful punch. He makes the case for making errors, giving employees lots of freedom, and praising accomplishments of others.
8. Soda Pop: John Nese, proprietor of Galcos Soda
A store owner discovers a market niche in making customers happy by offering 500 different kinds of soda pop, rather than Pepsi or Coke… he couldn’t compete with Ralph’s down the street by carrying Pepsi and Coke… but could compete by offering something different.
9. Anthony Bourdain in Haiti
Anthony Bourdain didn’t set out to make a documentary about economics, but that’s what it ended up as. Laissez Faire Today goes into greater detail here about how this film makes the case for capital accumulation.
10. Allen Edmonds Factory Tour
Many people have never seen the inside of a manufacturing plant. This video take you there. This company started in 1922 by Elbert Allen and is still business after 90 years, through thick and thin, overcoming every obstacle.
11. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama Plant Tour
Korean car manufacturing has brought astonishing economic vitality to Alabama. The plant has been a real godsend, and it underscores just how complex economic structures are in today’s world. There is no more us versus them. We are all in this together. And this video shows just what a marvel manufacturing really is. Miracles are made here.
12. I, Smartphone
Based on Leonard Read’s famous essay “I, Pencil,” this short video beautifully illustrates the vast complexity that we carry in our pockets. No one person could ever make a smartphone. It required the spontaneous cooperation of millions across all countries. The world could never be reinvented by a single mind, but rather requires the coordination of plans made possible only through private property and the price system.
13. The Call of the Entrepreneur
This is only a trailer, but covers one of the finest movies ever made about entrepreneurship. It is made by the Acton Institute. It seeks to put a human face on commerce, showing entrepreneurs from three very different walks of life. It includes extremely effective interviews with some of the best intellectuals, as well. This is only the trailer but you can purchase the entire film at Acton.org.
14. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates Together
This video is historic in so many ways. It includes lots of technical talk, some interesting memories, and a fascinating dynamic. But it demonstrates how two great entrepreneurs see the world and their roles in it. Despite the famed rivalry here, they also understand that they have benefitted from each other’s work.
15. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey on the Moral Case for Capitalism
John Mackey is a rare CEO and corporate founder who understands much more than his own business and industry; he understands just how crucial and beneficial freedom itself is to the social order. In this interview, which is quite short, he provides a compelling defense of the corporation and its place in the modern life, directly refuting those who think the corporation is parasitic and evil. His candor is extremely refreshing.
Conclusion: As these films show, economics and enterprise are not things that exist outside the human experience, but rather extend organically from it, as an expression of the finest that the human person has to offer humanity.