Entrepreneurship Helps Make America Great

Free enterprise matters


For all its problems, America is a great place. And one thing that makes America great is its prosperity. Yes, some people have suffered during the recession—but compared to all the other countries in the history of the world, America is rich. Why?

One reason is that America is a good place to do business.

Dinesh D'Souza, author of What's So Great about America, points out: "In most other societies, the businessman has been looked down upon. He's been seen as a kind of sleazy guy. But then American founders specifically put protection for patents and trademarks in the Constitution.

And suddenly, the entrepreneur is taken from the bottom of the heap and brought to the front."

Today, Asian students crush Americans on standardized tests, but it's Americans who invent things like the transistor and the integrated circuit and go on to win disproportionate numbers of Nobel Prizes. Our culture of entrepreneurship turns that science into wealth.

 TV pitchman Anthony Sullivan is from Britain, but he says his business didn't thrive there.

"I found in England if there's 10 reasons you could do something, there's 20 reasons why you couldn't do it, you shouldn't do it, " says Sullivan. "I found in the States that people will give you a shot."

One sign of this attitude is that it's relatively easy to start a business here. I opened one in Wilmington, Del. I named it the Stossel Store. It was just a table from which I pitched my Give Me a Break book and Fox merchandise. I picked Wilmington because our research showed that Delaware and Nevada make opening a business easier than other states. It still took me a week to get legal permission, but it would have taken much longer in Europe.

"I have started businesses in the U.K. and India. It takes at least a month or more just to open doors," A.J. Khubani, president of TeleBrands, says.

Unfortunately, bureaucrats are threatening this good part of America. I had to register with the Delaware Secretary of State and the Division of Corporations, get a federal employer identification number, buy commercial liability insurance, register with the Delaware state Department of Finance, etc.

I didn't even try to open a business in my hometown, New York City, because the bureaucracy is so ferocious. The fastest-growing cities of the world make it easier. In Hong Kong several years ago, I got a business permit in just one day. It's a reason Hong Kong is rich. Entrepreneurs are encouraged.

But at least America is a close second.

America also has a different idea about failure. The Stossel Store was a bad idea. I lost money. D'Souza says that in other places, that would be evidence that I am a complete failure. I tried to make a profit, failed, and so shouldn't try again.

That's the attitude in most of the world, says D'Souza.

"You say: 'You know what? I tried my hand at business. It didn't work. Now, let me take a salary job where I'll have some security."

He says that's not true in America.

"An American will start a company. It'll fail. Pretty soon, he's starting a newspaper, or he's now trying to export fish to Japan."

We know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but Edison failed much more often than he succeeded. He had hundreds of failures. He was fired by the telegraph office, and lost money on a cement company and an iron business. Henry Ford's first company failed completely. Dr. Seuss' first book was rejected by 27 publishers. Oprah was fired from her first job as a reporter. A TV station called her unfit for television.

"There's something in the American temperament that says, 'Gosh, I lost seven times but that's OK,'" D'Souza says. "And I think that that's a resiliency of the American spirit."

It's one of several great things about America.

John Stossel is host of Stossel on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of Give Me a Break and of Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity. To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at


NEXT: In Massachusetts, the Health Insurance Game Adds More Players

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Physicist Julius Edgar Lilienfeld filed the first patent for a transistor in Canada in 1925, describing a device similar to a Field Effect Transistor or “FET”.[1] However, Lilienfeld did not publish any research articles about his devices,[citation needed] nor did his patent cite any examples of devices actually constructed. In 1934, German inventor Oskar Heil patented a similar device.[2]”

    “The idea of the integrated circuit was conceived by a radar scientist working for the Royal Radar Establishment of the British Ministry of Defence, Geoffrey W.A. Dummer (1909?2002)”

    1. But it was Bell Labs in 1947 that first made the transistor a viable component in modern electronics and it was Americans that product-ized it into transistor radios and home computers.

      1. I stole shit too but even I admit it.

        1. Tried again, with your half-ass response, you have inadvertently eluded to an important fact; which is, that many technologies developed in the US originated elsewhere, and consequently they were funded by foreign tax payers.

