For all its problems, America is a great place. And one thing that makes America great is its prosperity. Yes, some people have suffered during the recession — but compared to all the other countries in the history of the world, America is rich. Why?
One reason is that America is a good place to do business.
Dinesh D’Souza, author of "What’s So Great about America," points out: "In most other societies, the businessman has been looked down upon. He’s been seen as a kind of sleazy guy. But then American founders specifically put protection for patents and trademarks in the Constitution.
And suddenly, the entrepreneur is taken from the bottom of the heap and brought to the front."
Today, Asian students crush Americans on standardized tests, but it’s Americans who invent things like the transistor and the integrated circuit and go on to win disproportionate numbers of Nobel Prizes. Our culture of entrepreneurship turns that science into wealth.
TV pitchman Anthony Sullivan is from Britain, but he says his business didn’t thrive there.
"I found in England if there’s 10 reasons you could do something, there’s 20 reasons why you couldn’t do it, you shouldn’t do it, " says Sullivan. "I found in the States that people will give you a shot."
One sign of this attitude is that it’s relatively easy to start a business here. I opened one in Wilmington, Del. I named it the Stossel Store. It was just a table from which I pitched my "Give Me a Break" book and Fox merchandise. I picked Wilmington because our research showed that Delaware and Nevada make opening a business easier than other states. It still took me a week to get legal permission, but it would have taken much longer in Europe.
"I have started businesses in the U.K. and India. It takes at least a month or more just to open doors," A.J. Khubani, president of TeleBrands, says.
Unfortunately, bureaucrats are threatening this good part of America. I had to register with the Delaware Secretary of State and the Division of Corporations, get a federal employer identification number, buy commercial liability insurance, register with the Delaware state Department of Finance, etc.
I didn’t even try to open a business in my hometown, New York City, because the bureaucracy is so ferocious. The fastest-growing cities of the world make it easier. In Hong Kong several years ago, I got a business permit in just one day. It’s a reason Hong Kong is rich. Entrepreneurs are encouraged.
But at least America is a close second.
America also has a different idea about failure. The Stossel Store was a bad idea. I lost money. D’Souza says that in other places, that would be evidence that I am a complete failure. I tried to make a profit, failed and so shouldn’t try again.
That’s the attitude in most of the world, says D’Souza.
"You say: ‘You know what? I tried my hand at business. It didn’t work. Now, let me take a salary job where I’ll have some security."
He says that’s not true in America.
"An American will start a company. It’ll fail. Pretty soon, he’s starting a newspaper, or he’s now trying to export fish to Japan."
We know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but Edison failed much more often than he succeeded. He had hundreds of failures. He was fired by the telegraph office, and lost money on a cement company and an iron business. Henry Ford’s first company failed completely. Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected by 27 publishers. Oprah was fired from her first job as a reporter. A TV station called her unfit for television.
"There’s something in the American temperament that says, ‘Gosh, I lost seven times but that’s OK,’" D’Souza says. "And I think that that’s a resiliency of the American spirit."
It’s one of several great things about America.