This column is about two books you’ll want to read. They are not MBA number crunching tomes that will make your eyeballs roll back into your head. Nor are they the latest nifty-keen marketing theory, how-to management tracts written by Harvard professors who have never invested a dime of their own money in a business.
They’re two books that will make your spine tingle and make you say, “I knew it. Capitalism rocks!”
Book # 1 is Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. First published in 1957, this lengthy novel (better than a thousand pages) will become your motivating and inspirational business Bible by the time you finish it. If you’re a capitalist, you’ll love it. If you’re not, you will be by the time you’re done. Atlas Shrugged is a definite gotta-read for every business owner who struggles to survive the entanglements of bureaucratic red tape and the small-minded bureaucrats who get paid to bother us. Rand captures the irrefutable logic of business and the role of businessmen and businesswomen in the building and sustaining of civilization.
What I love most about this book is that it looks some politically correct beliefs square in the eye and stares them down. For example, as the hero, John Galt, explains, the purpose of a business is to make money by providing a needed good or service at the highest possible price. When that happens, everyone prospers – the business owner, the employees, their families, and the community.
Plus, Rand unabashedly states that money is not evil. On the contrary, she stresses, “money is the root of all good,” and then she goes on to prove it. Hint: Money builds civilizations, funds medical breakthroughs, elevates the living standard of all who work for it; money even pays for museums and social programs that would otherwise never get beyond coffee-house chatter and wish-list thinking.
Pick up a copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and settle in for a long and enjoyable winter’s reading experience. You’ll come away with some new heroes (the main characters are the kind you miss when you finish the last page) and a new sense of pride in being a business owner.
Book # 2 is The Capitalist Manifesto, by Andrew Bernstein. The title says it all in this nonfiction book that gave me a whole new perspective on the amazing role of capitalism in the triumph of western civilization. Not just an essay, The Capitalist Manifesto is well researched and grounded in fact. Bernstein documents the value of capitalism and how it led to the incredible explosion of prosperity in the world.
He also takes on some anti-capitalism myths. For example, I grew up assuming that the Industrial Revolution that started in England in the 1700s exploited and dehumanized people. Actually, the exact opposite was true. Historically, the opportunity to work in a factory, even at 14 hours a day, was a massive step up from most people’s previous lives.
As Bernstein points out, during the 1700s, life expectancy, which had stubbornly held at around 33 years for thousands of years, rose during that one century to nearly 39 years, an amazing increase, and has since climbed to better than 77 today. That is a direct result of the amazing innovations of capitalists and industrialists, who gave people an opportunity to work for a living wage — at first pretty slim, yes, compared to life today, but better, I repeat, than the crushing poverty of the past. They even got Sundays off, better than many had experienced previously.
Bernstein takes on the critics of capitalism, explains why capitalism has gotten such a bad rap over the years, and provides striking documentation about the direct connection between the affluence of the general population of countries and their adherence to a free, capitalistic economy.
Both these terrific books should be required reading in college. Until that happens, you might as well pick up your copies and dig in. You’ll find them not just informative, but downright inspiring.
And while you are at it, work hard, make money, have fun. Go capitalism! — JRIngrisano
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