There is a body of economic science that has identified entrepreneurship as the driving force of economic growth.
The purpose of economic science is to discover and verify methods to achieve increased well-being for individuals, families and any groups they form or choose to belong to, such as communities and firms or collaborative networks and associations. Scientific process and results must be realistic, i.e. relate to the real world rather than to mathematical equations and models.
Economic science uses the language of means and ends: the science aims to identify the best and most appropriate means for achieving chosen ends. In the economics of individual well-being, the ends are not represented by so-called aggregate measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP – a measure of the total monetary value of finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders) or total employment.
The end of this body of economic science is individual satisfaction, often identified via the concept of subjective value – subjective in the sense that the individual decides what is valuable and what they value. In this way, customers run the economy. Whatever they feel satisfies their needs and wants, i.e. what they decide is valuable, is what is ultimately produced. In this sense, customers create value – it isn’t valuable if they don’t say so. Economic growth means more of what customers feel is valuable.
Customers get help in value creation from the entrepreneur. It is the entrepreneur who studies customers, ascertains what they think is valuable, and undertakes a production process to deliver that value. Logically, they are producing for a future value experience, because production takes time.
This is why the role of the entrepreneur is so pivotal in the creation of new economic value. Entrepreneurs take all the responsibility and all the risk in value generation. They bet on being able to identify customer preferences pretty accurately (they can never be exactly right) and then they bet on being able to assemble resources in the form of a firm to produce for that preference, and they bet that the preferences won’t have changed before they get to market, and they bet that they can get not only the product or service right but also the price, and they bet they can beat competitors who are rivalrously eyeing up the same set of possibilities.
Economic science observes and recognizes this role of the entrepreneur. It’s not a matter of personality – anyone can be an entrepreneur. There is definitely a method to entrepreneurship, in spite of (in fact, because of) the uncertainty of betting on customers’ future preferences. The economics of entrepreneurship is not fueled by sources of finance like debt or equity, but by imagination. Entrepreneurial projects are built on the choice of which customers to serve and how to serve them, imagining a future world in which customers’ formerly unmet needs are now satisfied. Imagination is turned into the design of a business model, which is the mechanics of actually delivering imagined value to customers. Revenue is the feedback loop that tells entrepreneurs that they have offered something valuable, and profit is the feedback loop that tells them that they chose the right costs.
To embark upon and stay on the path of successful production for profit, entrepreneurs must embrace and overcome uncertainty. How do they do this? They act. They make a commitment. They get started on the project or business initiative. Having once moved into action, they begin to learn. They can never be 100% right, so some parts of what they do will go wrong, and be unsuccessful.
The entrepreneurial firm learns what doesn’t work and what does, discards the former and does more of the latter. Business strategy is experimentation and learning, not multi-slide presentations and extensive spreadsheets. Agility – fast learning, fast adjustment – beats business school training.
Because of entrepreneurial exploration and experimentation to identify what works, the world advances – people enjoy more satisfaction and a higher standard of living, services and technology improve, and civilization advances. The world we live in is shaped by entrepreneurial economics.
One clear implication of this body of economic science is that there is no place for – and no need for – government economic policy. It can only get in the way of entrepreneurial exploration and experimentation. Governments extract value from the economy through their taxes and regulation, and then sometimes claim to redistribute it via subsidies and rebates. They claim to design policies such as what level of wages to pay, or the cost of imports, or the amount of market share any firm can have before an anti-trust suit. It’s all futile and, worse, damaging. In entrepreneurial economics, the role of government is to stand back, get out of the way, and marvel at the living standard enhancements entrepreneurship brings.
Academics call this body of science Austrian economics, because its early thought leaders came from Austria when Vienna was the commercial and cultural capital of the globe. Thinking in the Austrian way is helpful to entrepreneurial success, but, for economic growth, we don’t need to adopt the name, just the method.