  2. Hey, Sully’s no American. What are you implying?

  3. “Americans who invent things like the transistor and the integrated circuit and go on to win disproportionate numbers of Nobel Prizes.” I looked into the American/Nobel prize connection and IIRC you are confusing working in the US with actual citizenship/immigration. Cite your info.

    1. So what? It is still the American environment and culture of freedom that promotes this. Stossel isn’t arguing that Americans are superior by birth, he is arguing that the American system is superior. Try again, pal.

      1. Metazoan
        Like a good libertarian, he never lets the facts get in the way. I happen to agree that the US is pro business and superior. It does not forgive his stupidity, nor yours.

        1. You haven’t pointed out a single fact that contradicts any of the claims in the article. Please correct me, you’re adorable when you’re back-peddling.

          1. “but it’s Americans who invent things like the transistor and the integrated circuit”
            Try again|7.1.10 @ 12:07PM|#

            and yes I am 🙂

      2. You’re right; it’s the system that’s superior. And leaving the transistor aside, the great majority of really world-changing inventions in the 19th and 20th centuries came from people living in the US. Steamboat, Colt revolver, telegraph, telephone, electric light, etc.…..-progress/

  4. I caught a couple of minutes of Stossel’s show the other night. The studio audience gimmick was intolerable.

    1. How is it gimmicky? My experience was that the audience generally gets a fair amount of talk time and includes fair numbers of non-libertarians.

      1. He didn’t hear anyone that agreed with him, so it must have been setup! Everyone should agree with him, he is all knowing.

  5. You rate Oprah with Edison and Ford? What did Oprah produce? I am going crazy.

    1. Television, books , film, radio and wealth 🙂

    2. Professor Oprah Winfrey, at the University of Chicago, devised the Standard Model of particle physics. Brilliant work.

      1. PL and your claim to fame is what?

        1. Watch out. You do not want to incur the wrath of the Urkobold uber-troll. It’s not a pretty sight.

          1. Urkobold is a bitch. Bing it on 😉

        2. I’m Stedman Graham, the brains behind Oprah.

          1. I have a feeling she likes to be the one on top. 😉

            1. Nah, she doesn’t like sex. Not with animate objects, anyway.

              1. Though I will say that that may change when the Oprah sex robot is completed.

                1. Congrats PL, every man should have a weekend garage shop project.

                  1. It’s not for me, silly. Oprah believes that the only proper mate for Oprah is. . .Oprah.

                    1. You must be confusing me with your wife-save the bullshit for her honey 😉

                    2. Don’t listen to Ride ’em cowboy!

                      If you put bullshit in your wife’s honey she will be mighty pissed when she goes to make a cup of tea.

                    3. Stedman is not married. Stedman is in a spiritual union with the Big O.

        3. Is that you Steadman my sweet? I knew you’d rescue me

          1. You won’t find any real men on Reason. You’ll have to call Gail but if you ever need advice on fallout, this is the place!

    3. She’s on the cover of her own stinking magazine every single stinking month. Maybe she created vanity.

    4. Oprah Winfrey has produced a media conglomerate and is self-made. That is to be celebrated, no?

      1. Oprah Winfrey…is self-made

        Looks like she doubled the recipe. HURR DURR HURRRRR DUUURRRRRRR!

    5. President Obama

  6. Ridley’s book has a good portion on this. He argues pretty persuasively that all the first cities were established by trade, which created specializations, which were then nationalized/subjugated by empires, leading to ossification and decay. Empires thrived to the extent they permitted/encouraged trade, and died where they were too heavy-handed on markets.

    I thought it was funny that in the first human city, Uruk, the word for “high priest” was the same as the word for “accountant.”

  7. John Stossel is an idiot.
    I’m from Sweden and it takes less than a week to start your own business here.
    And last time I checked, Sweden is in Europe.

    1. Wow, only a week.

      I registered my LLC in about 15 minutes.

      1. he said less than a week.

        You can start a business in 24hrs in the UK.

    2. Calling Stossel an idiot for this article just because you can start a business within a week in Sweden is not only completely non-sequitur, it’s also just plain stupid.

      The degree of economic freedom we’re talking about is way more than just how long does it take to start a business. How about taxes? Once you start that new business in Sweden, how easy is it to become profitable? How much of your revenue will the government take in taxes? How much tax will your business pay on its necessary supplies and materials?

