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Free Entrepreneurs Are Like Wet Fish

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

If we are serious about creating jobs, then we should treat entrepreneurs like fish. Just as fish need a certain environment to live, entrepreneurs require a unique environment to take risks and create jobs.

A fish is a distinctive creature. Unlike a horse or a cow, a fish has the innate ability to breath and live under water. If you remove a fish from water and place it in a sunny pasture beside farm animals, it will die.

Likewise, an intelligent person will become depressed and self-loathing if he is unable to put his ideas and solutions into action. He will retreat into himself and fail to deliver his much-needed goods and services to the world.

Just like fish have special under-water breathing gear called gills, entrepreneurs inherently possess creative minds, strong work ethics, optimistic outlooks and perseverance. Yet these personality traits will do little for an entrepreneur if he or she lives in an environment that is over-regulated, rigid and disapproving—just as gills are useless to a fish lying on dry grass.

Basically, entrepreneurs need freedom, flexibility and encouragement in order to build profitable businesses and create jobs just like fish need water and a healthy, barrier-free environment in order to live.

Many politicians feign to help budding entrepreneurs by subsidizing pet industries and raising taxes on already-successful entrepreneurs. In truth, entrepreneurs don’t need politicians to interfere with the markets or tell them how to become entrepreneurs.

Let’s say a man is an expert at drilling for oil but the government shuts down his well and tells him to build windmills instead. The government is effectively telling him to warp his natural talents, stop fulfilling market needs and begin worshipping at the alter of artificial demands.

The government could help people born with entrepreneurial “gills” by backing off and giving them the “water” of freedom and autonomy that they need to survive. Backing off means drastically slashing the corporate income tax rate and reducing regulations on business owners.

Capitol Hill recently invited 150 young entrepreneurs to Washington to meet with politicians. One young entrepreneur shared his takeaways from the meeting with the New York Times: “…it might be too much to ask Washington to help with entrepreneurship when they (politicians) can’t even get the basics right, like maintaining a decent credit rating.”

Like the government, colleges also claim to develop entrepreneurs. In reality, no one has a magic formula for becoming an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are pioneers, not followers.

For example, Michael Dell started his company in his dorm room. Forbes reports that Dell Inc. now does over $61 billion in sales and employs 103,000 globally. Dell recently told Forbes and a group of student entrepreneurs: ‘One of the funniest questions that I get is, “How do I be an entrepreneur?” His answer is: “…go experiment and do something. If you’re waiting for somebody else to tell you to be an entrepreneur, you’re not one.”

New studies suggest that colleges are unqualified to prepare young people to work for existing companies, much less create their own companies. College students are spending more time socializing and less time studying while accumulating greater debt loads. Students at institutions as prestigious as Stanford’s Graduate School of Business are failing to learn basic skills—like writing and analytical thinking.

Entrepreneurs succeed by doing things differently, not by copying. As Dr. Seuss wrote: “If you want to get eggs you can't buy at a store, you have to do things never thought of before.”

An entrepreneur must follow his own compass—not a politician’s agenda or a college professor’s syllabus—if he wants to sell “eggs you can't buy at a store.” Politicians and college professors need to step back and remove barriers to entrepreneurship and the free market system. Barriers like high taxes, excessive regulations and costly, deficient educational foundations. Just as we can’t expect fish to live without water, we can’t expect entrepreneurs to create jobs without freedom.

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