Innovative entrepreneurship drives the global economy, yet it is under attack.
Silicon Valley’s success has drawn the wrath of populist outrage. We were never going be popular: everyone hates the smartest kid in class. The systematic denial of facts, science, and progress has accelerated, ironically through the very social vectors created by Silicon Valley itself. And it is easier to want to tar and feather Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates than teach the tools of innovation they used so that middle class and poorer citizens can have the same opportunities.
Indeed, if we are ever to attack poverty and lack of opportunity effectively, innovative entrepreneurship must be at the front of our toolkit.
Further, we face the fire of regulators and legislators in the United States and Europe, whose reactions could, if not calibrated, burn a wide swath in their wake. Without denying the reality of abuses by certain companies among us, I find many specific policy proposals troubling as they are steered by ignorance and fear in a deep sea of nuance and technical sophistication. Such is the consequence of the knowledge deficit of legislators and regulators who often are not at a technical level to even understand what they propose to control and cling to learnings from obsolete industries.
Innovation, like all forms of knowledge, has always been borderless, yet countries continue to erect barriers to fence in, and out, technology and progress. Innovation anywhere is progress everywhere. Knowledge builds upon itself, so that a spark in one part of the world may unleash a cascade of new understanding and applications far and wide. Whether the cure for cancer originates in Vietnam, Berlin, or Stanford, tens of millions of lives globally will be saved. A global pandemic, the epitome of the folly a walled world, has driven many governments to be more, not less, insular.
Despite these headwinds, I still believe innovative entrepreneurship is the greatest tool we possess to solve seemingly intractable problems, promote justice, create economic opportunity, drive human welfare and progress, and solve existential crises facing the planet. In this week’s Entrepreneur Minute, I give some thoughts on defining innovation and human progress as central values in a just foreign policy. In future weeks, I will extend this argument to various aspects of domestic policy as well.
Entrepreneurs often exist in the dark shadows of government, believing themselves in a safe zone where the emperor is far away and the walls are high. Even in the most dysfunctional regulatory regimes, human ingenuity flourishes. Nevertheless, enlightened policy can turbocharge progress instead of impeding it. That is the world we should strive to attain.