Small Business is a Revolutionary Act?

In a discussion I had recently with someone who grew up in the former Soviet Union, we discussed the idea of “small business”.

The Soviets didn’t encourage small business. In fact, it was illegal to have a business “on the side” and definitely not OK to try to earn your own money, in a non-government-sanctioned enterprise..

Everyone was guaranteed a job — can you imagine? An entire country based on civil service. Every worker — a government worker.

No wonder that system failed.

Small business or self-employed people were frowned upon. In fact, if you were grouped with the spekulanti, you were not a good person. Usually a “spekulant” was something said with a sneer.

Some definitions of spekulant equate it with a profiteer. Profiteers are those guys who were trying to sell black market toilet paper in the United States during the 2020 pandemic. I’d say maybe there’s some correlation between the two, but in a fake market in a controlled system, the people will demand access to more than what the government will offer.

This happened in the USSR. Eventually people wanted to be able to buy high quality Italian shoes without having to buy it in secret. No one wants to support a profiteer.

It’s hard to imagine such an attitude in my part of the world. Here, I see small business and personal enterprise as a good thing. They fill the market need that the big corporations can’t. A small business owner will know theuir good customers by name, and provide personal service. It’s been the American way for some time. Perhaps it won’t last, however. The modern era has challenged the American small business to the nth degree. Many have had to “pivot” their business models. Staying open in a shuttered economy is risky, and in some regions, illegal or unpermitted.

Perhaps some day, not too far off now, we’ll see small business as the Soviets did. As a revolutionary act. Highly illegal. Highly frowned upon. A person with her own business is a person the government can’t control.

Small business is a revolutionary act.

Don't you know
They're talkin' 'bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
--Tracy Chapman

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