In Jim Cook's Archive


In 1971, I moved from Minnesota to Miami and opened a drinking water business.  My concept was to put vending machines that dispensed water into high rise apartments and condos on Miami Beach. The residents would put a dime in the machine and fill up their own gallon jug with purified water.  At first nobody was interested.  I ran out of money and couldn’t pay the bills or take a paycheck.  I devoted a chapter in my book, “The Start-Up Entrepreneur” about this intense personal struggle.

You learn from adversity.  If I had somehow finagled a government grant or subsidy it would have made life easier.  If I had lied to the unemployment office I could have got money that I desperately needed. However, I wouldn’t have learned a thing.  Instead, I prevailed on my own.  All the high rises in Dade and Broward counties eventually had my water machines.  I sold out and came back to Minnesota. If the government had given me money I doubt I would have succeeded.

I’m telling this story not to brag, but to point out the damage that government does, and why relying on entrepreneurs to solve problems is vastly superior to government solutions.  I persisted in my water business because my bridges were burned.  I succeeded because I was motivated by personal gain and a chance for wealth.  No government employee is ever driven to accomplishment by similar motives.  Expecting the government to do what business people do is sheer folly.

Entrepreneurs come up with new products and services because of a desire for personal gain.  They do what government can never do.  They bring their goods to market and the consumers decide who succeeds and who fails through their buying choices.  In the market economy the consumers reign supreme.  Furthermore, the self-serving goals of the entrepreneurs are directed into meeting the needs and wants of the public.

The vast government programs to promote green energy and whatever else the government considers to be a social good are mostly doomed.  They take money away from the entrepreneurs through taxes.  A dollar of government spending is a dollar out of somebody’s pocket.  Worst of all, new government initiatives are not market driven. Consumers are given no choice in deciding if they are worthwhile.

Our government has no faith in the ability of entrepreneurs to solve problems. The government sees itself as the chief problem solver.  These days they expect to solve healthcare, energy needs and global warming to name a few.  By ignoring consumer preferences they can only make matters worse. This is how countries become second rate.

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