My life is made up in large part of travel and speaking. As a speaker, I get to meet men and women I would never meet in my little cocoons in Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Rancho Mirage, in California; and in Sandpoint, Idaho, and at The Watergate in Washington, D.C.
It was at one of those speeches in Dallas in late October, that I had a revelation: I was speaking to a multichapter meeting of a group known as YPO — the Young Presidents Organization. These men and women are the founders and operators of successful small, medium, and large businesses. They are a spectacularly intelligent, imaginative, hard-working and bold bunch who have ideas and make them reality.
One of the men I spoke to for a long time prior to my speech had left the somewhat abstracted world of Wall Street to come to Texas and build a phenomenally fast-growing enterprise that treats, transports, and disposes of the immense amounts of water used in producing shale gas and tight rock oil.
As the United States races toward being the world’s largest producer of oil and gas minerals, stupendous quantities of water are used. These have to be made fairly safe, then moved to disposal areas where they can be stored underground for long periods of time. This activity is growing so urgently that the man’s business is doubling the number of its employees monthly.
I met a man who had started a staggeringly large operation growing and canning tomatoes by methods that gave him a cost advantage over standard production. I met a man who bought stakes in companies that were sold by distressed hedge funds. There was a man at the gathering who was building a limo company with an unusual staffing plan that will provide employment to thousands.
As I stood at the podium after dinner and gave these people a rundown on all of the problems in the economy, I discussed the failure of monetary policy to get us out of the ditch, and the failure of fiscal policy to do it.
“I don’t know how we are ever going to get back to full employment,” said I, and then, like magic, the inspiration came to me. “I actually do know,” I said to them. “It will be from the men and women in this room. The thinkers and workers and dreamers who make their business dreams a reality and put people to work.”
Like a cascade, memories came to me of men and women who had started off with nothing and now employed hundreds or thousands; I especially thought of a handsome couple in Boise, Idaho, I had just met. They had, with no capital but their hard work and ambition, founded a company that makes scented candles that do not burn with a flame. Instead, they release their aroma because of a tiny incandescent bulb. Their company, “Scentsy Candles,” which did not exist eight years ago, now employs hundreds to make the candles and many thousands to sell them.
This is the future. Not a bureaucrat issuing orders from a desk in Washington, D.C. Not a banker pressing buttons to initiate trades in New York. But men and women who have the guts and the imagination to take a wisp of an idea and make paying jobs out of it.
The men and women of YPOs all over America — the men and women like them just starting out — they will be the jobs engine, the innovation engine, of the future. The liberators from the miasma of economic misery will not be civil servants. They will be entrepreneurs. This country is blessed with an abundance of them, and it is this resource that will pull us through.
It is the Young Presidents — and not some fed edict or White House diktat that will make America as prosperous as we want it to be. Let’s get the government out of the way and let these wizards of capitalism do their magic.
Ben Stein is a writer, actor, and lawyer, who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes cast him as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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