Often, people will ask me what I do for a living. Rather than give some longwinded answer that includes some impressive sounding title, I usually say I help my company solve problems. I truly believe God put me on this planet to do that very thing. I get a rush out of hearing about a particular challenge my company is facing and then working to help develop a lasting solution.
This desire to problem-solve isn’t limited to my firm either. In recent columns, I’ve discussed many problems we are facing as a nation, including student loan debt, healthcare, and the environment. What’s amazing, is the solution to these and many other problems is always the same, in my opinion. We must allow the free market and the innovation it brings with it to do its job. You see, when people become incentivized through the possibility of financial gain to find solutions to problems we face, everyone benefits. American economist Milton Friedman put it best when he said, “there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”
Since the market crash in 2008, we’ve seen a growing disillusionment in the capitalist system. For many, it even borders on antagonism. Too many people have bought into the lie that corporations are the enemy and, if you are a successful business owner, you must be greedy and taking advantage of others. That’s why I thought it would be good to remind people of the benefits we all receive because of our free market as well as the amazing advancements it is helping us make to solve many of the problems we face today.
For example, I don’t know of anyone who is not concerned about the enormous amounts of student loan debt our college graduates are bringing with them into the workforce. As I have detailed before, this debt threatens the foundation of our economy. And while many are looking for a government solution that involves massive new entitlement programs and a larger bureaucracy, companies like Coursera are quietly innovating new ways of providing quality education that can reduce or even eliminate the expense of getting a degree. Through partnerships with major universities across the world, they are able to provide high quality instruction from the comfort of your laptop or tablet, often at no cost to the student. These “massive open online courses” (MOOC)’s have the potential to revolutionize the way one obtains a degree.
Another serious crisis we face today concerns the environment. It’s common to hear from activists that capitalism will destroy the planet. In actuality, I believe capitalism is the planet’s greatest hope. Several years ago, American businessman T. Boone Pickens led a one-man crusade for American energy independence. Many at the time laughed at him and said it could not be done. His opponents argued that we would forever be a slave to Middle Eastern oil producers. Since that time, we have seen a surge in American energy production powered by technological advancements in techniques such as fracking. As a result, areas like the Dakotas have experienced a boon to their economies as domestic production has skyrocketed. What makes this even better is much of this new energy is in the form of clean natural gas which emits 50 to 60 percent less CO2 than oil or coal. At the same time, non-capitalist solutions like government loans and grants to green energy companies has resulted in a loss of over 1 billion taxpayer dollars as of 2015, with anticipated future losses of up to 4 billion.
My point in all of this is not to bash Washington, or to argue that some oversight of the free market is not necessary. Instead, I’d like to challenge you to consider that, if you’re hoping things will improve for us as a nation, you’ll have far better odds if you bet on a businessman rather than on a bureaucrat.
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.)