I would like you to consider something: “The innovator had grown rich, which is good and had spread prosperity around him, which is better”. That is the great author Victor Hugo’s comment on the entrepreneur Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES. Victor Hugo had it right, and I would like to discuss that with you today. First, may I suggest the following as a starting point:
- The Goal of Civilization is Human Happiness
- Happiness is a result of prosperity that provides freedom and opportunity for all
- Prosperity is produced by creating and distributing wealth through free people freely engaging in commercial activity, and
- Commercial Innovators – entrepreneurs – need personal and economic freedom to create and distribute wealth most widely.
Hello, I am Marty Cummins. I am an attorney by profession, but consider myself – 1st and foremost – to be an entrepreneur. Starting in 1990 my wife and I established and operated several restaurants and bookshops in Orlando Florida, and in recent years have sponsored over 75 businesses in Florida, funded by foreign investors. These included schools for autistic children, resorts, office buildings, assisted living facilities and even a Lumber Mill. My goal here today is to let you know about an economic system and business operating style that will produce an economy where everyone can prosper.
But first, we have to recognize something – there are two trends in human history – one is decency, love, generosity and kindness that lead to a better life, while the other is one of warfare, slavery, misogyny, racism and stupid, self-destructive greed, which holds us back. In order to finally attain our goal of human happiness, we must admit that the human experiment – with all its progress – has been accompanied by profound sadness and tragedy. We simply must commit to a better world.
While our first step must be acknowledging our failures, (in order not to repeat them) – the far more important 2nd step is recognizing and advocating a philosophy of life that rejects the horrors of our past and allows us to simply stop the madness – and realize – instead – our full human potential.
I suggest we have examples throughout history of people who advocated a way of life that can put us on this most noble and necessary path. And, they all seem to have one thing in common – they all practice the Golden Rule – treating others the way they would like to be treated. Emulating those people and using that simple idea can change the world.
So, may I submit that we need to acknowledge our failures as humankind, and resolve to break out of the historic cycle of violence and hurt, and then both recognize and advocate behavior that can truly change the world for the better. But, next, we must find a method of demonstrating the message of love, generosity and kindness that can also provide us with an instrument that can – in a very practical way – improve the lot of everyone on our planet.
I submit to you that that instrument is commerce conducted by men and women of good will. Indeed, our greatest challenge is getting people to realize that business can be mankind’s greatest benefactor.
I am convinced that the system that will benefit everyone, and inspire people to go into business as the most noble profession, is OPPORTUNITY ECONOMICS. The goals of Opportunity Economics are simple:
- The creation of the greatest wealth
- the widest distribution of that wealth,
- Maximum freedom and opportunity for all,
- rising real incomes, and
- Enough wealth to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
We then ask: “What sort of business owners can do the most good with Opportunity Economics?” First, business owners must be of the highest integrity, honesty and fairness who look at the big picture and long term and who utilize the “golden rule”. These heroes of the business world – our Free Marketeers – can resolve virtually all of humanity’s challenges.
But first, consider that anyone who offers a product or service to someone else for which that someone is willing to pay, is a philanthropist – and when that person employs someone, he is a greater philanthropist still. In fact I came to this realization in 7th grade.
Our teacher urged us to save and collect coins during Halloween season, and put them in a little milk carton with “UNICEF” written on the outside – United Nations International Children’s Fund. The money raised would go to buy food for starving families around the world – admittedly a noble thing to do. But, this year I was troubled and asked our teacher whether it would not be better to use this money to somehow create jobs for these people, because once the money ran out, the food would run out. But, if they had jobs they could buy their own food. Our teacher had a simple response. “Class, raise your hands, if your parents own their own business (about 7 of the 30 students raised their hands). OK, now, if your parents have hired someone to work for them – what we call an employee – keep your hands raised (all kept their hands raised). She then continued: Well you should be very proud of your parents, because they are doing a great thing – providing someone else with a way they can support themselves and their families. And, that is the answer to Marty’s question: a job is always better than pure charity.
That is how I became a believer in business as mankind’s greatest benefactor. A job creator is an admirable person – maybe the most admirable.
Then, there are those who go beyond creating jobs – and those are the people that we must emulate with passion.
In future weeks, we will explore the lives of those heroes – the Free Marketeers – but here are a few summaries of examples from literature, history and the present day:
Robert Owen the 18th Century Industrialist who saw that workers in the 1st factories were under-paid, ill-housed, ill-clothed, and ill-fed. He decided there was a better way. He built state of the art factories and provided housing, and a healthy environment for employees. Plus he eliminated child labor and the 7 day work week. The result was a far more productive workforce – a decent living for the employees, and more success for Robert Owen’s business.
Then there is Jean Valjean, of Hugo’s LES MISERABLES who made his adopted town prosperous for everyone through the profitable business he established. Again, “The innovator had grown rich, which is good, and had spread prosperity around him, which is better…No pocket was so humble that it did not contain money; no dwelling so obscure that it did not shelter happiness”.)
Next, the partnership between Booker T. Washington, the brilliant African American educator in the post Civil War South & Julius Rosenwald, the President of Sears & Roebuck. Together, they built thousands of schools for ex-slaves and advocated entrepreneurship as the way to freedom.
James J. Hill built a railroad across America about the same time that the Transcontinental railroad was built in the late 19th Century. But, unlike the Transcontinental, which was subsidized by government, Hill’s line – the Great Northern Railroad used no government money. His formula was simple: fund private farms and businesses along the route of his railroad, which created paying customers for his line.
Milton Hershey established a great business, a town for his employees and (from the grave) educates thousands in the Hershey School to this day. His story is one of the most compelling and powerful examples of how a successful business owner can change lives for the better.
George F. Johnson of Endicott Johnson, George Cadbury of Cadbury Chocolate and Joseph Rowntree of Rowntree Candies are more examples from history we will explore.
Then from today, there is Muhammad Yunnus. He makes micro credit loans in the 3rd World allowing millions of people to support themselves and their families. Then, there is my favorite, Harris Rosen. He is the Orlando hotel owner who shared his prosperity with his employees from day one, provided full health care for them, scholarships for their children, and even adopted a poor community through day care and college scholarships, which has turned it into one of opportunity & prosperity with a 100% high school & college graduation rate. As he says – “we can change the world one community at a time”.
I hope these brief examples have demonstrated what Free Marketeers can do when functioning within a system of Opportunity Economics. So, now the question is, what government policies can make it possible for these benefactors of humanity to do more good”?
In future weeks we will explore those policies. They include:
- Lower tax rates, so business has more money to create jobs and spread wealth
- Less regulation, so business has more time to create jobs and spread wealth
- Legal reform, so business has both more money and more time to create jobs and spread wealth,
- Educational Opportunity so everyone can qualify to fill the jobs Free Marketeers create –
- Universal access to the best primary and secondary education possible,
- Vocational education opportunities for everyone and widely available internships so students can “earn while they learn”,
- a universally available Netflix of education – that will free students from oppressive debt while qualifying them for 21st Century jobs.
- And, universal Health Savings Accounts that provide “dollar one coverage” for everyone and will allow patients to control their own healthcare dollars while lowering the cost of that care and the cost of insurance.
I look forward to our next visit as we explore how workers, students and businesses can work together to establish an economy that is so prosperous that no one ever is left behind. In the meantime, if you would like more information or would like to correspond, please visit www.FreeMarketEErs.net.