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An Idea Both Conservatives and Liberals Can Love?

The president of the Manhattan Institute, which advocates limited government, worries that the increasing enthusiasm about social entrepreneurs may end up diluting the meaning of the term "social entrepreneur." Writing in the New York Sun, Howard Husock starts by citing Bill Clinton's new book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Save the World, in which Clinton promotes the idea of "social entrepreneurship." George W. Bush has also praised the innovation of social entrepreneurs, notes Husock. Which causes Husock to wonder if Bush and Clinton share the same understanding of social entrepreneurship.

Husock is far from the first person to argue that the term "social entrepreneur" is misunderstood. See our list of definitions for a sense of how many different interpretations exist. But Husock introduces a new question about the term:

Yet beneath the apparent Bush-Clinton consensus, there is important disagreement about what the term, and a related movement, means. Is it a new code word for liberal causes or a useful name for a movement of idealists with limited government involvement who are helping those in need?

He goes on to argue that "social enterprises" don't belong in the umbrella term of "social entrepreneurship," either. Whether you agree or disagree with Husock, his commentary is good fodder for discussion. What do you think? Is the approach of the social entrepreneur beyond ideology?


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My experience in working with non-profits and government has been that, generally, the vast majority of the political spectrum is in favor of social entrepreneurship and sees the same role for the social entrepreneur in the short-term.

However, the difference in the role of the social entrepreneur between each side of the spectrum exists in the long-term view:

- A liberal would most likely see the social entrepreneur as a "social marketer," creating a certain product and market for use, later to be (hopefully) taken on by government after the market has grown out of the entrepreneur's reach due to its popularity.

However, a conservative would likely see the social entrepreneur as a sort of government "gap-fill," offering a niche service for a select market, so the government would not need to be involved in that service, ever (e.g., if it's a popular idea, other social entrepreneurs will follow suit and build the market, so the government won't have to).

A very good comment by BradG. At the rate our country is currently moving towards government control, it may not really be a choice one day.

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