I recently got back to Kathmandu after spending almost a year in the United States of America, the champion of global capitalism and a very business friendly country. Critics of American capitalism have often said that “America is not a country, it’s a COMPANY”. I travelled and lived near all the major cities in the East Coast (from Boston to New York to Washington, DC) and observing the enormous impact that businesses have had in these places, I have to argue that America is indeed one giant company. The US believes in keeping its people employed and does so by creating an ease to do business and fostering entrepreneurship. The President of the United States during the Roaring Twenties (the 1920s was a very prosperous time in America) Calvin Coolidge famously remarked “business of America is business”. This reflected his position that government should interfere as little as possible with businesses and individuals.
Although a worldwide Great Depression ensued immediately after Coolidge’s presidential term (due to overconfidence in the economy and bad monetary policy), there is no doubt that the surest means of wealth creation is through a free market with a freedom to own an enterprise. Hardcore and uncontrolled capitalism does indeed have its demerits, ranging from exploitation of resources to income inequality; but, in a country like Nepal where 25.2% of the population lives below the poverty line, there is no real income to create an inequality. A lot of people in rural areas sustain through whatever they sow and reap and economic activity is at a minimum. Entrepreneurship is still considered taboo and against our culture; every parent wants their kids to become a doctor or an engineer, but not a business man. A doctor will treat patients and an engineer will build roads but only an entrepreneur will create and add value to an entire economy, from employing people to coming up with innovate ideas to solve everyday problems. Hence, an entrepreneurial environment, where establishing and doing business is easy, can guarantee long term economic and standard of living growth. Fostering the private sector is especially important to kick start the economy after the recent setback from the earthquake too.
Another good virtue that I noticed about American society is the freedom (to do anything). Your future is not decided by your parents or loved ones when you are born, like it is here: “Mero chhora ta daaktar bancha bholi parsi”. Sure, their parents will advise their children on what path to take but the choice resides entirely upon the child. He is free to pursue the performing arts, the humanities, the natural sciences or the social sciences. While it is unfair to blame our parents here, because a doctor or an engineer is most likely to end up employed in our country, a profession should not be forced upon. The Bollywood movie 3 idiots aptly describes this fallacy in South Asian society that creates “donkeys out of men” because people are told what to do in their lives. Innovative ideas are only generated when people are passionate about what they do and innovative ideas solve everyday problems and better the lives of people.
Hence, it is safe to say that the free flowing of ideas, enterprises and different professions can spark progress and prosperity.
- Pratap J. Khadka is an intern at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation