Editor’s Preview: “With all the serious problems we face today, the problem of big government is among the most critical.” So says J. Peter Grace, undoubtedly the single most effective spokesman for reducing the size and influence of government in the business community today. The highly-publicized Grace Commission, charged by President Reagan with the task of reporting on government waste and inefficiency, made 2,478 specific recommendations and demonstrated how more than $400 billion could be saved in the first few years after their implementation. Furthermore, the Commission found that these cutbacks would actually improve public services, rather than curtail them. Some of the recommendations were followed; most have been ignored. The peril, masquerading under the term “intergenerational inequity” means that politicians continue to load our children and grandchildren with unbearable debt while refusing to reform our current spending policies. Such fiscal and philosophical irresponsibility will inevitably lead to monetary and moral bankruptcy unless we are willing to take action along the lines suggested by Mr. Grace.
I’m very concerned with heroism these days.
I recently wrote a book called A World Without Heroes (emphasis on the word “without”), in which I observed that it’s becoming ever more difficult to stand up for principle in a world where principle is so frequently suppressed, devalued, mocked or confused with concepts like “self-expression,” “fulfillment” or—God forbid!—“lifestyle.”
Rare indeed are there those willing to subject themselves to the criticism, and even derision, which seems to be the lot of people who speak uncomfortable truths. But one of those rare individuals is J. Peter Grace, the man whose remarks during the most recent of Hillsdale’s Ludwig von Mises Lectures are reproduced in this issue of Imprimis.
Grace has taken his share of flak for the devastating critique of our overblown federal bureaucracy put forth by the presidential panel he chaired. But he is undeterred. Since completing the report of the Grace Commission, he has spearheaded an independent campaign to publicize its findings about massive government waste and get the American people behind the group’s recommendations for cutting the federal budget.
It is a particularly depressing thought that the effects of all his efforts—which I do not consider it an overstatement to call “heroic”—are still very much in doubt.
Long after the Grace Commission, long after the so-called “Reagan Revolution,” it has taken a fall in the value of the stock market greater than that which occurred in the crash of ’29 to get our nation’s leaders thinking seriously about the implications of our profligate economic ways. And even now, one fears that the right lessons have not been learned.
Despite all the hand wringing, the intricate maneuvers and wheeling-dealing to craft budget plans acceptable to all political sides in an election year, we keep hearing about unassailable “entitlements,” the “pent-up demand” for government services, and the call for federal economic “leadership.” Indeed, it looks like the stage is being set for even more government intrusion into the economy. And that makes for confusion—and considerable anxiety—among those charged with planning for the future of America’s businesses.
One group especially vexed by the current situation is the people planning, or considering, the start of new business ventures. And as Hillsdale has so often analyzed the economic climate, we are undertaking a project which should have special—and timely—significance to entrepreneurs.
On Saturday, February 13, Hillsdale College will present a national teleconference called Against All Odds: Entrepreneurship In A Changed America.
This program, which will be broadcast live via satellite throughout North America, will feature several truly outstanding business spokesmen—people who have started their own companies, who have made existing firms more successful or who are knowledgeable about finding the money that makes new businesses possible.
Bestselling author George Gilder will look at opportunities for entrepreneurs in high-tech fields. Kenneth Iverson, chairman of the Nucor Corporation, will explain how he created one of the rare success stories in the generally crippled steel industry. And venture capital specialist Francine Sommer, president of Gabelli Value, Inc., will assess the prospects for finding start-up money on the post-stock crash financial scene. In addition, industrial psychologist and personnel consultant Albert De Voogd will examine the difficulties of balancing the demands of business development and family life.
Also, Hillsdale economics department chairman and nationally syndicated columnist Charles Van Eaton will host a noteworthy panel of business analysts examining the climate for entrepreneurship. Taking part in the discussion will be Forbes senior editor Peter Brimelow, Patricia Harrison, president of the National Women’s Economic Alliance, James Thomson, regional director for the Small Business Administration, Lee Walker, president of the Chicago New Coalition for Economic and Social Change, and entrepreneurship analyst Clark Cassell, author of the forthcoming book, The Opportunity Society.
Finally, the flamboyant Wally Amos, founder of Famous Amos Cookies and entrepreneurship booster par excellence, will cap off the day with what he calls his “recipe for success.” It should be a varied, fascinating and useful program. And it represents an important development for Hillsdale.
We have been involved with several television projects. Episodes of Bill Buckley’s Firing Line have been shot on our campus, for instance, and the Shavano Institute produced its own successful public affairs series called Counterpoint. But this teleconference extends our outreach in an exciting new way.
It is part of a four-day seminar on entrepreneurship which will be held February 10 to 13, sponsored jointly by Hillsdale’s Center for Constructive Alternatives and The Family Business Institute. It’s the first time a CCA seminar has ever been broadcast, and it will allow viewers to call in questions to the speakers from throughout the U.S. and Canada.
This program is inspired by Shavano’s ACTION-2000 initiative, under which we are launching more aggressive efforts to identify the key issues of the post-Reagan era and influence the thinking behind policy development into the next century.
There is no concern more basic to the nature of our country than the encouragement of new enterprise and, thus, the strengthening of the private sector. It is, after all, the only possible antidote to the government excesses which Peter Grace’s essay describes so accurately. We hope this teleconference can make a worthwhile contribution to that goal at a time when special efforts are needed.