Professor Felix Livingston is out to dispel the notion of business entrepreneurs as cut-throat sharks. As Director of Flagler’s new Honorable Entrepreneurship Program, Dr. Livingston has developed a concept of entrepreneurship based on honorable practices that trump the self-serving interests of “crony capitalists,” those who rely on favors and protections from government officials to advance their business interests.
The concept is one he has been developing for a long time. After earning his Ph.D. in Economics at Kansas State University, Dr. Livingston served as Dean of the College of Business at Jacksonville University and Dean of Institutional Research at Washington and Jefferson College before joining the Flagler faculty in 1999. Throughout his career, he has studied the relationships between capitalism and personal honor, and he has emerged with a thesis about how honorable entrepreneurs can enhance the long-term vitality of America’s extended market order.
“I started with a simple question: when does the pursuit of profit damage the extended order of peaceful social cooperation?” he said. “There certainly are firms that can improve their positions by collaborating with political authorities. But this situation creates a damaging scenario that inhibits other entrepreneurs from excelling. It’s a zero-sum or even negative-sum situation.”
Dr. Livingston has applied the results of this thinking to a new business program at Flagler College: Honorable Entrepreneurship. The Honorable Entrepreneurship Program includes an Honorable Entrepreneurship Minor and an outreach Honorable Entrepreneurship Society.
The entire concept rests on the early theories of Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America. In that work, Tocqueville’s analysis inspired Dr. Livingston to conclude that to avoid contributing to an erosion of the principles that helped make America the envy of the world, entrepreneurs must pursue profit honorably and also praise and support the honorable actions of other entrepreneurs. When property rights are secure, long-run opportunity is enhanced for everyone. “An improved understanding of how honorable entrepreneurs contribute to freedom, human flourishing and general prosperity,” Dr. Livingston said, “can help renew the creative spirit that made our country great.”
The new minor, which was launched in Fall 2013, helps students recognize opportunity, launch and nurture a start-up, and harvest the financial fruits of honorable entrepreneurship in a for-profit company. Students also take elective courses on family business entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. An Honorable Entrepreneur’s Credo has been developed and can be obtained by contacting Dr. Livingston.