These days, many supporters of limited government seem concerned that the public isn’t with them on issues like the role of government in society. It’s hard to deny it’s true on some level or on some issues.
But in some fundamental ways, the outlook isn’t so bleak. For instance, the American public still firmly supports the entrepreneur-driven prosperity that free markets can provide. In a February 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll, 86 percent of likely voters believe it is “fair” for those who build very successful companies to get rich from their efforts.
A message that extols the virtues of entrepreneurship can also reach those concerned about people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Encouraging entrepreneurship – particularly by lowering the tax and regulatory barriers that inhibit its growth – is a far more effective path to poverty reduction than many government-centered income redistribution programs. As a number of academic studies have shown, poverty declines and personal income growth occurs most rapidly in states that have higher levels of entrepreneurship, even after adjusting for demographic factors and generosity of government welfare programs. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be the kind that produces the next Apple or Google, although it can be. Instead, modest entrepreneurial endeavors like a local food truck or hair salon can be, and have proven to be, the path out of poverty for many people.
Entrepreneurship transcends the simple argument that it increases material wealth. There’s a moral component as well. As Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently, “Entrepreneurship should not be extolled as a path to accumulating wealth but as a celebration of everyday men and women who want to build their own lives, whether they start a business and make a lot of money or not.”
Rolling back impediments to people’s ability to enrich themselves both economically and personally through hard work and entrepreneurship is a winning message. Cutting taxes and reducing regulatory burdens aren’t good merely because they help the currently rich. On the contrary, much of the time these policies are worth enacting because they can help the poor and middle class even more. It’s a message that resonates because it’s a principal worth fighting for.
Goldwater Institute: Entrepreneurship is a Key to Poverty Reduction
Wall Street Journal: Republicans and Their Faulty Moral Arithmetic
Rasmussen Reports: 60% Believe Letting Entrepreneurs Get Rich Is Good for Economy