Regular readers here know that I am making use of Turner’s Frontier Thesis for much of my research on campus entrepreneuership in America. The frontier experience created an entrepreneurially minded populace whose current generation faces great challenges from the ever expanding and corporate focused role of the government in today’s economy.
Apparently, Daniel Henninger of the WSJ feels the same was as I do. His piece today, America Needs Its Frontier Spirit, is a great reminder of the benefits of individual risk taking. Here is a snippet,
Turner’s purpose wasn’t to idealize America but to try to understand the wellsprings of its remarkable and self-evident success. He found it, persuasively, in the lessons learned settling a continent.
For our purposes, amid economic meltdown and fiasco, the telling phrase in his list of shaping frontier traits is “that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil.”
Individualism working for good is the story of America’s entrepreneurs, the wonder of the world the past 100 years. This week Congress is producing the tragic final turn of three of the most famous — Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.
Most people would view the economic rubble before them as the result of individualism working for ill and evil — Angelo Mozilo’s mindless mortgage originators at Countrywide, Robert Rubin’s bonus-addicted risk managers at Citigroup, the politically connected million-dollar managers who opened the vaults at Fannie and Freddie.
The great danger now is that a depressed and angry people will allow the risk-taking American baby to be thrown out with the toxic-securities bathwater. The line of waiting washerwomen is long.
Check out the whole piece and keep our frontier experience and legacy in mind as you observe the behavior of our leading politicians and corporate chiefs.