27 August 2019

The Entrepreneurial Society

The Entrepreneurial Society

The Entrepreneurial Society: a reform agenda for the European Union outlines how Europe can move towards more inclusive, innovative and sustainable growth – through reforms that will rekindle its entrepreneurial spirit. It offers highly concrete proposals for policymakers, practitioners and other readers and contains an optimistic, socially inclusive answer to populist conservatism.

The open access book by Niklas Elert and Magnus Henrekson and Mark Sanders of Utrecht University builds on the European Union’s (EU) Horizon 2020 researchproject ‘Financial and Institutional Reforms for an Entrepreneurial Society’ (FIRES). Based on decades of research and countless discussions with stakeholders, it also features this project’s full list of policy interventions and institutional reforms that can help policymakers make that reform agenda a reality.

The experimentally organized economy

The European Union suffers from an innovation deficit, which must be remedied if the EU is to improve the quality of life of its citizens and remain competitive in the global marketplace. The Entrepreneurial Society explains why productive entrepreneurship is a way towards restoring inclusive, innovative and sustainable growth in Europe, before presenting the theoretical framework of the experimentally organized economy, a perspective stressing the collaborative nature of productive entrepreneurial venturing.

The perspective is used to outline an entrepreneurial reform strategy covering six broad areas:

  • The rule of law and the protection of property rights
  • Taxation
  • Savings, finance an capital
  • Labour markets and social security systems
  • Contestable markets for entry and exit
  • Mobilising human capital for entrepreneurship

Highly concrete proposals, to be tailored in context

Throughout these areas the authors make no fewer than 50 reform proposals, the lion’s share of which are highly concrete. To inspire policymakers, practitioners, and other readers of this book and provide a firm and principled idea of how a European reform agenda could look.

Of course, policymakers will need to tailor most proposals to specific national and regional contexts, others may need to be reformulated or reconsidered. The reform strategy acknowledges the substantial cross-country differences across the union; since each EU member state has evolved its particular bundle of institutions, many of which are complementary to one another, a one-size-fits-all approach to reforming institutions is likely to fail.

Optimistic, inclusive answer to populist conservatism

The EU needs a new and appealing narrative. By offering real opportunities for all, The Entrepreneurial Society provides an urgently needed optimistic answer to the stifling populist conservatism that has swept across Europe and put the European project in jeopardy. The recipes of neoliberal reformers have failed to deliver for significant parts of Europe’s constituency, and the current debate simply cannot support another round of “structural reforms” naïvely liberalizing product, service, labor, and capital markets.

Instead, the EU needs to start building an institutional environment that brings appealing opportunities to all of its citizens. By directing its citizens’ abundant creativity, talent, and resources towards new venturing, Europe can return to socially inclusive, ecologically sustainable, and innovation-driven growth.

This will not turn the gilets jaunes into a happy and docile electorate. However, it will provide the defenders of an open European society with more ammunition to turn the populist, nationalist tide and goes a long way towards protecting the European project that has brought peace and prosperity to most of the Continent for the past 70 years.

The Entrepreneurial Society: a reform agenda for the European Union by Niklas Elert, Magnus Henrekson and Mark Sanders. This book is open access available via the Springer website.