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American entrepreneurship has been a driving force for democracy from the foundation of our nation and it must continue to be the fuel of freedom if we are to remain independent and strong as a nation. Entrepreneurs, not politicians or government agencies, are the central source for American success as they propel our free market economy and civil society.

Alex Mandossian described American history as three periods of entrepreneurship. The first period was entrepreneurial independence. We often, and rightly, describe the Founding Fathers as great, wise and noble men – which they clearly were. However, the Founders were not just upset about tea and taxes, nor were they strictly politically centered people – above all they were entrepreneurs and business owners who wanted to pursue their passions and dreams without the heavy hand of government controlling, regulating or determining their destiny.

The American entrepreneurial pursuit began in earnest with a protest battle in Boston, proceeded to a declaration of entrepreneurial independence on July 4th, 1776 and culminated in Philadelphia in 1787 with a Constitution that provided the framework for a government that would provide the structure and vision for a nation where every citizen could pursue their version of the American dream. These events ushered in a golden era of entrepreneurial independence. America grew, communities blossomed and individuals flourished.

Shortly after World War II many American entrepreneurs decided to trade their independence for a false sense of security by selling out to big – big corporations and big government. An era of “entrepreneurial dependence” ensued. Crony capitalism and collusion between big government and big business hurt entrepreneurs and led to large corporate scandals and corruption, including Enron and Worldcom. Big government unleashed unprecedented executive branch over-reach and unrelenting regulation.

Entrepreneurial dependence has led to our current state of semi-market collapse, a stagnant job market and global uncertainty, including Great Britain’s recent rejection of big centralized power and unaccountable bureaucracy through their vote to exit the European Union.

American entrepreneurs are approaching the dawn of a brighter future and a brand-new era of freedom which will be known as “entrepreneurial interdependence.” With the internet coming of age, social media exploding and a truly global economy we are about to enter the third and brightest era in entrepreneurial history.

American interdependence is actually one of the great gifts the Founding Fathers gave us. It is that we have a nation where your success depends on your service.

Our free market economy takes a lot of criticism for promoting greed and competition. None of our businesses, workers or entrepreneurs nor our charitable and social organizations survive unless they serve and help people.

Both in our free-enterprise economy and our voluntary civil society, success in America is ultimately based not on competition, but on interdependent cooperation. We look out for ourselves by looking out for everyone else. Freedom, properly understood, doesn’t mean you’re on your own. It means “we’re all in this together.”

American entrepreneurs must continue to drive freedom. We would be wise to remember that the ultimate American entrepreneurs are the couple exchanging vows at a local church, the teacher investing in a struggling student, the mom rocking a cradle, the neighbor seeing a chance to serve a neighbor. Opportunities to experience our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit are all around us. We are independent and yet interdependent – not reliant on big government but on each other. America is great, not because of who we are, but because of what we do.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

Boyd Matheson is president of Sutherland Institute.

This post is an expanded transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

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