This interview was conducted by Javier Toro.
Magnus Henrekson is Director of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics. He is a coauthor of The Entrepreneurial Society: A Reform Strategy for the European Union.
The entrepreneurial inclination is something that is part of the human character. Of course, some people are more natural entrepreneurs than others, but the entrepreneurial spirit is in all of us. Whether entrepreneurship is productive depends on whether you create value not only for yourself but also for society. Say, for example, you have created a pharmaceutical drug that can save millions of lives. Selling that drug will make you rich, but a lot of people will also benefit from it, from being able to get it. Even if you become super-rich, you will only get a very small fraction, which is usually less than five percent, of the whole value that has been created by selling that drug. The rest goes to society: people get better new products or existing products at a lower price. Productive entrepreneurship has to do with doing something your country, the legal system of your country, has decided it is good for society. Let’s suppose you produce a fantastic whisky that everyone wants to buy. In western countries, producing and selling that whisky is considered to be a valuable activity. But in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, it is not. In these countries, alcohol is banned. Entrepreneurship can occur in political environments too. In that case, productive entrepreneurship occurs when, for example, politicians pass laws that make the country prosper.
If you do something that is not good for society, then you can become a destructive entrepreneur, that is, someone who destroys value. You can become very rich, but you harm society. Destructive entrepreneurship demands a lot of entrepreneurial talent, nonetheless. To be successful, you have to learn, for example, how to avoid the police.
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