      1. Dude, simply do a research at the Doing Business website and you will find all that information. Saying that it takes longer to set up a company in another developed country than in the US is quite untrue. It takes less than a day to set up a business in Canada

      2. Dude, simply do a research at the Doing Business website and you will find all that information. Saying that it takes longer to set up a company in another developed country than in the US is quite untrue. It takes less than a day to set up a business in Canada

    3. I’m a designer in California. I’ve been doing this for 26 years and never fill out anything. I just started it. This same business can be started from nothing today. A gas station on the other hand is something different and maybe it should be?

    4. Okay… how long would it take you to start a business in California or New York?

  8. The guy you quote, Dinesh D’Souza, doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state. Just look at his Wikipedia page: “D’Souza argues that by enforcing the separation of church and state, the government unfairly promotes secularism.”

    Just more evidence that libertarianism is indistinguishable from republicanism.

    1. So if you quote someone that means you agree with everything that person has to say?

      So if you believe in what John Edwards says, you also think it’s ok dump your cancer stricken wife and try and hide the paternity of your own children?

      That’s a nice strawman you’ve created.

    2. Ok, I’m sorry for feeding the troll, but just because he has a different wacky idea doesn’t mean that all his ideas are wacky. If I say something quite factual, like, “most human cells have mitochondria,” but then follow it up with “because God creates each mitochondrion as necessary” does that make my first statement wrong?

      1. I’ll agree with what you say, as long as you don’t start saying global warming is wrong because science was wrong in the past, as a recent article by some hack writer on this website:

        mentions, and the commentators too.

        1. This is some horrible trolling.


        2. I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean.

          The article is more about trusting consensus than the merits of the scientific analysis of climate change. For a decade now the debate has been prefaced with “all scientists agree…” followed by “therefore we must do X”. Where X is some great change, usually requiring more power and wealth be ceded to the government.

          The arguments against doing X are numerous, and do not begin and end with “there is no climate change,” just as the arguments in favor of doing X are not sufficiently supported by “the scientific consensus is that climate change is a big deal”.

          That doesn’t mean that your suspicions that the writer and several commenters are ‘global warming deniers’ are or are not correct – but that is not the focus of the article. The article does not say global warming is wrong – it points out a logical flaw in the “because everybody says so” argument and backs it up with examples where “everybody said so” and were wrong.

          1. You’re right.

            I shouldn’t take Dinesh D’Souza’s wacky views on religion to mean that his views on entrepreneurship are wacky, and the science article did not say that just because science said something wacky about something else, doesn’t mean it is saying something wacky about global warming.

            If would be nice if John Stossel chose a less controversial figure (you can find D’Souza-Dawkins debates on youtube), but I’ll admit I got this one wrong.

            1. +4 for graciousness. Chony/Max/Dan, you guys paying attention?

          2. The big problem with the “consensus” argument is that creates an illusion of certainty about expert predictions. In fact, expert predictions are often worse than random guesses, as the infamous “dart-throwing chimps” study showed.

            What’s really egregious is that people who know better claim the GCM are fundamental when they are obviously parameterized — and in a chaotic system at that. It’s very easy to say where Neptune will be in 2100, it’s very hard to say where the S&P 500 will be.

            1. Talldave, what makes you think that climate is chaotic. The primary effects of greenhouse gases are not very sensitive to any sort of fluctuation at all. Some secondary and tertiary effects are, but these tend to be rather minor.

            2. And btw, the S&P 500 will be around 39000 in 2100 with a standard deviation about 15%.

              It’s not really hard to predict at all. There is no reason to believe that corporate profits will change substantially as a fraction of GDP, so guessing how fast the S&P will grow over the long term is pretty much an exercise in predicting the growth rate. The current world growth rate is around 5%, and this will generally decline as populations level off and natural resources become more scarce. I assumed a decline of .02%/year in the rate of growth, implying 3.2% growth in 2100.

          3. Well, except the article didn’t back it up with cases of “everybody said so” and were wrong, but rather “most scientists guessed but were not terribly certain” and were wrong. Heck, half of his examples weren’t even about scientists being wrong, but rather politicians. But whatever…close apparently is good enough for libertarians nowadays.

