By J.P. Harrington
Michael Strong wants to change the world, but with capitalism, a less credited framework among many of the starry-eyed dreamers who usually preach changing the world. The author of Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the Worlds Problems, Strong ardently hopes that in the future, all seven billion people on this planet can have peace and prosperity through entrepreneurship. Strong and his wife Magette Wade recently visited Dartmouth at the behest of the Dartmouth Libertarians, giving a magnificent presentation that lucidly laid out a plan for development in the poorest regions of the world that focuses on empowering individuals, rather than existing elites.
Strong’s current mission isn’t abroad; it’s right here at home. He is working to introduce competition into the American school system, which he believes is crippled by an inefficient, unjust and even painful government monopoly. He even went so far as to claim that in the future, we would look back on twentieth century (and twenty-first century) schools as equivalent in barbarity to nineteenth century sweatshop factories. While the hyperbole was a bit much, it was welcome to hear such vocal condemnation of a monopolistic public school system that cares more about teachers than students. Strong’s schools focus on the Socratic method, thus involving the students in the learning process rather than relying on the much more passive lecture method preferred by most public school teachers.
But on a more global level, Strong wants to spread entrepreneurial opportunity by creating zones within developing countries where special laws protecting entrepreneurs and business growth are observed. He repeatedly stated that it is harder to fire an employee in the developing world than in the cradle-to-grave welfare states of Scandinavia. By creating zones where rule of law will be respected, Strong hopes to encourage both local entrepreneurs and international investment.
After Strong eloquently laid out his plan for a more entrepreneur-friendly developing world, his wife Magatte Wade took the floor to discuss her own vision of capitalism in Africa and particularly Senegal, her native country. While her talk was far more emotional, it was just as powerful. She described how many young Senegalese men had drowned attempting to reach Europe and jobs in small boats. Again and again, Wade focused on the development of Africa through improvements in marketing. She believes that Americans can help lift African development by positively branding products made in Africa, leading to wealth creation, economic empowerment, and eventually a changed external perception of Africa.
While it was refreshing to hear a defense of capitalism on a moral level, one worries that Strong and Wade may have mistaken the egg for the chicken. While they argued “money will come if you do everything else right,” it would seem that often it is the profit-seeking drive that first inspires entrepreneurs. Usually, successful companies first become profitable and then begin to aspire to higher purposes, not the other way around.
That, however, is but a quibble – the main points made by Strong and Wade were certainly sound. Free-market entrepreneurialism is the single greatest tool in the world for providing jobs, creating progress and eventually improving the world.
Instead of the anti-capitalist claptrap usually spouted by speakers at college campuses, Strong and Wade both presented legitimate arguments along with occasionally humorous observations. Could any reasonable intellectual truly disagree with Strong’s proposal that an altar should be built at the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution?