When I was growing up in France, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I knew that I wanted to go to America because I knew that it was the land of entrepreneurship. In business school in France, I very much identified as right-wing because in France the left is so insanely anti-capitalist. Moreover, my parents had always been right-wing, so it was natural for me.
When I came to the U.S. to start my career, I was completely apolitical. When I moved to San Francisco and got married to my late husband, a French entrepreneur, we were naturally repelled by George Bush, the invasion of Iraq, and Fox News. But we were still mostly apolitical.
It was only when I started my first company, Adina World Beverages, that I began to become immersed in the progressive movement in the U.S. As a female African entrepreneur, the Bay area progressives were very drawn to me and were eager to support the creation of my first company. I gradually became socially immersed in their culture, as my company had booths at Green Fest, Bioneers, Expo West, and other venues associated with the organic and Fair Trade cultures. I went to their parties and developed friendships with them, especially after my husband died.
Later, after I transitioned my company into the hands of professional managers, and began my new company, I left much of the world of Adina behind. I attended an event on women’s entrepreneurship held by FLOW, a non-profit founded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, and Michael Strong, an educational entrepreneur. I had expected, naturally enough, that I was going to yet another green event – Whole Foods Market?
As it turned out, John and Michael are libertarians, something I had never heard of before. They are very much do-gooders, as were my progressive friends, but they also believed passionately in entrepreneurship as a solution to world problems – a message which resonated powerfully for me as an entrepreneur who was motivated by the good I could do through my businesses. (In fact, they now have a book out - Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems.)
I began working with Michael and gradually became exposed to his network of libertarians with a heart. Time after time I met hard-working entrepreneurs who believed in entrepreneurial solutions to problems – and who did not believe that government was the solution to most problems.
The transition was gradual, because some of my progressive entrepreneurial friends who were still no-nonsense business people were very similar to the libertarians with a heart – I now call them progressives with a brain. But I gradually saw many of the more extreme progressives, who thought that every thing bad on earth was caused by an evil corporation somewhere, as out of touch with reality. Here they were living in comfortable homes, driving comfortable cars, eating nice meals, and traveling around the world, all thanks to capitalism, while complaining all the time about how evil capitalism is. What?
On the other hand, I have also met libertarians who are selfish, cold, and heartless much as I had previously stereotyped all Republicans for being. They are living in comfortable homes, driving comfortable cars, eating nice meals, and traveling around the world, all the while saying that it is good and right to be selfish – with no apparent concern for the cost to other human beings or the environment.
As I continued to build my new company, I became increasingly resentful of the fact that many of the progressives I knew only wanted to support Africa if it was pitiful and poor. With my new company, my ambition is to create world class products in Africa that are as elegant and well-manufactured as anything on earth. But when I presented my ideas to progressives, they often responded with a dumb-founded expression: But where are the wells? How are you helping people?
WELL YOU DUMB^$%#&!!!!!, MAYBE THE JOBS I’M CREATING WILL HELP PEOPLE! MAYBE THE PRIDE IN EXCELLENCE AND CRAFTSMANSHIP WILL HELP PEOPLE! MAYBE GETTING RICH BY CREATING VALUE, INSTEAD OF BEGGING FOR FOREIGN AID WILL HELP PEOPLE!
And I’m afraid at this point, if a progressive still has a dumbfounded expression on their face at this point, I’m done with them.
On the other hand, when I meet libertarians who simply don’t care about Africa, or the poor, or the environment, I am creeped out and am done with them.
BILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING, THE ENVIRONMENT IS BEING DESTROYED, AND ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS TO MAKE MORE MONEY?????? WHERE IS YOUR CONSCIENCE YOU A-#$@)#%!!!!
There is more to it than that, and I’m still in the process of ch-ch-ch-changing, but this is the start - an attempt to find more people who fit that perfect intersection of libertarians with a heart and progressives with a brain.