Friday, December 2, 2011
The Spirit of Enterprise
New York Times
December 1, 2011
Why are nations like Germany and the U.S. rich? It’s not primarily because they possess natural resources — many nations have those. It’s primarily because of habits, values and social capital.
It’s because many people in these countries, as Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has noted, believe in a simple moral formula: effort should lead to reward as often as possible.
People who work hard and play by the rules should have a fair shot at prosperity. Money should go to people on the basis of merit and enterprise. Self-control should be rewarded while laziness and self-indulgence should not. Community institutions should nurture responsibility and fairness.
This ethos is not an immutable genetic property, which can blithely be taken for granted. It’s a precious social construct, which can be undermined and degraded.
Right now, this ethos is being undermined from all directions. People see lobbyists diverting money on the basis of connections; they see traders making millions off of short-term manipulations; they see governments stealing money from future generations to reward current voters.
The result is a crisis of legitimacy. The game is rigged. Social trust shrivels. Effort is no longer worth it. The prosperity machine winds down.
Yet the assault on these values continues, especially in Europe.
Over the past few decades, several European nations, like Germany and the Netherlands, have played by the rules and practiced good governance. They have lived within their means, undertaken painful reforms, enhanced their competitiveness and reinforced good values. Now they are being brutally browbeaten for not wanting to bail out nations like Greece, Italy and Spain, which did not do these things, which instead borrowed huge amounts of money that they are choosing not to repay.
Posted by Yulie Foka at 8:52 AM