On this episode of the AIER Authors Corner, Ethan Yang interviews Dr. Eammon Butler, who joins us from Cambridge, UK. Dr. Butler co-founded the Adam Smith Institute, which was credited with advising the Thatcher government in its radical market-oriented reforms of British society.
The topic of the conversation was Eammon’s latest book, Entrepreneurship: A Primer, which was copublished with AIER and the Institute for Economic Affairs, another important British free-market think tank. A summary of the book can be found here.
Based on the title of Eammon’s book, it may seem like it is a how-to manual on starting a lemonade stand. However, it is actually a necessary and important defense of the idea of permissionless innovation, spontaneous order, and productive self-interest. For much of human history, but especially since the 20th century, there has been a debate on whether the state can run the economy. Advocates of state planning believe that society can be progressed with deliberate direction and central planning. In the field of economics, it has become fashionable to reduce society down to a set of equations, theories, and graphs.
Although these may be helpful from a convenience standpoint, those advocates often forget that the economy is chaotic and ultimately made of individuals. Economic analysis and intellectual thought more generally is ultimately just abstraction done from the armchair, and reality is never so cut and dry. Most importantly, this way of thinking forgets the importance of entrepreneurs, who ultimately drive economic activity as part of a naturally emerging order that exists beyond the control of state planners and intellectuals. Eammon’s book explains all this and ultimately argues that it is entrepreneurs acting freely who are responsible for building a vibrant and prosperous society.
In this podcast, Eammon particularly speaks about the necessity for economic freedom, the special role of entrepreneurs, examples of unproductive entrepreneurship such as rent-seeking, whether or not the state can help drive entrepreneurship, and why the United States has such a strong entrepreneurial presence compared to Europe. He ends by talking about what can be done to further encourage entrepreneurship in a time where it seems that we are losing that spark and energy to the state.