Monday, June 3, 2013

Striking at the Heart of American Exceptionalism...

The lead of this article riveted me, as it channels one of my deepest concerns:
Americans have long taken pride in their willingness to bet it all on a dream. But that risk-taking spirit appears to be fading.

Three long-running trends suggest the U.S. economy has turned soft on risk: Companies add jobs more slowly, even in good times. Investors put less money into new ventures. And, more broadly, Americans start fewer businesses and are less inclined to change jobs or move for new opportunities.

The changes reflect broader, more permanent shifts, including an aging population and the new dominance of large corporations in many industries. They also may help explain the increasingly sluggish economic recoveries after the past three recessions, experts said.

"The U.S. has succeeded in part because of its dynamism, its high pace of job creation and destruction, and its high pace of churning of workers," said John Haltiwanger, a University of Maryland economist who has studied the decline in American entrepreneurship. "The pessimistic view is we've lost our mojo."

Companies that gamble on new ideas are more likely to fail, but also more likely to hit it big. Entrepreneurs face long odds, but those that achieve success create jobs for many others.

As important, say economists, are small acts of risk-taking: workers who quit their jobs to find better ones, companies that expand payrolls and families that move from sluggish economic regions to ones with low unemployment rates.

Multiplied across the U.S. economy, these acts of faith and ambition help speed money, talent and resources to where they are needed.
The article goes on to explore many facets of the issue.  It cites many possible causes, some of them close to what I believe the main culprit is: the ever-growing web of regulations, taxes, licensing, and general bureaucratic friction that impedes U.S. entrepreneurs today.  Back in the '70s and '80s I started several small businesses.  Were conditions then as they are today, I don't think I'd have started any of them.

American exceptionalism, on several fronts, used to be quite obvious to the entire world.  American business exceptionalism was the most obvious of all.  Not so much any more, I'm afraid – and very much headed the opposite way...

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