What caused the great financial crisis of 2008? This was the question John A. Allison, CEO of the Cato Institute and former long-term CEO of BB&T, ambitiously answered in his break-out best-seller, The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure. While Allison’s expansive knowledge of the financial system provided insight to the specific causes of this country’s most recent financial crunch, he felt that his technical answer alone was insufficient. The real problem that underpins all our financial challenges is a crisis of leadership.
This larger problem is the one that Allison turns his attention to in his new book, The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure. The free market cure, he argues, can be traced back to the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Combining his vast experiences as a chief executive with his unique insights about human nature, Allison produces a list of values necessary for leadership and suggests several strategies for greatness.
Some of the values Allison advocates are recognizable to all as virtuous, such as honesty, integrity, justice, and teamwork. Others seem rooted in his business acumen, such as being grounded in reality, having objectivity, and being productive. And yet others seem to come from Allison’s libertarian philosophy, such as pride, self-esteem, and independent thinking.
Allison suggests that enterprise is central to both American prosperity, and that inculcating the values above is necessary to maintain and develop enterprise within a society.
What is “enterprise?” It is the entrepreneurial spirit that empowers business owners and Americans everywhere to take new risks and to solve problems by inventing new solutions.. Enterprise is the power behind entrepreneurship. It is the energy that drives a free market.
Is it possible then that by making people who do not possess certain values, we are making a society not capable of being enterprising?
Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in his book The Road to Freedom, that if we go down this other road of making virtue-less members of society, we will end up with a people who claim to love free enterprise but who will do nothing to defend it. They will be a people lacking the capacity for freedom.
This dystopian future is exactly what Allison’s book aims to help prevent. The real threat to freedom is not an overbearing government, but a people not capable of being free. His effort to teach business leaders about true leadership, about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and about what it truly means to be an agent of enterprise, is a valiant one.
If you are eager to become a more able leader in your industry, or simply want to gird yourself with values worthy of the freedom of we enjoy, The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure is an essential read this year. In addition to being a stirring read, this book is bound to become a go-to reference book for anyone interested in preserving freedom within or outside of the marketplace.
Original CBC review by Jacqueline Isaacs. Jacqueline Isaacs oversees marketing for a free-market non-profit. She holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and she blogs at ValuesAndCapitalism.com.
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