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The Western History of Entrepreneurship in Ancient Greece.

September 6, 2007

by Andy Snow
The History of Business in any of its forms has always fascinated me. My undergraduate degree was in Ancient Eurasian History from Brigham Young University with a minor in Business Management. It is that it has been very interesting to study in the past and present. In one of my senior papers, I used several accounts how business, and specifically, entrepreneurship was implemented in their democratic society. We might not expect entrepreneurship to be much esteemed in a society whose philosophers held that the highest human characteristic as virtue, and that virtue could best be achieved by free men who did not have to labor for their daily bread. Indeed, in Athens city state during the 5th century, virtue was held in high regard. “…a sophisticated system of incentives for undertaking entrepreneurial activities and for using the wealth created thereof in a socially responsible way””. These all rested on four pillars pointed out by the reputable historian, Peter Connolly.

1), it recognized the positive impact of entrepreneurial activities for the autonomy and liberty of the citizens and the strength of the city.

2), entrepreneurial activities were encouraged only in so far as they were conducted within certain ethical, social and economic boundaries.

3), success from entrepreneurial activities was rewarded by the city with various honours if the accumulated wealth was spent in a socially responsible manner by granting loans free of interest and undertaking expensive “liturgies” public projects financed by a form of voluntary taxation on behalf of the public.

4), the policy provided specific socio-political incentives such as social advancement to citizens and metics [resident aliens] and/or liberation to slaves.

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