My Library and Courses
Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Be All You Can Be

Michael Novak says that small business is the most important institution in a civil society because every business owner must develop themselves and become the best that they can be.  The demands of leadership in a small company are such that the owner becomes confident, articulate, bold and tough even in the face of his own government.  Michael goes so far as to say that a small business owner becomes a sovereign. Home

Business owner, Enrique Souto, says,  "...the most important thing is honesty.

Key Question:


Be the person people want to work for.  Michael Novak says that running a business makes a person better than they were before they started down the path that requires extraordinary skill, patience and determination.

Q:  Is the spirit of our founding fathers still alive today?

  You bet it is! We see it every week here at Small Business School. From recognizing the opportunity, to figuring out a way to get it done, to living our dreams, we small business people are not that different from our forefathers. Each generation improves our lives for the next and much of that improvement comes from the work places of small businesses.

In the United States, only 11 million of the workforce works at Fortune 500 companies. Most of the 120 million American workers work for small businesses. We are the foundation of the American economy as we have been from the very beginning. We buy and sell from one another, and together we inspire the self-confidence and strength in those around us which result in new small businesses with new opportunities. 

Think about it

Is there any other country on earth where you'd rather be in business?

Clip from: Capitalism: Path to Prosperity

Washington, DC:   What are the essential foundations of life, liberty, freedom, and human rights?   The USA as a working experiment is a good model to study.  Here we can study the earliest documents and concepts and see how these also became the foundations for American capitalism.  Within this structure, we can see how just about any family can get on a path to economic independence.

Meet Michael Novak, a man whose life study is of the foundations of government systems that work. And here he discovered small business has the heart and spirit that sustains and nurtures democratic capitalism.   Michael Novak strikes deep into the heart of public debate about what works and what doesn't work within economic systems, and he says that small business owners are demonstrators. They're on the front lines, risking and fighting the good fight every day. Small business owners take lofty principles and reduce them to nitty-gritty practice.

As a people, the debate about capitalism should no longer be the domain of economists. We all need to grapple with the first principles of ethics, economics, and government. Virtually overnight globalization is a reality and belief systems are butting against one another, often shredding civility and undermining any inherent ethics and morality.

Each of us needs to engage in the historic debate about economic models. What works? What is good for people? Is this singular focus on "Return to Shareholders" a truncation of capitalism? Do we need to be looking at a more balanced model that includes more than the growth of the bottom line?

Go to all the Key Ideas & Video...
Go to the homepage for this episode...
Re-read the entire Declaration of Independence. ..

American Enterprise Institute

Michael Novak, Author

1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
202 862 5800

Visit our web site:

Office: 202 862 5800

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1947

Be All You Can Be

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Why should someone start a business.

MICHAEL: It's very good for democracy, because a democracy will work best, the greater the number of independent owners that there are. That's where sovereignty resides.

And if we all work for big organizations and huge businesses, we're much more likely to think in a collective, bureaucratic way and lose that sense of independence that Jefferson and others saw were so vital for the life of a republic.

And finally, building your own businesses teaches a set of virtues which you just won't learn any other way.

(Voiceover) It teaches you to live with failure, because there's going to be lots of failures. It teaches you to do very difficult things and it gives you a great many satisfaction to seeing something that you, that existed only in your imagination, come to life and reality.

I think that's the most important institutional change to be happening in the world -- the promotion and the multiplication of small business. It's the only hope of the poor and it's the best hope of democracy.

So, I see two main strategic reasons for small business. It's the main strength of democracy, and it's the main instrument of raising up the poor, providing jobs.

(Voiceover) Small business is the most important institution of civil society, the backbone out of which democracy comes, that sense of leadership, and strength and self-confidence that makes citizens willing to take on their government and become responsible for it, to become the sovereigns.

HATTIE: Thanks Michael Novak for setting us straight. Democratic capitalism is good. It has made life better for millions and will continue to do so. Yes, it is not a perfect system, but each of us can help make it better. We'll see you next time.

Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!