In troubling economic times, such as what we face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be easy to lose sight of the power of our free-enterprise system. Rising unemployment and declining consumer confidence are sobering. But history teaches us that economic downturns are always followed by periods of rebirth and growth, driven by people with entrepreneurial zeal.
In fact, there is strong evidence that now is a great time to go into business.
The Great Depression of the 1930s is widely understood to be the worst of economic times. Less well known is the fact that many businesses which have become American icons were launched during that time, including Allstate (1931), Hughes Aircraft (’32), Warner Bros. (’33), Universal Music Group (’34), Morgan Stanley (’35), Big Boy Restaurants (’36), Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (’37), Tractor Supply Company (’38), and Hewlett-Packard (’39). In 2009, a study by Dane Stangler for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that more than half of the Fortune 500 companies were started in a recession or a bear market.
The decline caused by COVID-19 mitigation is likely to be no different. New companies will arise. Supply chains will be rebuilt, more efficient and more resilient than they were before. Free enterprise will find the path to prosperity. As painful as things are, we have seen worse in the past, and we have always risen from it, thanks to entrepreneurs who are eager to rebuild.
Northwood University is committed to preparing those entrepreneurs and to defending the freedoms that power them forward. Over the past 60 years, Northwood has grown to become one of America’s leading voices for free-market entrepreneurialism because we never lose sight of our founding philosophy.
We are committed to the cause of liberty, especially as it relates to managing business enterprises. When the concerns of the moment cause people to consider tempting alternatives, we stand resolute to remind everyone of the greatness that results when we are free.
Already, we have seen the power of entrepreneurs to meet consumer demands during the COVID-19 pandemic. When health officials settled on an understanding that face coverings, even simple cloth masks, could slow the spread of the virus, store shelves quickly filled with every color and style imaginable. When hand sanitizer was in short supply, many distilleries stopped making liquor and churned out bottles of sanitizing alcohol. And only when in-person meetings became risky did we have any idea how many different virtual meeting platforms might be available to choose from.
No one can say for certain what the future will hold, but it seems likely that as the virus is brought under control and commerce returns to normal levels, many of the changes that have been made to our economy will end up being permanent. The world will be different. Entrepreneurs who are wise enough to anticipate the changes and bold enough to act on them will thrive in that environment. And we will all be better off for it.