American Individualism in Business

Keith Vlasak
(A selection from Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, with an introduction by Keith Vlasak.) There's a phrase, "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door," that defines American capitalism.  If you can think of a better way to do anything, you've got the beginning of a business.  The phrase also implies context -- "a better" mousetrap -- which suggests a cultural state where an individual has incentive to contemplate figurative mousetraps and start a business.  That implies another cultural distinction: "The business of America is business."  That was true in America long before Calvin Coolidge said it (and Coolidge, it's worth noting culturally, contemplated his remark and added to it, paraphrasing, that business is a method of improving society and that "ideals" are what Americans value more than money).  Business is the American way. Already in 1831, Alexis de Toqueville (in Democracy in America, published in two...(Read Full Post)

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