Monday, November 13, 2006

politics and entrepreneurship

As many of you know, I am a Director at FIU's Entrepreneurship Center. I am also a student of American political and public policy history, especially the Founding Fathers. So this topic will not surprise you as being something I am interested in.

A was watching a conference on CSPAN this weekend (yes I am a geek) and something a panelist said got me wondering. I don't remember what he said exactly or who he was (but he was a Fellow at Brookings), but it was about the challenges of the current political environment in DC. What I realized is that politics is not necessarily more hostile these days - The personal hatred between Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay of the early 1800s will hopefully never be reproduced. But the hostility is more visible to the average person because of advertising. And negative ads work (but this is a topic for another time).

What has changed is that politics has gone through the same transition as companies do - from entrepreneurial venture to corporate bureacracy. It used to be that individual politicians developed their own ideas, debated them in Congress, and could influence policy. Now, everything has to go through the committee system, get vetted by party leadership, and often only involve the party in power. Even lobbyists get politicized through initiatives like the Republican's K-Street project (where they tried to get all lobbying firms to hire only republicans or get shut out).

And so the same problems we see with large corporations are occurring with the current political parties. They can't be entrepreneurial anymore and new ideas get shut out. Large corporations are better at dealing with expected change (because of economies of scale) but much worse at dealing with rapid or unanticipated change. The same thing is happening in DC. The new world order (rising power of China, independence of Iran, etc) is beyond what our current system can deal with. But in the business world, there are openings for new ventures in most industries. The problem with politics is that it is easier to create monopolies and barriers to entry. Maybe we need a new Whig party. Ross Perot and Ralph Nader were able to play spoiler, but not much more than that. Maybe we need to change some of the rules to make it easier for new "ventures" to compete with the establishment. That could breathe some new life into the political process.

Just a thought.