Entrepreneurs…coining the term, so to speak

Have you ever wondered where the term “entrepreneur” comes from? 

If you’ve ever given the question some thought, you might think the “entrepreneur” would have featured in Adam Smith’s free market masterpiece, The Wealth of Nations.  But this is not the case; the term was actually coined by one of Smith’s admirers, economist Jean-Baptiste Say. 

Entrepreneur is a French word, usually translated as “adventurer”.  Say studied Smith’s book and, while agreeing on all points, found that the omission of the enterprising businessperson was a serious flaw.

Say wrote that it was entrepreneurs who sought out inefficient uses of resources and capital and moved them into more productive, higher-yield areas. Entrepreneurs seek opportunities for profit and, in the process, create new markets and fresh opportunities. 

By constantly disrupting the balance of competition, entrepreneurs prevent monopolies from forming and create a wide diversity of products that keep consumers consuming and producers producing. In return for taking these risks, successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Henry Ford reap fortunes far beyond those of normal agents in the economy.

Say himself, a cotton manufacturer, was an entrepreneur. When Thomas Jefferson read his work, he tried to convince the author to come and teach in his new nation. Although Say never stepped foot on US soil, his entrepreneurial outlook was largely influential in the US at the time of the industrial revolution.

And that’s all we have to Say about that.

Read more Lighter Side articles by Pamela Hellig here.

Pamela Hellig
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