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Entrepreneurs Must Stop Apologizing

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In Ayn Rand's famous philosophic novel, Atlas Shrugged, leading entrepreneurs and businessmen go "on strike" as a way of protesting socialism.

Eventually this strike causes the economy to collapse which in turns causes politicians to finally understand the true value of those who actually create wealth and prosperity.

It's a good story, but alas it's only fiction.

In real life, the majority of politicians, and for that matter most of the general public, have virtually no understanding as to how capitalists and entrepreneurs, when allowed to operate in a free market, benefit society.

In fact, if anything an anti-entrepreneur bias permeates our culture. Or least it permeates our popular culture. Just consider, for instance, how in movies and TV shows, successful business people are inevitably portrayed as "greedy" or "corrupt" or "heartless."

Indeed, these days the prejudice against the free market and those who make it work, has reached a near hysteric level, as pundits, politicians and others seek to pin blame for the current economic slowdown on what they like to call "corporate greed."

What these critics don't understand, of course, is that the same free market system they like to rail against is also the same system which has made our society the most prosperous in history.

And besides being the most efficient way to create wealth, the free market system also happens to be morally superior to its main economic alternative -- socialism.

Free markets are based on choice; socialism on compulsion.

So why don't people get that?

Well to fully answer that question would probably take a book or two.

But here's one key reason: the people who the make the free market system work -- i.e. entrepreneurs -- are often like the rest of the population; they don't understand the values which underpin capitalism.

Consequently, they all too often fail to defend themselves in the market place of ideas.

They cede the moral high ground to leftists, to politicians and to assorted other anti-free market types. Rather than standing up for free markets, business people often become defensive, sometimes even apologizing for being capitalists.

This is a problem because if business people don't stand up for capitalism, who will?

This is why an organization in the United States called the Bastiat Society exists. Named after the famed French economic theorist Frédéric Bastiat, the society's purpose is to "educate other wealth creators on their right to the moral high ground."

The motto of the group is "Those who work in freedom should know how freedom works."

Canada should sure could use a group like the Bastiat Society. Entrepreneurs in this country need to be convinced that they are the good guys.

But of course, having principled arguments is not enough.

It's also necessary for business people to know how to get their message across to the media.

Unfortunately, for many entrepreneurs and business people, the media is nothing but a massive mystery. Indeed, if they think about the media at all, it's how to avoid it.

This is a mistake.

Business people should be using the media to get their message out; just as the left uses it so effectively to get out their message.

Only in this way will supporters of free markets win the war of ideas. Only in this way will they change public attitudes about the value of the free enterprise system.

In other words, rather than watching the current economic debates from the sidelines, entrepreneurs must be active participants.

The bottom line is entrepreneurs are truly the heroes of our free market system.

It's time they started acting like it.