    3. Stalin brushed his teeth twice a day. Just more evidence that dental hygiene is indistinguishable from mass murder.

      1. Cite needed for Stalin’s twice-daily toothbrushing.

      2. They are distinguishable. You are WRONG! The facts clearly point out that brushing your teeth leads to mass murder. They are not the same, they just lead to one another.

        1. So, if I brush twice daily AND floss… I’ll be rulin’ all y’all bitches by the end of my first term.

  9. Finding an exception definitely disproves any rule; especially with regard to things so rigidly governed by natural laws as social behaviours and political beliefs.

  10. Stossel also forgets to mention that one of the things that makes entrepreneurship on the internet so great is net neutrality. Just knowing that you can build something using IP that is guaranteed to be transmitted like anything else, lead to the development of all these apps (voice over IP, streaming video, …)

    1. Part of what makes the current Internet so great is the fact that nobody is telling anybody what they can and cannot do with it besides their customers. We don’t need to first check with Julius Genachowski to see whether or not the FCC will sanction what we’re doing; we go ahead and do it. If people don’t like it, they complain, refrain from patronizing us, and we go out of business or are forced to re-evaluate the way we look at things. All without anyone having to sanction those actions.

      1. Don’t be ridiculous! Obviously the tide will only come in if Cnut commands it to.

      2. I’m not technical enough to understand net neutrality, but can you give some examples of what government can do if they choose to enforce it? As I understand it, we have had net neutrality for a long time only until now, when telecoms have decided they don’t want to abide by net neutrality. So if government enforces net neutrality, then we get just what we have today, and no change.

    2. Re: qpyxzmad,

      Stossel also forgets to mention that one of the things that makes entrepreneurship on the internet so great is net neutrality.

      Non sequitur.

    3. Yeah, let’s bring rent control to the Internet. It’s not like we need it running more than 80% of the time anyway.

  11. “It still took me a week to get legal permission, but it would have taken much longer in Europe.”

    Don’t know about that. A quick bribe in somewhere like Albania or Naples and everything can taken care of.

    Even though I agree with Stossel his simplistic arguements and inability to find any actual evidence is incredible.

    1. This is a cheerleading piece, not a factual piece. If you want a real article with evidence, read the other Reason writers. That’s all Stossel really is, a piece of fluff.

      1. This is a condensed version of what his show will be about tonight. Of course it’s a fluff piece, he can’t give the whole show away before it airs. If you want him to go more indepth, then watch him tonight on Fox Business when he will explain things in more detail.

        1. And Stossel’s talent is packaging a story at the level of the average TV viewer. That probably means something targeted at a 5th grade level. He does that very effectively.

          This is a common skill in the “TV News Magazine” format. Geraldo Rivera used to be king of the style. Keith Morrison at Dateline sounds like he’s a 3rd grade guidance counselor.

          They get work because there is an audience for information packaged for the lowest common denominator consumer. Even relatively well educated and intelligent people often want their TV packaged in a way that allows them to barely pay attention and still get the gist. It is the nature of the medium.

          1. He does product placement a lot like everybody on FOX, but I forgive him.

  12. You’re right.
    it’s just in print, his work looks terrible.

  13. It still took me a week to get legal permission, but it would have taken much longer in Europe.

    “I have started businesses in the U.K. and India. It takes at least a month or more just to open doors,” A.J. Khubani, president of TeleBrands, says.

    A month? Ha! Try Cleavland 😛

  14. John Stossel is our Leader!

    Rally ’round the Stossel boys!

  15. “Today, Asian students crush Americans on standardized tests, but it’s Americans who invent things like…”

    That was true in the past.

    But what about today?

    When all the graduate students in engineering and sciences are from foreign countries, that speaks highly of the American university system, but what about the American students?

    The fact that other countries are crushing us on tests, are comprising most of the graduate students at American universities…I’m not sure this is a good thing.

    1. The Asian students I knew in Graduate School made 200 to 300 on the Verbal portion and 800 on the Quantitative portion of the GRE. So naturally, Graduate schools would accept them in preference to me for Research and Teaching Assistanceships, since their GRE totals edged mine by about fifty points.

