The Wall Street Journal ran a great interview Saturday with the president of the Kauffman Foundation, the organization that funds more research on entrepreneurship than any other organization in the world.
Carl Schramm took over as the head of the foundation in 2002, nine years after the death of Ewing Marion Kauffman — who funded the foundation with the proceeds of selling his drug companies to Merrell Dow.
While I recommend reading the complete interview, here are some key excerpts:
Mr. Schramm, who started his own health-care company and merchant bank, believes that the foundation has a duty to foster an environment hospitable to entrepreneurship. And so, for instance, Mr. Schramm brags that Kauffman has "dragged economists into considering the importance of firm formation to the overall growth of the economy." The foundation has commissioned some 6,000 papers on this and related topics in the past several years.Columnist Naomi Schaefer Riley concludes her column:
… Conducted last month, the [Foundation sponsored] survey also showed that instead of the government's stimulus package, two-thirds of respondents would prefer "reducing legal barriers and red tape for new business development" as a way to jump-start the economy. Finally, 89% of respondents said that "capitalism is still the best economic system for our country."
Despite this popular attitude, Mr. Schramm worries that there is a tendency on the part of some citizens to want the government to prevent market chaos. Prior to the financial meltdown this fall, "I think we were in full tide of entrepreneurial capitalism and now there's an introspection, where the vocabulary is all about regulation and the importance of the government to restart the economy," he says. While Mr. Schramm believes that the government has a role to play, he argues that "historically through the last seven recessions it's been entrepreneurs who essentially restarted the economy."
Despite the fact that the foundation's endowment has fallen by $722 million since the end of 2007, Mr. Schramm sees this as Kauffman's "moment." While "no one hopes for a recession," it's during economic crises that entrepreneurs "challenge companies that have gotten big and lazy." The downturn, he says, will even challenge Kauffman to "think about how we can do our work better, like every business." In fact, Mr. Schramm adds, "The only people immune from thinking hard in moments like this are in government."