Obstructionism is anti-entrepreneurship

March 20, 2010

This is an important weekend for regional politicians, both in the U.S. and in France.

France holds its second round of regional elections tomorrow, in which the ruling UMP party is preparing for a drubbing.

Similarly, the pressure is on the party in power in the U.S. as well. House representatives have an opportunity to vote on an historic piece of health care legislation. Democrats are in the spotlight because passing the legislation remains essentially in their hands, since the Republicans have demonstrated their conviction to oppose everything unequivocally.

As my wife wryly commended me for exhibiting uncharacteristic sensitivity for a topic that has almost no bearing on my ego or on my wallet, I must confess that I’ve become frustrated as I witness the U.S. health care debate (and most specifically, the “faux debate”) unfold from a distance. But I will leave political vitriol aside, since in the end, citizens get the government they deserve.

Rather, it’s the Republican strategy of obstructionism that spurred my thinking here. Obstructionism, marshalled tactically by Senator Mitch McConnell and House minority leader John Boehner, may indeed provide some short-term dividends for the Republicans. And the tactic certainly gives the impression of political victory.

However, I would argue that a relentless strategy of “No” will have dire long-term consequences for all involved. Relentless rejection of anything new stifles the imagination and corrodes the mind. Over time, obstructionism eliminates the intellectual and creative building blocks that foster innovation.

Obstructionism is thus anti-entrepreneurship. It is conveniently easy to obstruct new ideas. For every single business plan or pitch, a VC can always identify valid reasons to decline financing the venture.

Yet VCs become successful in their roles by learning how to say “yes” frequently enough. Even more importantly, successful entrepreneurs have the courage to relentlessly persevere and find resourceful ways to bypass the obstructionists.

Due to a more cumbersome legal and fiscal framework and a culture that punishes failure, entrepreneurs in France undoubtedly face a more imposing risk-averse monolith of discouragement than their American counterparts.

So when Senator McConnell summarizes the U.S. Republicans’ strategy toward the Democrats by saying, “To the extent they are trying to turn us into a Western European country, we are not going to be helpful,” I wonder if he recognizes the inherent contradiction of his words ?

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posted in venture capital by mark

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  • M Sorenson

    Oh yes, the US healthcare debate may be the most bizarre spectacle I’ve ever seen. How do you have a whole country of people complaining all the time about a system and then balking at the idea of reforming it?

    The Republicans are able to obstruct because the American people let them do so. When they spout off propaganda, people eat that stuff up. It may be entertaining, but it certainly doesn’t resolve any problems.

    I think the little guy (so in your example the burgeoning entrepreneur) has an obligation to call bs on this ‘culture of no’. They have to push back on this. It’s terribly difficult and painful to do, but how is it going to ever change if individuals don’t challenge it? It’ll take time, but eventually things will change.

    Coming back to healthcare, this also holds true for the American people on this hcr debate. They have to start taking the initiative to understand what’s being proposed and learn to push back on the lies and propaganda…or at the very least, tune that stuff out.

    On a separate note…It’s passed now. The bill may not be perfect, but it does establish healthcare as a right. This basic premise will be very hard to overturn. The Republicans will kick and scream (and sue) all they want. But in the US once a right is granted, it’s pretty difficult to take it away.

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