Let’s Not Punish Greatness in America

Monday, 16 Jul 2012 01:20 PM

By Fran Tarkenton

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What makes America different from other countries around the world is also what makes us great. We need more of it. What makes us great has enabled generations of entrepreneurs and innovators to change the way we live in unimaginable ways.

What separates us from the rest of the world, and has made us the most prosperous country in the world is the combination of two things: freedom, and the rule of law. The rule of law provides stability and a strong foundation. It protects innovators, who know their work will not be stolen. It provides framework.

oprah-ap.jpg
Oprah, like many successful Americans, did not come from a privileged background.
(AP Photo)
Freedom, on the other hand, allows our people to do whatever they want, within the bounds of law. We are free to express ourselves, and free to act. No one is forced to do anything; we are a nation that is constantly reinventing itself, all the time!

Combining freedom and the rule of law provides opportunity and incentive to do great things. Success has not come from a controlling public sector and government, but from a free, creative private sector. Innovation comes from people operating in that system.

What is especially remarkable about this system is the diversity of people who can succeed.

It’s not just people with one particular set of political beliefs. There are successful conservatives that we hear about all the time, like the Koch brothers. But there are just as many successful liberal Democrats, from Warren Buffett to Steve Jobs.

And it’s not based on your background, either. For every child of privilege who is successful in business, there are dozens more who climb to the top all the way from the bottom. Sam Walton had no privilege to help him; neither did Larry Ellison, Oprah Winfrey, or Tyler Perry.

The Forbes 400 list is not filled with Carnegies, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts, but with brilliant, hard-working people of any background.

Freedom and the rule of law make that happen.

But just because we have those advantages doesn’t mean that we will always have them. We have to choose every day to maintain and preserve those foundations of our success.

However, the message from President Obama is that we need to change this model.

We have become great by understanding that the “pie” can grow larger and larger if we continue to innovate and create new things. Then everyone’s piece becomes bigger, regardless of what “percentage” you get.

But the president believes the pie can’t grow. He believes that if one person is richer, then another person must be poorer. He sees a zero-sum game, and believes we must level the playing field. And the way to do that is to get government involved in more aspects of life, guaranteeing the results.

Government will make sure that everyone meets a certain standard of living, and makes you comfortable at that level. It strangles ambition, innovation, and creativity. And of course, government gets to take its cut, too.

The result is that not only is the pie no longer growing, it’s even shrinking! And that means smaller pieces for everyone, both rich and poor. It is vitally important to turn around from that path, and ensure that we are rewarding success and innovation, not punishing it.

We ought to be looking for more innovators, not looking for ways to squeeze more money from the ones we have. The success we have seen in this country could have never happened anywhere else, and if we want to experience more success, we need to have more of what made us great, not less.

Don’t punish greatness; reward it.

Fran Tarkenton is the Founder and CEO of OneMoreCustomer.com, a web resource for Small Business Advocacy and Education. After his Hall of Fame football career, Fran had a successful career in television and then turned to business. He has founded and built more than 20 successful companies and now spends his time coaching aspiring entrepreneurs. Read more reports from Fran Tarkenton — Click Here Now.

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