I tend to write mostly about the “micro” of the entrepreneurial experience here on Merge, but Tom Friedman has that amazing ability to sum up the “macro” in such an engaging and concise way that he frequently entices me to take a few steps back and try to see the big picture. Such was the case with his column from Sunday, April 3 in which he calls for a loosening of immigration policies as a way to attract the “high-IQ risk-takers” who have fueled American innovation in the past. Friedman—who preaches eloquently that the U.S. should stop swimming against the current of globalization—points out that a unique combination of factors, including “our vibrant and meritocratic university system,” has historically drawn many of the best and brightest to the U.S. Now, he suggests, we are losing that “differentiated edge in attracting and enabling the world’s biggest mass of smart, creative risk-takers.”
Friedman cites an alarming Kauffman Foundation stat that “Between 1980 and 2005, virtually all net new jobs created in the U.S. were created by firms that were 5 years old or less.” Hence, suggests Friedman, real job growth will not come from bailing out GM, but from investing in a generation of start-ups.
Perhaps the most intriguing idea in the column comes from Robert Litan of the Kauffman Foundation who suggests that, rather than limiting immigration, “we ought to have a ‘job-creators visa’ for people already here, and once you’ve hired, say, 5 or 10 American nonfamily members, you should get a green card.”
Sadly, the public discourse around these topics is so diseased right now that this type of innovative policy making seems like a distant mirage. Hopefully the pressures on the Obama administration and congress to find sustainable job ideas will encourage some creative thinking.
Of course, I’d like to see some of this creative thinking applied to encouraging hesitant designers to pursue the entrepreneurial ideas so many of us have.