      This allows Universities to report the following metric to the people who evaluate their performance. X% of our graduate students have a combined GRE score above 1200.

      It’s just another example of the fallacy of performance measurement. Edwards Demming must be spinning in his grave.

      1. Well, a lot of the Asians probably grew up in poor conditions, or at least worked day and night to get that 800 score, so they probably deserve the TA and RA positions (which are basically positions paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, so maybe they don’t deserve it over a U.S. student).

        1. I don’t blame the Asians. These guys were friends of mine or I wouldn’t know their scores.

          I blame the University System and everybody who thinks performance measures are valid and objective.

  16. I’m all for entrepreneurship… until said entrepreneur crosses the magic $250K income line, at which point I will bring down My Wrath upon their paychecks.

  17. One really great way to encourage entrepreneurship would be to figure out a way for someone not to have to worry about their kids getting sick while they are starting a new business. I wonder how we would go about that…

  18. Also, the Constitution doesn’t have anything to say about trademarks, and it only allows Congress to create a system of patents; if they wanted to, they could repeal the whole patent system tomorrow.

  19. Big news entrepreneurship is at the core of economic development.
    And the usual Stossel bullshit “only in America”.

  20. I thought libertarians were against patents?

    And trademarks? Some of the trademarks out there are pretty dumb. Just take McDonald’s: “We love to see you smile?” Should that really be property of McDonald’s? Or “I’m lovin’ it”?

  21. Today, Asian students crush Americans on standardized tests, but it’s Americans who invent things like the transistor and the integrated circuit and go on to win disproportionate numbers of Nobel Prizes.

    Actually, the transistor was discovered by a Canadian in the 1920s. However, for a libertarian in need of an argument, Canada may as well be part of the US, and the 1920s are close enough to today for horseshoes and hand grenades.

    Whatever lead we have in technology is small and shrinking every day, and only exists as a legacy of the America that was, not the America that is.

    1. I think there is a difference between basic research into science that can develop a transistor, and entrepreneurship like a “Stossel Store” that sells books and Fox merchandise.

      Basic entrepreneurship usually represents a quick return for investors, or a concrete goal with a business plan and schedule to achieve that goal. Usually it is just a twist on something already existing.

      Sort of like the creation of the internet, no one says I’ll create this because I’ll make a lot of money. They don’t even know it’ll make a lot of money, and people won’t give them money unless they know it’ll make a lot of money.

      1. Oh, I agree.

        And as long as jackholes schleping ShamWows and credit-default swaps get rich, and engineers just pray that their job isn’t outsourced to China to a guy willing to work for $200 a month and live with four other guys in a room smaller than my bathtub, American “entrepreneurship” is going to be a lot more like the Stossel Store than a company founded on a new kind of transistor.

        1. It’s going to get harder and harder for there to be more Thomas Edisons as the world gets more and more technical.

          It is a cause for concern that we’re being crushed by students all over the world, and no amount of making it easier to start a business will fix this, as Stossel implies.

          Regardless of who invented the transistor, they were all well-educated people, and I think that more than business-friendly policies contributed more to their success.

          1. Capitalism sucks.

          2. The world is flattening out, and the 5:1 pay gap between an American and Chinese engineer (or any professional) cannot last. Our wages are going to stagnate as best as everyone else catches up to us. We had better be prepared for a very low-growth future, and we sure aren’t ready for it now. Indeed, every babbles endless about how we need to return to growth, never stopping to pause and think about whether this is desirable or possible.

            R&D is rapidly shifting overseas, as it makes more sense to do it close to your manufacturing assets. That means China. The legal and administrative jobs will follow.

            1. Of course, that stagnation is only going to get worse when we start piling on the higher taxes and energy costs, but it’s the only way to turn America into the third-world country we liberals have always wanted it to be.

              1. Identity theft, the ultimate libertarian sin.

  22. 5 min, who’s commenting here tonight?

    let’s get some voices in here.

    1. Never mind, rerun tonight…

      1. They are appealing to my libidinal desires on that Money Rocks show.

        Maybe it’s going to be the lead-in from now on?

  23. Dollar Stores My girlfriend was China dollar items always getting on my nerves,

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.