Federal Punishment for Risk

“We have to have some more faith in the free market to produce innovation,” says Gary Shapiro, in the soon-to-be released documentary Risk!.

Faith in the free market isn’t something that the United States has a lot of right now – with government stepping in with bailouts, stimulus packages and the like at any sign of a downturn. It’s even become fashionable to think of free markets as dangerous, an idea the government is in no hurry to dispute. After all, taming the markets with regulation gives government a raison d’etre and plenty to do. Never mind that what the government does often amounts to folly (and we are hard pressed to think of an instance when it doesn’t).

Government follies were a big topic of discussion at last week’s Freedom Fest, where Addison Wiggin’s new documentary Risk! had a focus group screening. Risk! picks up where Addison’s last film, the critically-acclaimed I.O.U.S.A left off – in the wake of the financial crisis. The documentary features insights from some of the world’s top economic minds, including Harvard professor and author of the Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christiensen, economic blogger and pundit, Alex Tabborok; and Gary Shapiro author of The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.

Using Odyssey Marine Exploration, a commercial shipwreck salvage company, as a case study, Risk! explores what has happened to the uniquely American model of risk, reward and failure in the current economic environment – an environment where the role of government has mutated into something the founders of the United States would never have imagined.

While Odyssey Marine has a set of very unique obstacles standing in the way of their innovative business model (and ultimately, their success), as the film unfolds it becomes clear that all entrepreneurs and small businesses are facing similar challenges. Though the U.S. government keeps reminding the public that job creation will get us out of this financial mess, over-regulation, litigation and a barely-understandable tax code make it almost impossible for entrepreneurs–the biggest contributor of wealth creation and jobs–to make an impact on the economy.

“The government does not create jobs,” Shapiro tells us in Risk!. “They take money from one person to give it to another person.  That’s not creating a job. Government’s role is to encourage people, and make sure we have the raw materials of innovation, which are bright people challenging the status quo.”

Shapiro – and the entrepreneurs featured in the film – remind us that the role of government is to “get out of the way” and to provide these wealth creators with a level playing field–one that punishes theft and force, but otherwise allows competition–so that they, and the country as a whole, can reap the rewards of their innovations.

The focus-group screening was well-received by the audience at Freedom Fest, and during the Q&A with Addison afterwards, many members of the audience echoed the frustration that the entrepreneurs featured in the film feel.

“It’s not too late for the U.S. to get it right,” said Addison during the Q&A after the film. “But if the rules of the game keep changing, and the incentives for small business aren’t there, we are looking at a long road ahead of us.”

Doug Hill, Business Manager
Laissez Faire Books

P.S. Risk! is scheduled to be released to the public before the end of the year. Stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, if you’re joining us at the Agora Financial Investment Symposium in Vancouver next week, you’ll get to attend a special focus-group screening. We hope to see you there!

P.P.S. Gary Shapiro will be speaking and holding a book signing at next week’s Symposium – and to hold you over until then, check out his excellent new book The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.Click here now to see a special sneak peek at what Gary has to say in Risk! – and for a 20% discount on his book.

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