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Success: Another Definitional Problem

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By Ron Lazof

Once again political rhetoric has taken us to a place "no man has gone before." So let's start with a few inarguable basics:

  1. We did not create ourselves -- for this we must thank God and our parents:
  2. We did not educate ourselves -- in addition to our creators, above, we must also acknowledge the contribution of all peoples, and human kind that have gone before us, as it is certain that we stand on the shoulders of their achievements:
  3. In achieving our own successes, we all must tacitly acknowledge the above, as well as the creation of fire, the wheel, and our entire infrastructure, so no, we did not do it alone.

The above recitation however, takes nothing away from the achievement of the entrepreneur, and each of the above statements are, in all cases, the unstated and assumed basis for the perpetually compounding growth in human activity and achievement. In our free market system, however, success is still -- and always has been -- based on individual commitment, preparedness to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, hard work, a willingness to accept personal responsibility and risk. By risk, I mean the possibility and perhaps even the probability of losing what you venture in an effort, which includes not only your investment in monetary terms but also your time, your opportunity costs, your reputation in the community and your potential for future entrepreneurial activity.

To indicate a collectivist achievement in personal accomplishment diminishes the individual and the efforts expended and, more importantly, the risks taken. Additionally, acceptance of collective praise for individual achievement must, in all logic, mandate collective acceptance of responsibility for all the failures experienced by all individuals. This negates all individual responsibility, and was certainly not the intent of the Founders or something any person would wish for themselves or their children. To proceed through the game of life as a voyeur and spectator and not an active participant necessarily deprives the individual of self-respect and self worth.

Four brothers reared in the same blue-collar home, by the same first generation American parents, with the same educational opportunities may each take different roads and reach different ends. All may be successful in their own right, and under their own definition. One may pursue an alternative lifestyle, another may find fulfillment in community service, another may be a government employee and the last may be an entrepreneur and businessman. However, it is only the latter that expends the effort and takes the risks of becoming a job creator.

If we are looking for growth in our free market economy to relieve and overcome the current economic malaise, we must accept the necessity of private entrepreneurial success, because it is only through business expansion that the by-products of employment growth is achieved. Government may collect funds (through taxes, or debt accumulation), but that reduces the ability of the taxpayer to consume and spur the economy to growth, or invest and directly seek to expand business. The government may spend the collected taxes but this doesn't create the net growth that drives permanent and sustainable economic activity.

So, as the fourth of the four brothers I mention above, I say "let my people go." Unshackle the entrepreneur from needless and wasteful regulations, the disincentives of overtaxation and the uncertainty that pervades our domestic economy. If we do that, Americans from all walks of life will be empowered to move forward to pursue their own interests and achieve the kind of success that undergirds the American Dream.

Ronald Lazof is managing director of Prism Advisers, LLC and a Job Creators Alliance member.

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