Living the Entrepreneurial Life
Five years after the fall of communism, the people of Eastern Europe enjoy more freedom than they have known for decades. In most countries, despite the enormous economic problems in moving to a capitalist economy, their material standards of living have increased as well. But reports from those countries make it clear that they face significant problems arising from the values and psychological habits instilled by life under totalitarianism. According to a recent New York Times article [Oct. 7, 1994] on trends in the former communist nations of Eastern Europe, “American Airlines says it has taken 18 months to train the ground staff at Warsaw airport to Western levels of low absenteeism, no drinking on the job and service with a smile. A concept that was hard to get across, said Frank R. Van Zanden, an American Airlines manager, was the reason to be pleasant instead of surly to customers. ‘We had to explain again and again that passengers weren’t doing us a favor by flying—that the money passengers spent on tickets paid for staff salaries.’” People like that can’t be ruled; they don’t like to cede control over their lives. Just as a collectivist economy eliminates actual entrepreneurs, the culture of collectivism, with its demands for sacrifice, consensus, and solidarity, is designed to exterminate the entrepreneurial outlook on life. It is only in a free society that the entrepreneurial outlook can exist among any significant part of the populace. And it is becoming increasingly clear—from trends in the West as well as the East—that the converse is also true: a free society requires that outlook. It is not merely an option; it is a vital part of the psychological equipment one needs in order to succeed and flourish in a condition of freedom.