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Small Business Should Be Priority Number One

Walter Russell Mead

A new report highlights millions more reasons why small business needs to move to the center of American educational, economic, and regulatory policy: Booming minority populations (which have historically owned fewer businesses than whites) are girding for opportunities to build more enterprises of their own. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The number of businesses owned by Asian-American, Hispanic and black women grew faster than almost every other demographic group in the years during and after the recession, according to a new report from the Center for Global Policy Solutions. […]

“It shows the appetite and the desire for business ownership amongst communities of color,” said Maya Rockeymoore, the president and CEO of the Center for Global Policy Solutions, which focuses on social equity and hosts a summit in Washington this week calling for new policies to help boost minority entrepreneurship. “That is what we’re trying to tap into.”

Middle and high school students ought to be learning about how to run a business—and even running small businesses as part of their school activities. Learning how business works, what profits are, how to measure costs, handle deal with cash flow, and develop a business plan are all critical skills for the rising generation of workers. And yet, very few teachers have any idea how to teach this, much less the experience needed to guide students towards entrepreneurial success. That so many minorities, especially women, want to build businesses is cause for optimism; that so many haven’t had the education that would help them succeed is tragic—a policy failure that grows inequality and slows job creation.

In addition to education, tax and regulatory policy need a massive rethink. The biggest question every mayor and every governor in America ought to be asking is, “how do I make it easier to start and operate a successful business?” Also: “How much paperwork can I cut out? How can I cut business taxes—and the endless bureaucratic requirements which cost businesses huge amounts in time, energy and money, but which produce no revenue for governments? Can we make the withholding and benefits systems easier for small businesses to manage? How can we make sure that start-up entrepreneurs in poor regions have access to credit? Are there best practices that I can adopt from other jurisdictions who have found real answers to these questions?”

Americans of every color and every background are going to have to become more entrepreneurial in the 21st century economy than they were in the slower-moving, more structured 20th, where many workers stayed with a single large, stable employer for most of their careers. The policies that we built around blue model economic assumptions need to be reimagined for a dynamic environment that requires more flexibility and creativity from ordinary workers.

The so-called social justice warriors should understand that promoting job creation is ultimately the best way to expand opportunity for women and minorities. But they don’t. They remain convinced that paternalistic government job reservation programs plus federally-funded microaggression workshops will transform the life opportunities of the people they claim to care about. So the rest of us will have to go about changing these policies without the help of the social justice left—which is a shame, because it could and should be an important political ally in this fight.

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