Again from Stangler’s introduction:
Despite [all the obvious U.S. economic problems], rumors of the death or disappearance of American entrepreneurship may be exaggerated. … Billions of dollars now flow through crowdfunding and marketplace lending sites, and equity crowdfunding is now permitted for non-accredited investors in the United States.
Entrepreneurship is infiltrating large portions of the U.S. economy, even in industries that do not typically see significant new business activity. Ask a banker whether she thinks we’re in an entrepreneurial slowdown, and she’ll point to the hordes of “fin tech” (financial technology) startups that are picking off bits and pieces of traditional banking. Talk to folks in the automobile industry—usually associated with the opposite of entrepreneurship—and you’ll hear about the dozens of VC-backed “auto-tech” startups. Check out the “periodic tables” compiled by CB Insights in areas like insurance, payments, e-commerce, digital health, and more, and it becomes hard to avoid the conclusion that the United States is enjoying a veritable entrepreneurial revolution….
Inevitably, the high tide of startup financing will recede—and high-profile valuation write-downs may be the beginning—but there are some indications that this most recent tech startup boom will have permanent economic benefit. For one thing, the costs of starting a tech company and experimenting with different ideas have come down dramatically. The causes of this cost reduction—cloud computing, server access, etc.—will not go away. For another thing, there is evidence that “hot market” entrepreneurial financing can, in the long run, generate more radical innovations. And, in the more traditional “small business” sector, there are some indications that lending conditions (finally) improved in 2015 after a slow recovery from the recession.
This is obviously in keeping with the message Deb and I have been presenting: that more creative and opportunity-seizing actions are underway, in more of the country, than our standard “America is going to hell”/“we don’t win any more” political and media tone represents. The strains, failures, and inequalities of this Second Gilded Age are intense—and well-known. Fewer people are aware of the way organizations and communities are beginning to respond.
I won’t try to summarize the whole report, which is very ambitious in its range and features a large number of individual authors, some of whom challenge the predictions or analyses of others. It’s worth reviewing at length, at this site.
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Two additional points. To me the most interesting section of the Kauffman report is one that offers imagined future-histories. William Kerr, of the Harvard Business School, has predictions about both the creative and the destructive potential of endless technological innovation. Then Bowman Cutter, now of the Roosevelt Institute (and a friend of mine from the Carter administration), presents something in the spirit of Edward Bellamy’s classic Looking Backward: 2000-1887. Bellamy’s book, published in 1888, was an imagined history of how society found its way toward a utopian future. Cutter’s is a look back from the dramatically improved U.S. economy of an imagined 2040:
Looking back, the years between 2020 and 2040 turned out to be the best 20-year period of U.S. economic performance since the 1950-1970 miracle years….
These past 20 years, however, were not even remotely a rebirth of the old economy. The 1950s did not just come back. Instead, as a result of big changes that no one predicted, but which seem inevitable now, the economy very rapidly evolved.
Much about how Americans work and take care of themselves changed substantially. A higher proportion of the economy was composed of smaller and more specialized firms. Many jobs were automated. New, more flexible (and less secure) work options have taken their place. "Work" did not disappear, but the "job"—stable, long-term employment with one firm—fell as a percentage of all work. As a result, Americans have found themselves more responsible for managing exigencies, like health insurance and retirement planning, which were once handled by employers.
All of these changes involved immense and difficult adjustments, but they did not mean economic disaster. Ordinary women and men were better off than all the trends suggested 25 years ago.
And he goes on to give his answer of a desirable—and, he argues, possible—path forward. It is based on 10 positive surprises, of which the most fantastical, for the moment, is number 8: “The National Political system began slowly to work again.” Very much worth reading.