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Key Idea: Learn the basics of the American Revolution.

Novak explains that Americans tend to be doers rather than deep thinkers and prolific writers. With a preference for action, American business owners are misunderstood since they rarely stop to explain themselves or spend time with elites who write business books.  Home

Key Question:


Knowledge of how capitalism works and then courage to find your place in the system.

Q:  Why is it important to understand Novak's message? He's a liberal arts guy -- we're in business!

A:   If we don't understand the framework of our democratic capitalism, we are poorly positioned for success. People like Michael Novak provide us with tremendous insight to the evolution of the American economy. Understanding the evolution leads to a better understanding of the environment, of how our customers, vendors, and employees think, and of what motivates them. In this ever-shrinking world, whether we like it or not, we are all now operating our businesses in a global economy. You may not sell your product or buy your inventory from outside the USA, but virtually all of us are lodged in a supply chain that extends around the world. We need to understand more of the world in order to operate more effectively and profitably in it.

Someone once said that if you don't keep growing, you'll get ripe and rot.

Read a book, take a course, watch a documentary…it really doesn't matter which media you select. The important thing is that we expand our knowledge and deepen our thinking about the world we live, work and play in.

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Think about it

Could teaching the lessons of America's economic success to your employees help them appreciate business more fully? Would it help them see beyond their own paychecks? Does understanding Novak more fully make you feel good about going to work everyday?

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?

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American Enterprise Institute

Michael Novak, Author

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

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Office: 202 862 5800

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Year Founded: 1947

Learn the basics of the American Revolution.

MICHAEL: Americans tend too much to study the philosophy of socialism and other European ideologies. And they don't study enough the really distinctive philosophy and theology of this most original of all the world's experiments.

(Voiceover) And the one which excited the students in Tiananmen Square who when they were asked, "What are you trying to do?" Built a huge paper mache statue of liberty. And they said, "But you gave it Western eyes, not Chinese eyes." And they said, "That's the liberty we need." They said this is, this is the standard to which the world does repair now. And it's a shame we don't understand it very well.

We've never been very philosophical. We've been pretty good at doing it, but we're not very good at talking about the theory of it. And it's a very profound theory, involving a theory of the economic system, a theory of the political system and above all a theory of the moral, cultural religious system and they all have to work together to make it go right.

HATTIE: So we have to do some reading.

MICHAEL: We have to become philosophically self-conscious. You know, the philosopher Jacques Maritain said (something like this) "..,you are like a nation, you know, hiding its light under a bushel. The world has need of your light and you don't, you don't shine it forth. You don't shine it forth. You don't tell us what the secrets of the free society are."

(Voiceover) What is the Novus Ordo Seclorum, the new order of the ages? Our founders worked through seven drafts to come up with that motto on the seal. The drafting committee, Jefferson and Franklin. And for six drafts they had the term virtue, because they thought you can't have a free people unless they have the habit, the virtue, the strength to reflect and to deliberate and therefore to choose well. And then they thought, well the term virtue is so obvious, let's scratch that and they put in Novus Ordo Seclorum, the new order of the ages, because they were aware of how original their idea was.

There'd never been a republic like this. They had no model they could point to. Not Constantinople, not the Republic of Venice, not the Republic of Sicily or Rome. Our founders understood that if you're going to build a free republic, you have to build it on commerce and industry. And they, of course, trusted best the small.

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