Thom Ruhe, Director of Entrepreneurship, The Kauffman Foundation
Judicial activism, Roe Vs. Wade, civil rights, constitutional interpretation – these are all topics that Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been grilled on in determining her fitness to sit on our nation’s highest court. Pretty much since the nomination of Judge Robert Bork, the confirmation process has morphed into a dance of disingenuous rapport and obfuscation that is more about surviving the process than full disclosure.
Senator Lindsey Graham summarized best what the process has devolved into when he stated: “Unless you [Sotomayor] have a complete meltdown, you are going to be confirmed.” How comforting it is that such matters of national interest are a fait accompli.
If however we found a way to return to a civil and intellectually honest process of discovery, I would add to the lens of appraisal topics that you hear of rarely, if ever, yet are arguably of equal social importance as the list above. I am referring to policy matters that are routinely being born or bastardized in response to knee-jerk reactions within the courts of public opinion. Recent examples would include such over reactions as Sarbanes-Oxley or the unfortunate absence but much needed legal reform of our patent laws as well as convoluted responses around immigration.
All of these topics are impacting the engine of entrepreneurship that drives our economy, with significant socioeconomic consequences themselves. Yet, you won’t hear any of our elder statesmen ask a Supreme Court nominee, “What have you observed as the unintended consequences of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and what, if any, remedy would you propose?” Sadly these matters languish in obscurity because they lack loud, influential financially-organized, advocates to bend the political will of those who stand in judgment. Instead of knocking down the barriers that impede the birth and growth of high-impact entrepreneurial ventures, we perpetuate the status quo because that has become the politically expedient thing to do.
Alas, we can dream of a day in the future when we can have an informed public dialogue around the contribution of immigrant entrepreneurs and its influence on the growth of our economy. We can debate on how the patent laws have not kept up with the pace of innovation and are now actually stifling the commercialization of invaluable intellectual property. And we can have the courage, even in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, to state that oversight and regulation (such as Sarbanes-Oxley) born in haste to placate the uniformed masses is having a chilling and destructive impact to the entrepreneurship that this country was built upon.
Thankfully, Kauffman, the Foundation of Entrepreneurship, is not sitting idly by wringing our hands. We have commissioned the single largest collection of economic research on entrepreneurship that provides the justification for new bold thinking. For policy makers and influencers that are courageous enough to read it and act upon it, we are ready to stand with you to answer those that may challenge with jaundice interpretations. That may however require the rare characteristic of thinking beyond self-interest while understanding that supporting entrepreneurship benefits all of society.
For those hungry for more, stay tuned. This fall we will be launching a movement that will give a voice to this cause. We will rescue entrepreneurship from the status of being the white noise of our economy. We will force upon the public conscious that entrepreneurs birth the new, create the jobs, and generate the wealth that will be required to pay for the sins of our past. Entrepreneurs are leading the recovery and soon everyone can join in this noble effort.