Site icon Duncan Bucknell

Book Review: Great Again: Revitalizing America's Entrepreneurial Leadership

You know, as an American working for a global company and with a global perspective, it angers me that this book by Henry Nothhaft and David Kline even needs to exist.  It reflects on a general decline in living standards for people I see around me day-to-day that has accelerated since 2001.  Like anyone, I would prefer to see my community grow along with the global community.  Henry Nothhaft and David Kline write about the decline of the American middle-class and what to do about it from the perspective of entrepreneurs who find it increasingly difficult to start businesses in the United States that could generate domestic jobs.

The central arguments for revitalizing the American middle-class are so strategically basic that it’s hard to believe policies stay in place that oppose them.  Among the items, US tax and regulation policies need to encourage US businesses to open in the US, not elsewhere.  The USPTO needs to be resourced well enough to issue patents before, not after, the critical window of startup funding and development passes.  Incentives to locate manufacturing in the US have to accompany any meaningful initiative to encourage innovation in the US given that – any expert suppositions aside – thinking and building really cannot be separated for the long-term.  US immigration policies have to favor bringing in the best and the brightest who are likely to build businesses and not drain resources.  Any citizen from any other country should expect their government to do the same.

Great Again focuses on the startup situation in America.  A great parallel read is Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, by Robert Lutz, that covers similar ground from a large company perspective, albeit more focused on the problem of running businesses solely by the accounting numbers instead of focusing on building great products.  Many small business startups seek as key customers large companies where they can contribute to building great products.  Lutz also covers the important drain that the American healthcare system has on building competitive businesses in the US.

An overall theme between the lines of both books is a disconnect between what appears to be a business leader acting in the best interest of shareholders and what really is in the best interest of shareholders for companies with large domestic markets – a tragedy of the commons where on paper it is in the best interest of US companies to outsource work to cheaper locals, but if everyone does so, it destroys the domestic consumer base that could actually buy products.  Good policymaking has to recognize such strategic anomalies and build the incentives that will change the dynamic before it fundamentally destroys the country.

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