The value of failure

John Stossel explains in his latest column why a free-enterprise system that allows for failure ends up opening the door to great success.

In the USA, it’s OK to fail and fail and try again. In most of Europe and much of the world, the attitude is: You had your shot, you failed, and now you should just go work for someone else.

But this limits the possibilities. And some of America’s biggest successes came from people who failed often.

We know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but few people know that Edison filed 1,000 patents for ideas that went nowhere. He was fired by the telegraph office. He lost money investing in a cement company and an iron business.

Henry Ford’s first company failed completely. Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers. Oprah was fired from her first job as a reporter. A TV station called her “unfit for TV.”

But they all kept striving — and succeeded. They were lucky to live in America, where investors and your neighbors encourage you to try and try again. We are lucky to benefit from their persistence.

But those happy experiments are less likely to happen today. Now there are many more rules, and regulators add hundreds of pages of new ones every week.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban left school with no money and no job prospects. He managed to become a billionaire by creating several businesses from scratch. I asked him if he could do it again today, and he said, “No … now there’s so much paperwork and regulation, so many things that you have to sign up for that you have a better chance of getting in trouble than you do of being successful.”

That’s tragic.

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