"There are a terrible lot of lies going around the world, and the worst of it is half of them are true." - Winston Churchill
These words were first spoken 70 years ago but they could be Churchill's comment on the headline news today, especially in light of the United Kingdom's controversial vote to leave the European Union.
The 21st century has ushered in an era of unlimited and instant communication. Everyone's opinion can reach around the world. The internet does not discriminate -- it passes on the same content to thousands of different audiences but often with a variety of interpretations.
In 1946, we had just emerged from the greatest war in our history. Respected statesmen sat down together and worked out their designs for a better world. Today, there are many people in England who think that it is a big mistake to leave the European Union. 70 years ago it was a dream shared by many great minds that you could have a United States of Europe, which they called The Common Market. Many changes have since been made, including an overhaul of the economic systems and the creation of a common currency, although England chose to retain the pound sterling.
I have spent the past seven decades as a global entrepreneur doing business in the markets of the world. My training and inclination led me to agree with two much respected but very different presidents. Both John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were firm believers in the benefits of free trade. Both actively tried to reduce tariffs with the ultimate goal of eliminating them altogether. As an individual entrepreneur in the export/import business, and as an invited member of Reagan's 1988 Presidential Trade Mission to Japan, I was a direct witness to the effects of opening up trade around the world. At the time, I felt that everyone involved had taken on a tough job in overcoming lifetime prejudices and raising the standard of living for all nations.
I saw firsthand the dramatic and positive effect the European Common Market had. There was an immediate easing of bureaucratic restrictions. The real business of building markets to the advantage of all concerned was immediately apparent and showed great promise for the future.
I have no clear idea about what the aftermath of Brexit will bring for the United Kingdom, but I do have a very strong feeling about what is best for the United States. Despite all our political disputes, our capitalistic democracy still maintains a high standard of living, even though it has been reduced in recent years. Above all, I know that every aspect of the American economy benefits from the active work of our entrepreneurs.
It would be a great boon if we were able to increase our domestic commerce to the benefit of all segments of our population. However, there are certain myths that, while having seeming appeal, must be dispelled unless they are examined in their entirety. The entire "Buy American" movement is built on falsehoods and inept interpretation of reality. I learned early in my career that I had to go to different countries for various products and services. At the end of WWII, the lowest cost source was Japan. As the Japanese improved their standard of living, wages increased and the low cost market moved to Taiwan and the Philippines. This transition can be compared domestically with our own history where shoe manufacturing first centered in New England. Shoe manufacturing later moved to the Carolina's as they made better deals with the Southern trade unions for lower hourly wages. Progress could not be stopped. The shoe industry subsequently moved to Italy, and it is now centered in China. Here is the most interesting part. The area in New England, which had been at the heart of the shoe industry many years ago, is today a New England version of the Silicon Valley and is enjoying a greater economy than at any time in the past.
I have spent a great deal of time in European and Asian countries, and I am certain that there is widespread dismay over the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. In my opinion, there is a greater need than ever for diplomacy, cooperation, and understanding. Due to the enormous power of the Internet, people in all corners of the world are fully aware of what others are saying and doing through social networking.
As we celebrate our nation's independence this July 4th, let us not forget that our freedom comes with responsibilities. First, we must be active and informed citizens who vote our beliefs and support our individual rights. Second, we must play our role as good partners in the global community. My opinion is that we will get more accomplished for the benefit of ourselves and the rest of the world by using diplomacy and an honest appraisal of problems and their possible solutions.
I have always been a great admirer of Winston Churchill. In his first speech as Prime Minister on May 13, 1940, he said, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat..." As it turned out, great effort and sacrifice proved strong enough to defeat the Axis powers. Likewise, today on the world stage I believe an entrepreneurial spirit of hard work and initiative will lead us away from prejudice and conflict. All those who have new ideas and a way to make them work should be out there in the marketplace making a better life for themselves, our society, and the world. I firmly believe, as do many others, including President Obama with his recent statements made at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford last month, that developing greater entrepreneurship opportunities around the world will help foster and spread more prosperity and peace for all. I commend the efforts of all entrepreneurs and their commitment in the pursuit of self-realization and financial independence, whether it's to achieve the "American Dream," to overcome an income gap, or to simply develop sustainable earnings to feed a family.
Jack Nadel is a 92-year-old Hall of Fame Entrepreneur, decorated veteran of World War II, and author of the award-winning book, "The Evolution of an Entrepreneur: Featuring 50 of My Best Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Business" (www.JackNadel.com). He is the founder and chairman emeritus of Jack Nadel International, and has appeared on Entrepreneur, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Vetrepreneur and Fox Business among many other media outlets. Jack is also a Thrive15.com featured mentor with 16 training courses available, derived from his remarkable career as an entrepreneur with seven decades of success, having started with nothing.